Ken Bates Interview With Yorkshire Radio
Taken from Yorkshire Radio's interview with Leeds United's owner/chairman Ken Bates on Wednesday, May 11. Thanks to http://www.thesquareball.net In an end-of-season interview, 'Mr Chairman' talks about everything from seventh-place finishes to Third-World donations. There's plenty on the FA, FIFA and by Lord, he's not happy with messrs Sugar and Triesman. He explains pretty much everything there is to know about the transfer market in just the 1,300 words (cheers for that Ken) including some warnings about wages. Ben Fry: We finished with a win over the champions but the victory sadly didn't count for anything.Ken Bates: Well the only thing it did do was make sure that we stayed seventh. I suppose, as everybody is saying, if at this time last year you'd said we were going to finish seventh this year they would have grabbed it. Of course, here we are, and we're disappointed that we didn't do better. Certainly on the 18th of December when we beat QPR 2-0 and were second in the Championship, I must confess that along with every other fan I thought we had a good chance of making it but we blew it very badly after, funny enough, the Arsenal games and we haven't been very happy since then. It's time to reflect that we are the second highest scorers in the Championship but sadly, one of the poorest defences in the Championship as well. Then of course there's less to (inaudible).BF: Whilst you are reflecting, the stats have come out this week that the club is the most well supported in the Championship. The crowds have been fantastic throughout the year and that has to be one of the highlights of the season.KB: Well it is. I think that all credit to the fans and thank you very much for the 670,000 or so that turned up to watch us through the season, which is higher than six or seven clubs in the Premiership. But it's all well but at the same time of course that support brings responsibilities. Our responsibility is to delivery success and that's what we're already planning for.BF: Now ahead of the game against QPR on Saturday, the decision was made by the FA regarding any possible points deduction for QPR. All the whispers and the rumours were saying 20 points which would have completely changed the complexion. In the end they were found guilty of two charges but no points. Were you surprised a) with the decision and secondly with the timing?KB: Well, firstly, I can't really comment much on the decision because we don't know the facts. Obviously, like every other non-QPR supporter we were looking, hoping against hope but we were always whistling in the dark because were never sure what the precise charges were. What I think is disgraceful, and I use that word advisably, is the fact that they knew about these alleged offences in September and it took them eight months to produce a charge. It would have been quicker if the CPS had done it - and that's saying something! I think it was totally unfair to QPR, their fans and indeed their competing clubs. How do you take eight months to pontificate on what was clearly a statistical question of fact - there were no emotions involved. Anyway, they rushed it out and they said they would give us the decision this week and they rushed it on Saturday morning before the game. I think it was appalling. At a time when the FA is under scrutiny by the somewhat-lightweight football governance inquiry by the Houses of Parliament, they've left an open goal. It's disgraceful. There's no possible excuse or justification for it.BF: Now it's been a busy week already at Thorp Arch, on Monday with the players leaving for the close season and of course plenty of ins and outs already as far as players are concerned. Shane Higgs has left the club at the end of his contract, as has club captain Richard Naylor. What kind of contribution has Richard made over the last couple of years?KB: Well Richard has made a great contribution and we very much appreciate what he has done for the club but time moves on and he had a few injury problems this year. He certainly wasn't up to two games a week so he moves on, but he moves on with our blessing and thanks. And Shane Higgs… Shane Higgs is steadfast and he's still on the touchline but he made one or two great saves, if you remember the only against Bristol Rovers at the end of last season which probably kept us in the game and got us promotion. So, again, he goes with our thanks. There are one or two others, of course we have a few kids that we don't think are going to make it some I think it's better that we sort them out the next week so they can prove us wrong. There are a few players available for transfer. Grella will not be playing for us anymore. He's not out of contract but there are one or two clubs who are looking for him and we won't stand in his way. And similarly, our left-back we signed from Swansea Bessone, he won't be figuring in our plans for next season clearly and already one club has expressed an interest in him. So clearly we are a helpful club in that aspect. If somebody doesn't fit into our plans they have a chance of improving or moving elsewhere then we sort them. So that's those two. We have a few players we're looking at whose contracts are out but we offered Bradley Johnson and Neil Kilkenny new contracts in November or December I think, which they refused. We made them increased offers in January, which again they refused. Their agents, we'll be talking to them in the next couple of weeks but I don't think there will be any movement from our side. So I think Kilkenny will probably be moving on and we wish him luck. Bradley, I don't know. He wants to stay at Leeds and the manager would like him to stay at Leeds but not at the kind of money that his agent is looking for. The real problem at the moment in the transfer market, it's fascinating if you're on the inside but the fans don't know what's going on so I shall perhaps take a couple of minutes to explain it to them. First of all, most players have agents. The agents obviously need to earn their money by getting better contracts for their clients and therefore they are always asking for more money. The problem is of course, as you read on Sky Sports News every day, six or seven players are being released by clubs every day before the start of the season and they are going to if not the scrapheap, they're going into the pool of unemployed players. There were 600 last summer and those players started off by looking for the same money as they currently getting and they slowly had to lower their sights. So the players that are looking for more money who are in jobs are having to be weighed up by the manager and the scouting staff who are asking what is their quality and what are they worth against a possible replacement. And that is also in the background that most clubs are losing money because from what Mr Whelan was saying on TV that 91 per cent of his wages were going on salaries. Well this obviously can't continue. And every chairman I speak to when we entertain them at Elland Road, they are all saying the same thing; cutting wages, cutting wages. You can either do one of two things. You can either reduce your staff or reduce your wages or a combination of the two and that is a quandary for the clubs. But it's also a quandary for the players. If somebody turns down say £7,000 a week, which doesn't sound like much but it's £364,000 a year. And of course, on top of that, you now have the new increased 13.8 per cent, call it 14 per cent, of salaries that go the the government in the equivalent of of National Health contributions so a £7,000 a week becomes £8,000 a week. And having regard to the fact that you have to recover that money from 23 home games, multiply that by your squad, it gives some indication of how carefully the clubs have to think about any player before they start to enter into a contract. The other thing you have to remember is this. Now under the new Bosman ruling, if you sign somebody for say £100,000 and you give him a three-year contract well that means at the end of the three years he can walk away for nothing so you have written your £100,000 off. So that £100,000 plus the five per cent levy by the Football League, which makes it £105,000, you now have to write £35,000 of your investment every year. That player who started out by costing, in this hypothetical example, £7,000 a week has ended up costing you £9,000 a week and at the end of the three years you have nothing unless you offer him a new contract after two years and that means you have to give him an increase or he walks out. So that's the balancing act and then at the same time you have to look at the player and say 'how much did he contribute this year?', 'Is he worth more?', 'Can we find better?'. That is the work that the manager starts thinking about in January. Then it starts getting more and more truthful in his mind when we reach May, where we are now. And so what we will be doing in the next couple of weeks, the way you do it is you look at every player in the squad; goalkeeper to top striker and ask yourself 'How good a job did he do?', 'What are his weaknesses?', 'What were his strengths?', 'Can we improve?'. And all those things are taken into consideration before we make a decision. Now, you don't get them all right. Let's face it, Crainey wasn't considered much good at Elland Road, in fact he was driven out by a combination of circumstances but he finished up getting promotion for Blackpool and doing very well for himself in the Premier League. On the other hand, there are other players we have brought in, in the past, who haven't done very much where they were in the past but have been very successful. It's fascinating. We look at our strikers. You can always improve on them but nevertheless they have done a good job this year haven't they? Then you have to look at the defence. Clearly the defence has to be changed an strengthened because we have given too many goals away for whatever reason. It's as simple as that. Our midfield? That definitely needs strengthening. But if you are strengthening it, that means somebody has to go out for somebody else to come in. There's no point in signing players just to stick them on the touchline. I remember one player going off saying 'have a nice summer, see you in August' and I said 'What are you talking about? There's more work in the next three months than there are done in the next nine months of the year'. What we do between now and August will determine what we do from September to May. Anyway, I'm rabbling on a bit but I was just illustrating the things that go on behind the scenes and what you have to weight in your collective minds before making a decision.BF: Now one player who is obviously in the frame for any decisions is Patrick Kisnorbo. He got a few minutes against QPR and the club re planning to offer him a deal. It would be great to see Paddy back.KB: Yeah, it was it was unfortunate he didn't come back a bit more because we had to make an offer on the basis of the 15 minutes we saw against QPR and now he has gone off for a well-earned holiday in Australia. We have carried Paddy for the last 14 months and have paid his wages throughout that time and we had nothing in return other than his loyalty. Not his fault, I'm just looking at the situation like I do with players and we have looked after his medical problems, regardless of expense, sending him to America twice and getting the best medical service for him so we obviously can't rely on him alone for next season so we'll have to find somebody else to back him up but that's something we are looking at. We hope Paddy will stay. Paddy is now fit, so we'll see what goes on but that one will have to wait because he's now upside down on the other side of the world.BF: And finally Ramon Nunez, the club have taken up an extra option on his contract. Do you see him as one for the future?KB: Well definitely. He went there and scored some brilliant goals for Scunthorpe and of course we have to remember the same thing happened with Beckford. He wasn't really getting anywhere for a certain amount of time under Blackwell and we sent him out on loan and he had a good season, or a good half season, and came back and then look what he did. So we are hoping that Nunez will do the same for us. Somma of course has had a good season. So we're looking good in the attacking department but we won't hesitate to move if something or somebody comes along who we think has something else to offer.BF: Have you already thought about your ambitions for next season now this campaign is over and your thoughts on what is achievable next year?KB: Yeah, get up. It's going to be harder next year. I think to a certain extent, not getting promotion this year we have missed and opportunity because there is a window of opportunity because Middlesbrough are still in the process of reorganisation because their wage bill was too high. Burnley, as I said in my programme notes, started poorly but finished strongly. Portsmouth are now having another takeover so they will be an unknown quantity and we have got three strong clubs coming down by our standards. Let's say it's Wolves, Wigan and West Ham for example or it could be Blackpool. They are going to come down with Premiership squads and £14million in the bank before they start. That's what is going to make it hard for us and that's why we have to work harder off-field to to raise more money to put into the club to offset the income than the relegated clubs can. That's why we're working so hard in these other facilities. Already The Pavilion is making a useful contribution and of course the work we are doing in the East Stand will bring in more money. I'm afraid it's all around money. Not miles and miles and miles of it but it's about money and resources and ambition. Manchester City have just spent £350million to come third, possibly second. It makes it a bit of a challenge but nonetheless it can be done and has been done. And Liverpool's great years, nobody ever put any money in that club. It was just self generation, good management and buying good players. At the end of the day, that's what we are going to have to do. Our ambition is champions, and if not runners-up, and if not play-offs.BF: Now this week we have seen Lord Triesman actually giving evidence to the commons committee looking into the failed 2018 World Cup bid. He has made various accusations against FIFA of corruption. What did you make of his testimony and what he has had to say?KB: Well I watched him on TV yesterday and I think he's a bit wooly in many respects. He talked a lot without very many facts. I think that the whole thing should have been blown apart earlier in the bidding process. Even though we might not have got the World Cup, but then I didn't think we were going to get it anyway. Leeds United worked very, very hard in conjunction with Leeds City Council to insure, and I think we were successful there, that if indeed England got the World Cup we, Leeds, would be one of the host cities. But in my heart of hearts, I didn't think we were going to get it. I thought he bid team were poor - too many personalities and not enough football men, not enough working in the corridors of power and Geoff Thompson, our representative is a weak man. He's a nice man but he's weak. I always said we should have made his wife the chairman of the FA. So I think it's badly run. And of course, Lord Triesman is not a football man and I know that the select committee looking into the governance of football have raised the question of independent directors but so far, outsiders coming into football don't seem to have a good record. I mean Adam Crozier, who came in from Saatchi & Saatchi buggered up the FA's finances. I can remember him boasting about one FA board meeting that 50 per cent of his staff were now university graduates. I said 'does that include the tea ladies and the cleaners?' but that didn't exactly make me flavour of the month. You look at the others that have come in, they have contributed very little. That fella Watmore, another outsider, a civil servant of all things and he has now gone back to being a civil servant, said the trouble with the setup of the FA council was that they were mostly 'old, white males'. Well that's understandable because in the past they were young white males who played football and worked their way up the ranks. Evolution only takes a bit more than revolution and it's very similar. I'm not impressed with the discussion so far. My more radical proposal was that the European countries, plus Australia and possibly America, should withdraw from FIFA altogether and set up their own authority. Without European TV money and European countries competing, FIFA wouldn't have a penny. If they are going to stay, it's about time they spent their own money. Over a billion in the bank apparently and there's no point spending that on Third World countries so we wouldn't need certain individuals asking for money allegedly for the local national FAs. And the other thing, the FA should also stop giving money to Third World countries as well. That's not our job anymore. That's FIFA's job and the Qatari's job and the Russians. Let them get on with it.BF: Also this week, Lord Sugar has been giving his thoughts on the state of the English game. What did you think of Lord Sugar trying to tackle football.KB: Well he didn't, did he? It thought that was a typical, lightweight, so-called BBC documentary, which didn't dig very deep at all. We saw Lord Sugar getting into his large, chauffer-driven Rolls-Royce. We saw Lord Sugar getting out of his large Rolls-Royce. Alan, as I still call him. We saw Alan walking down the tunnel, going onto the pitch at two or three clubs. We saw Alan standing, leaning over a barrier, talking. We saw lots of shots of his company. We saw Jerome Anderson driving up, getting out and going into Lord Sugar's den. And so it went on. But it was all very lightweight. The only interesting bit was when Dave Whelan admitted he stuck £100million into Wigan and that was enough and there had been an unofficial meeting of the northern Premiership clubs who had a voluntary agreement between them as to the maximum wages they would pay and what the unofficial salary cap would be. But apart from that, it was nothing. And he suggest that half the money in the Premier League should be taken and stuffed in some kind of fund for how it should be spread around the grassroots was typically vague. He proposed a similar thing oh 12, 13 years ago at the Premier League. Football clubs are very wary of being syphoned into funds which are administered at great cost and drip fed back to them. We already have end of them. We have the Football Foundation - what they do I don't know. Then the Football League have a youth development fund. There's all kinds of little funds. You spend more time trying to get the money than you do trying to receive it. No, I thought Lord Sugar was lightweight. Good advert for the Apprentice of course, if you watch that sort of thing, which I don't. Alan had 10 years to do something great at Spurs and failed. He admitted he made £42million profit from his investment in Spurs. Good luck to him. More than what a lot of other people have done but I don't think he contributed anything serious.BF: We'll finish with Elland Road because obviously whilst the work continues on the East Stand, preparations also continue for the Rod Stewart concert on the Friday June 3rd. How are ticket sales going and are there plenty of fans turning up to see Rod in action?KB: Yes, we are already over 18,000 which is good. What happens is, when you announce a concert like this, tickets fly out of the door but when other things come along like the last home games of the season, you get a lull. Now they are picking up again. So there are still quite a few left but I think it's one of those things that if people do want to come, it's best to buy their tickets sooner rather than later. It will of course be a little bit one-sided because there will be no seats on the East Stand side of the ground because we are going like hell to improve the facilities there. That is another thing that is coming along. Very encouraging. Caddicks are doing a great job and of course we have just found the extra space for the museum, which we have long lacked. So we are hoping to get that built also this summer and with probably the fitting out and design it will probably be the new year before it opens but it's a very positive step. So yes, lots of things happening at Elland Road throughout the summer. Hopefully the fans will notice it when they return in August. Meanwhile, we are in the process of finalising our pre-season games. We now know it's definitely Newcastle at home and we are trying to organise one overseas match and we are trying to hear about that this week but negotiations with overseas people is very lengthy and frustrating. So I can only say we hope to announce it this week, if not, who knows, maybe next week. Meanwhile, in closing, a final thank you to all the fans who have been supporting Leeds this season. 39,600 members is a record. 60 regional members clubs is a record. Average attendance 27,339 - a record outside the Premiership. And facilities improving, making it better next year. And Ben before you run away, of course, your modesty will prevent you from mentioning you have been nominated for the Best DAB Radio Station, we're in the last three. And what is it? Come on, you tell all the listeners about it…BF: We have been nominated as Digital Station of the Year in the Arqiva Awards which is the commercial radio awards so fingers crossed for July 6th. We'll have to wait and see.KB: July the 6th. Congratulations to you and your hard-working team. I know how hard you lot work. It's a thoroughly deserved recognition of it and I hope you guys complete it by winning the award itself.
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