John Boocock

13th August 2001

Fan’s Briefing Paper

Leeds Sporting PLC – stadium proposals for Leeds United AFC


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1.       Introduction

Background to the Briefing Paper


2.       History of ground

A short timeline for Elland Road

3.       The “Elland Road Proposal”

Background to the proposal for a three phase development of the existing stadium

4.       The “New Stadium Proposal”

Background to the proposal for a new stadium

5.       The City of Leeds

The local political, economic and development environment

6.       The Human Factor

The views of the fans, the people of Leeds and the local media

7.       Conclusions

Summary of the key issues

1. Introduction


a)       This briefing document looks at the background to the issue from both the club and a fan’s point of view.  By its very nature it is not party to all the commercial information available to the Football club and its parent company.  It draws on contemporary reports from publicly available sources and private conversations with individuals directly involved with the club, the local development agencies and others directly involved in the business of football as well as discussions with fans in a variety of fora.


i)                   In May 2001 Leeds Sporting PLC, the parent company of Leeds united AFC announced it was to carry out a feasibility study into the possibilities for its Elland Road Football stadium redevelopment.


ii)                  The study would look at both the options for the future of the existing stadium and the possibility of a new stadium in a new location.


iii)                Leeds United have been looking at the re-development of Elland Road for the past five years.


iv)                 Stadium capacity is an issue for a club wishing to build on its recent successes.


v)                  The present facilities in the West Stand are desperately in need of refurbishment and redevelopment.


vi)                 There are a number of key issues concerning local economic development plans – particularly for South Leeds.


vii)               Up until the announcement of the feasibility study the most recent solution was to have a three-phase programme of upgrades to the existing stadium at an estimated cost of between 35 and 40 million pounds.


viii)              There are major issues for fans some of whom already appear to have decided views about the “traditional home of their football club”.


ix)               he club has promised a “full” consultation with its season ticket holders (see letter from Peter Ridsdale).  BACK TO CONTENTS





a)       The Elland Road stadium has its history in a playing field originally owned by Bentley’s Brewery (who owned the eponymous Peacock pub opposite the ground).  The ground’s footprint (some one and a half acres) belongs to Leeds Sporting PLC, the parent company of the football club; the surrounding 40 acres or so of vacant land belong, in the main, to the City Council.


i)                   1897 Land known as the Old Peacock Ground on the main road to Elland is purchased by the Holbeck Rugby Club on condition that it should be used as a football ground for seven years.

ii)                  1898 The ground, which is now called Elland Road, stages its first competitive football match, Hunslet beating Harrogate.

iii)                1905 A covered stand for 5,000 supporters is erected on the west side of the ground.

iv)                 1919 Leeds City is wound up by the FA following allegations of illegal payment and the future of Elland Road is cast into doubt.

v)                  1919-30 Leeds United is formed and Elland Road soon undergoes a major overhaul. The Elland Road terrace is covered and becomes known as the Scratching Shed. A stand is erected down the Lowfields Road side and the terrace behind the northern goal becomes known as the Spion Kop, after a hill in South Africa where 322 British soldiers lost their lives in the Boer War.

vi)                 1953 Floodlit football comes to Elland Road for the first time.

vii)               1956 Fire destroys the West Stand leaving a charred skeleton of twisted metal. A public appeal raises £60,000 and the following season a replacement stand is unveiled that holds 6,000 standing supporters.

viii)              1959 Fire breaks out in the West Stand again but club officials are on hand to avert another disaster.

ix)                1968 The Spion Kop is replaced by a new roofed Kop, known as the Geldard End.

x)                 1970 New sections are added linking the Kop to the West Stand and the Lowfields Road stand.

xi)                1974 Farewell to the old Scratching Shed, which is replaced by a new South Stand. The highest floodlights in Europe, at 260 feet tall, also go up. They need to be this tall to combat the angle of the stadium roofing.

xii)              1985 Leeds United sells the ground to Leeds City Council for £2.5m in return for a 125-year lease.

xiii)             1987 Ambitious plans to improve the stadium are unveiled including replacement of the Lowfields Road stand with a new 7,500-seater stand and the provision of a 2,000-seater indoor sports arena.

xiv)             1992 The bulldozers move in to demolish the Lowfields Road stand.

xv)               1993 Work is completed on the new £5.5m East Stand.

xvi)             1994 The Kop becomes all-seater.

xvii)            1996 Various car parking improvements and new bus shelters provided for Euro 96.

xviii)          1998 New owners Leeds Sporting agree to pay £10m to buy back the stadium from Leeds City Council.

xix)            Early 2001 Plans for the indoor sports arena are shelved.

xx)              April 2001 Leeds City Council grants planning permission for a major revamp of Elland Road which includes a new tier on the West Stand and a new southwest corner.

xxi)           May 2001 The club announces its intention to examine wider possibilities for stadium development.  BACK TO CONTENTS




a)        Following the erection of the East Stand in 1993 there has been continued development at Elland Road, particularly to the South East Corner of the stadium.  The club recognises that it would be possible to complete a “uniform” stadium with stands that complimented each other.  It would be possible to build this type of “nearly new” stadium as and when the club wished.  The present site, once cleared of existing buildings is estimated to be worth in the region of £15 million. There are a number of issues that this type of development raises:


(i)                 Built in 1957, the present West Stand is in urgent need of refurbishment and redevelopment. 

(ii)                Present proposals for the stand do not increase its capacity. 

(iii)              Existing services in the stand, its roof and the provision of better conference and banqueting facilities would be improved.

(iv)               A redeveloped West Stand would include an improved ticket office.

(v)                It is unlikely that anyone other than the club itself could fund this type of development.

(vi)               There are ongoing issues with the needs of the local community as regards any further developments at Elland Road. (A previous proposal to develop an indoor sports arena and the adjacent site were shelved in Early 2001 – both the community and the local planning authority had strong views on this issue).

(vii)             In the medium term facilities in the 33 years old North Stand also will need refurbishment.

(viii)            Any development of the existing stadium will cause little or no real disruption to fans and only temporary disturbance during building works to local residents.

(ix)              In the long term local residents will still be subject to the match day disruption that they are at present subjected to.

(x)               The “footprint” of the stand is restrictive – especially at the Elland Road end (note the present position of the director’s boxes in relation to the half way line following ground improvements).

(xi)              Any new improved facility must look at a rail access (as in the case of proposals for developments at the White Rose Centre).


b)        Although planning permission has been granted for the initial phase of this type of development it has now been shelved. It could not now commence until the close of season 2001/2.  There are large car parks to the west of the present stadium and two smaller parks immediately to the south. The commercial area adjacent to Elland road is a mixture of commercial, light manufacturing and distribution operations.  It has good links to the motorway system but other than on match days it only has the regular service buses that travel up and down Elland Road and Gelderd Road.  The nearest railway Station is in the city centre.


c)        The football club’s financial situation is dictated by (amongst other things) its wages bill for players, the income derived from the gate receipts, sponsorship and myriad other off pitch activities.  Although an operating profit will be shown for the last season the club is likely to make a loss overall.  To this end it is looking at reducing its indebtedness (particularly to its bankers) by using a bond scheme supported by projected gate income.  In the long term it needs to increase its income across the board to continue at its present level of footballing activity.  Increased ground capacity is obviously an element of this as is sustaining fan loyalty over several seasons.  BACK TO CONTENTS




a)        Several professional football clubs have been involved in new stadium developments in recent years.  The most significant developments in the North of England have been at Sunderland, Middlesbrough, Bolton and Huddersfield.  Each development has its own individual flavour and has come about for different reasons.  In the case of Middlesbrough a brownfield site has been developed and there are several important lessons to be learnt from that process.


b)        Elsewhere there are examples of large-scale stadium developments, which have not necessarily been specifically for football clubs but which involve a number of comparable, issues.  One thing, which is clear about new stadium development, is that it is directly affected by central government’s regional and municipal government’s local development plans.  Also, new stadium development is of major interest to bodies involved in sport who may wish to pursue sponsorship options – especially where the sport is played a global context as is football at the level to which Leeds United aspire.


c)        The two options for a new stadium are clearly alongside the present stadium and elsewhere in the city. As with the existing stadium there are a number of specific issues that affect any new development:


(i)                 Location of any new stadium is of prime importance to football fans.  Whilst some fans might not wish to give up any connection with their spiritual home, Elland Road, others can be far more positive about the issue.  This is clear from some of the fan responses outlined in Section 5.

(ii)                Location is also relevant in terms of accessibility, at present Elland Road offers very easy access to the city centre by bus and on foot both before and after matches.  It does, however, also create major traffic problems before and after matches as well as the attendant parking problems. A new stadium would have to address this issue.

(iii)              West Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (WYPTE) or Metro is heavily involved in new investment in transport infrastructure for the city, not least of which is a series of linked Super Tram/Park and Ride schemes.  The present stadium site is not included in these proposals.  Metro owns the existing “bus station” at Lowfields Road.

(iv)               A new stadium could benefit from a direct rail link and this is a distinct possibility in at least one of the mooted sites.  Kelda and the other owners of the White Rose Centre have already been told that any new development at the centre must have direct rail access – something which is clearly in line with current thinking in transport circles.

(v)                A new stadium could attract “naming funding” possibly to the extent of its complete construction costs.

(vi)               A new stadium located in an appropriate location could enjoy simplified planning and development regulation.

(vii)             A new stadium could be constructed in the space of one season, thus addressing the timescale issues of phased development. This would not involve any disruption of the existing facilities.

(viii)            A new stadium would include increased capacity at all levels.

(ix)              A new stadium would feature purpose built conference and banqueting facilities.

d)        The most favoured site for any new development is at Stourton; a former open cast coal mine that has been developed by Evans Properties of Leeds.   The site is in the key Aire valley Employment Area (AVEA) that attracts funding such as the Single Regeneration Budget as well as featuring highly in both local, regional and national economic development planning.   BACK TO CONTENTS




a)        The city has been host to its own football club since the formation of Leeds City in 1904. In more recent years the City Council has “bailed out” the football club in 1985 when it purchased the club’s ground in return for a long lease and £2.5 million.  The club’s parent body now owns the ground and the surrounding 40 acres, which are its main property asset.  The Authority holds shares in Leeds Sporting plc that allow it to appoint one non-Executive Director to both the Board of Leeds United Football Club and Leeds Sporting plc


b)        As part of the economic regeneration of the city the council is now involved in a number of strategic partnerships to bring about improved and increased employment opportunities for specific areas of the city: “linking job opportunities to the unemployed residents of the inner city Community Priority Areas”.  The council is very keen to see the development of the Aire Valley Employment Area both in terms of infrastructure and employment opportunity. 


c)        One of the first stages in this development has been the construction of the M1/A1M link.  The Super Tram project is also an integral part of this strategy. For more information on the back ground to the Leeds Super Tram Development and its associated Park and Ride scheme see the recently issued Leeds Initiative press and publicity department release at:


d)        Further reading on area economic development priorities include the Leeds Unitary Development Plan and various recent publications and briefings by the Leeds Metropolitan Council’s Planning department (see


e)        Other agencies directly involved in economic development in the city include Yorkshire Forward which is responsible for Regional Economic Strategy see and the Leeds Development Agency (LDA) see Information about the Leeds Initiative (which co-ordinates Single Regeneration Budget bids) can be found at:


f)          It is against this background that one must view the economic development effects of any Stadium development.  Already at least one leading Leeds councillor has intimated publicly that the council is looking for a “world class” stadium in South Leeds alongside “first class” office development.  This comes at a time when high-rise office development is being curtailed in the city centre and when office space is at a premium.


g)        For both the football club and the city there are the added issues of the benefits of having a first class venue not just for football events but for all the other events that can be hosted by the modern football club – non match day conference, banquet and training facilities at football grounds are not only a vital income stream, for a successful football club but they are an integral part of the make up of a modern city.  Football clubs are invariably the largest venues available for events in any locality.  Leeds has no purpose built concert venue, although this does clash with the Baltimore Oriole, Camden Yards theory of a single function venue.


h)        Recent meetings between the Football Club and the City Council have been described as “encouraging” by both parties.  It is from the most recent of these meetings that the suggestion of the Stourton site have emanated.  BACK TO CONTENTS





a)       In terms of the local residents of the Elland Road area the situation is impossibly complex.  On the one hand there is some opposition to the disruption that living and working next to the football stadium causes. On the other hand there are several local business (mainly pubs, fast food shops and small retail outlets) which rely on the football crowds for their principle source of income and any move away from Elland Road would undoubtedly affect these business, some to the point of closure.  It is these issues that will no doubt exercise the minds of local councillors and MPs.


b)       In the past (especially when the indoor arena was proposed) groups of objectors have organised against the proposals, but never with mass popular support. South Leeds Against The Arena (SLAG) held a number of well-attended public meetings but did not carry the support of local elected representatives (Councillors Myers, Iqbal and Nash).  They claimed, amongst other things, that neither the club nor the council consulted them.  A “Green Against The Arena” candidate stood in the 1998 local council election.  There appears to be “no comment” from the local community at present


d)       For the fans there are a number of more tangible issues:


i)                   Elland Road is traditionally the home of Leeds United.

ii)                  Parts of the ground are in a poor state of repair (particularly the West Stand).

iii)                The “tradition” of travelling into the City Centre and its pubs etc. then out to the ground is part of the ritual of football for many Leeds fans.

iv)                 Football is more than 90 minutes of play, it is often a “complete day out”.

v)                  Travelling by car is exacerbated by the types of car parking on offer and then leaving the car parks after the match.

vi)                 There are a large number of out-of-town Leeds United fans.

vii)               Increased capacity is an issue – especially for the more popular games and now that Leeds recent successes have been consolidated.

viii)              European success means that capacity at Elland Road is reduced for home legs of Uefa Cup and Champions League Matches.  This causes a great deal of disruption for fans who have to move from their usual seats.  A new stadium could be built to fit in with Uefa advertising hoarding proscriptions (which are the main cause of the reduction in capacity).

ix)                Although there are those who doubt that Leeds united can greatly increase its match day capacity an increased ground capacity allows for “price stretching” which would enable those fans deemed to be “marginalized by the present cost of attending football matches.

x)                 New Stadiums can be built with further increases of capacity built into the design, allowing for phased development.

xi)                Major change requires consultation and football fans rarely have well oiled machinery to allow this sort of activity to take place.  The role of supporters clubs is rarely well defined in this are and Independent Supporters Associations tend to be based around a single issue.

e)       In just one short trawl of the members of the Unofficial Leeds United E-Mail list the following points were thrown up:


i)                   If a new stadium is to be built there will be a minimum amount of disruption to the club’s activities on the field

ii)                  If the club, the city council and the PLC are sold on the idea is it not best to concentrate on the best deal for the fan from any development?

iii)                Facilities outside the ground need to be improved at any new venue – catering, toilets, efficient transport and a retail outlet that you can actually get into before and after the match without joining a scrum more suited to Headingley RLFC.

iv)                 The club should include a new supporters club and a museum in any new development

v)                  A purpose built crèche should be provided for in the new stadium

vi)                 Inside the ground their should be adequate space and legroom between rows of seats

vii)               Site lines throughout the stadium should be guaranteed

viii)              Toilet facilities should reflect the gender split of the crowd at an average match, there should be baby changing facilities in every stand

ix)                Bar and catering facilities should be built to avoid the type of queuing that exists in the present facility

x)                 Safe and adequate coach and car parking is a must – properly stewarded and secured

xi)                Transport links should be in place prior to occupation of any stadium, especially any tram or rail links.

xii)              A new stadium is an opportunity to introduce a standing area following the SAFE proposal.

xiii)             A decent well run taxi rank would be an improvement

xiv)             Finally a chance to name a stand after John Charles!

xv)               This is a further step down the road towards the “total commercialisation of the game”

f)         These suggestions reflect the wide-ranging concerns of fans (in some cases born out of the privations of the present venue – which is possibly one reason why some fans would gladly wish to see improvements immediately).  The bulk of negative commentary is not necessarily taking into the account the fact that, as one person put it: “for many fans, football is a day out, not just 90 minutes” and it may not reflect the genuine desire of most fans to welcome any moves to improve their “day out”.  Having said that a polarised fan base as regards the location of Leeds United offers the challenge of not just taking along those who are in favour but of winning the argument with those who prefer to stay where they are.  This is a key challenge for the football club.  In the same way as fans have very traditional loyalties; they are also so loyal that if they are given ownership of any proposals to redevelop or move a stadium they could also be equally as loyal to those very proposals

g)       A strange piece of “fallout” from the announcement that the club is to undertake a feasibility study is that the Supporters Club, in the guise of its Chairman and Secretary, who have both made public announcements expressing reservations about any attempt to move from Elland Road.  They are now appearing to soften, however, and are more concerned that the fan’s view is heard.  Surveys undertaken by the club’s official website are no less surprising, given that there is no concrete evidence that the average user may ever have even been to Elland Road.  More select groupings such as the Unofficial E-mail List are more divided on the issue, with one correspondent even suggesting that the move is vital because of the need to rid the club of the infamous “gypsy’s curse”.


h)       Modern methods of communications mean that it will be possible to address many of these issues using more immediate, interactive facilities, but many fans are already drawing conclusions on the basis of information which is either incomplete or is only an interpretation by the media.


i)         Consultation with the fans has been promised and now that the picture is becoming clearer it will be interesting to see what form this takes.  This is especially crucial to those fans who continue to be very critical of the club’s poor record on communication, especially in its written form.  BACK TO CONTENTS





a)       The football club has reached a nadir as regards the question of its stadium development.  In announcing the original plan for rebuilding the West Stand and adding a 16,000 seat indoor stadium it clearly had a rethink.  A major rethink in as much as it wrote off £1.8 million pounds worth of costs associated with the proposal.  The much more modest proposal for a redeveloped West Stand only has now been shelved whilst Leeds Sporting rethinks its position once again.  This decision is probably correct in as much the football club has enjoyed major success in the past three seasons and is now poised for far greater things, making it a much more interesting (and viable) proposition for any sponsorship activity.


b)       The “£40 million headache” could easily become a £40 million dream with sponsorship, the sale of the existing site and the long-term stability that a new ground could bring.  The major factor from the fans’ point of view appears to be that “Leeds United plays at Elland Road”.  The local community would, in the main, benefit from the removal of the pressures that any stadium relocation would bring about.  The city and indeed the region would benefit from the relocation of a prestigious operation to one of its target sites, especially if this fitted in to not just the economic strategy but sub-strategies such as transport.  In employment terms any new work on offer would be available to the city’s target areas whether the stadium was at Elland Road or anywhere else.


c)       It is appropriate that the Football Club and its parent company make any decisions about future stadium developments and in doing this it will no doubt take into account many of the above points.  From a fans point of view Leeds Sporting and Leeds United have to ensure that relevant and up to date information about fans views are recognised at each stage of any development.  Before these views can be gleaned the club has to ensure that fans make their contribution in the light of all appropriate, available information.


d)       It would be possible to build a case for a new stadium on a brownfield site purely from an economic development environmental and social development point of view.  The arguments for moving to a new site are persuasive, however the football industry is different to all others in as much as its client base, its customers operate on a very different level to those of most industries.  People support you and your product even when it is abysmal; people attend football matches in conditions that would be unthinkable elsewhere.  The fans “ownership” of any development proposal is of great importance if the proposals are to be a popular success.


e)       Elsewhere in the UK and further a field there exists a lot of best practice as regards the development of new stadiums.  It would be unwise not to investigate this.  The best practice will not only extend to stadium design but also to how fans, the local community and other interested parties are consulted.  This issue should be treated with the utmost urgency, as it will be a time consuming exercise.  Using fans as part of a “best practice study” team is one way in which the club could push this issue along.


f)         At present the club uses a number of channels to consult with fans but not within any defined strategy.  Given that in the main the average fan is not directly in contact with the football club other than as a paying customer there are obvious benefits to the club to create these channels of communication now on the back of this and other current issues.


g)       Once the channels of communication are established it is imperative that the present situation is outlined clearly for all involved.  On this basis it will be easier for those interested to understand future decisions or proposals as regards any stadium development by Leeds Sporting and Leeds United.  It should also be possible to feed back any response to fans’ contributions.


h)       Fans continue to discuss the issues of a Supporters Trust or an Independent Supporters Association (ISA) but to date no major moves have been made in these directions. The stadium issue may be the catalyst for something along these lines.   BACK TO CONTENTS






Please note the views contained herein are entirely those of the author and where noted the various contributors

 please do not use all or any part of this paper without clearly crediting the author. © John Boocock 13th August 2001

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