What a difference a year makes. For Leeds United and their fans, the past 12 months have seen even more twists and turns in the fallen Yorkshire giants' pursuit of a return to English football’s top flight.
 
It was in August 2012 that GFH Capital, an unknown Middle East investment bank, was revealed as the investor seeking to take control of the club, finally completing the formalities in December following months of painstaking negotiations.
 
Unlike the protracted nature of the takeover, the Dubai-based institution wasted little time in overhauling the club both on and off the pitch, with senior GFH employees, David Haigh and Salem Patel, joining the board and Ken Bates agreeing to stand down as chairman at the end of the campaign to take up the honorary role of club president.
 
The new owners immediately introduced half-season passes and set up accounts on social networks in an effort to reengage with fans that had grown disillusioned and disenfranchised by the previous Bates regime.
 
Results-wise, the team were not doing well in the Championship and the threat of relegation was a real possibility. Neil Warnock had already announced that he would be retiring at the end of the season and many fans believed that a change in manager should be made immediately to improve fortunes.

 

However, given GFH’s lack of experience in running a football club, they elected to retain Warnock as boss and backed him in the January transfer window, a move that in retrospect proved to be costly, both financially and in terms of the club’s promotion ambitions.
 
With the prospect of making the playoffs all but gone, Warnock was finally relieved of his duties in April and was replaced by former Reading chief Brian McDermott. Performances and results improved, Leeds retained their place in the Championship and only narrowly missed out on the top six, leaving many fans wondering what might have been.
 
The summer saw major changes in the boardroom with Haigh appointed as managing director and shareholder Salah Nooruddin confirmed as club chairman. Departures included Yvonne Allen and Peter Lorimer, while Gwyn Williams and Shaun Harvey, both long-time allies of Bates, were frozen out.
 
Bates, a matter of days into a three-year term as club president, was also given his marching orders over a dispute involving his travel expenses, a move that elated Leeds fans and to date is probably the single most important step GFH has taken to win the hearts and minds of fans.
 
As well as boardroom changes, the club spent £1m on Crewe Alexandra’s Luke Murphy, the first time a six-figure sum had been dispensed at Elland Road since the arrival of striker Richard Cresswell seven years earlier. 
 
GFH also honoured commitments to reducing match day ticket prices and embarked on a marketing campaign calling on fans to draw a line under the past and be part of a united future, which has already helped increase average attendances.
 
Some criticism has been levelled at GFH over the last year for a perceived lack of spending, but they have steadfastly stuck to the principle of creating a sustainable and successful club by eliminating unnecessary expenditure, such as the club-owned radio station Yorkshire Radio, and reducing the collective wage bills of the playing squad, operational staff and expenses incurred by the board.
 
Despite a lack of working knowledge of running a football club, GFH has made a number of sound commercial decisions, such as selling broadcast rights to BBC Radio Leeds for match day commentary and agreeing a deal with Heineken to provide beers and spirits at bars. The group also look to have made a wise choice in appointing McDermott as manager.
 
Both have a like-minded approach in how they aspire to achieve success.
 
McDermott has a track record as a thinking-man’s manager, able to make shrewd investments and adopt a more holistic view of club operations, from training ground modifications to tactical changes to win matches.
 
GFH needs to protect its investment in the interim by ensuring Leeds adhere to the strict Financial Fair Play rules, but balance that by providing McDermott with the necessary backing to secure promotion, which in turn will result in joy for the club’s long-suffering fans and a cash windfall that will place the side in the position of being one of the bank’s more lucrative assets.

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