LONDON: Leeds United are looking to sell their Elland Road ground and lease it back from the new owners in a bid to reduce the club’s debts, chairman Gerald Krasner said yesterday.
Relegated from the Premier League at the end of last season, Leeds are still battling debts that stood at over £100mil when Krasner’s consortium rescued the club from collapse in March.
Krasner told Sky Sports News that Leeds, who have been selling players for the last two years, are seeking a lease-back arrangement with prospective buyers of the Elland Road site.
“We’ve been in talks with a number of parties and if there is a sale and lease-back it will be with a minimum, and I stress a minimum, of a 25-year lease,” Krasner said.
“It’s the difference between renting your house and paying a mortgage. Sometimes paying rent is cheaper than paying a mortgage.
“I fully sympathise with the fans – a few years ago we were in the Champions League, next season we’re in the First Division.
“But they have to understand that the financial realities mean that we’ve got to get the financial model right for Leeds to have a long-term, viable future.
“The debts were over £103mil, we’re nowhere near that position now.
“The other thing that Leeds fans should be aware of is that if we do a sale and lease back there will be an option clause to buy the ground back.”
Krasner added: “These problems were there before we came. Had Leeds not been saved and had gone into liquidation, the ground would probably have ended up being used for re-development.”
Along with the debts, the club reported a loss of £50mil for the year to June 2003, due in large part to an inflated wage bill.
Leeds offloaded another three players last week with Australia striker Mark Viduka moving to Middlesbrough and defenders Dominic Matteo and Ian Harte joining Blackburn Rovers and Spanish club Levante respectively.
Leeds had also spent 1982-90 in the second tier of English football before returning to the top flight and going on to reach the Champions League semi-finals in 2001.
A belief they could buy domestic and European success triggered a spending spree under former chairman Peter Ridsdale and then manager David O’Leary which plunged the Yorkshire club into the red and their subsequent financial crisis. – Reuters