Ken Bates' Media Conference

Last updated : 27 January 2005 By Kevin Markey
He also backed Kevin Blackwell and denied he wanted to install Millwall manager, and close friend, Dennis Wise in his place.

"I had lunch with Kevin and told him he has my unqualified support," said Bates. "We swapped, as lovers do, home and mobile numbers and we have agreed to work closely together.

"The only time I have spoken to Dennis recently was when he asked me to be the godfather of his child."

Bates refused to discuss the Geneva-based Forward Sport Fund he heads, which has taken a 50% stake in the club.

But he explained how deferring some of Leeds debt has reduced the outstanding figure the club owe from £17m to £9m.

He also confirmed he intends to take up the option to buy back Elland Road and the club's training ground after they were sold.

He also plans to give the pitch and the right to use the club's name to supporters to end fears that Leeds could be moved to another city.

"I intend to work out a solution whereby the pitch will eventually revert to the ownership of the fans as well as the name of Leeds United Football Club," he told the media conference.

"The fans will then give the club a 199-year lease on the pitch for one pound a year and a similar lease on the name. So if Leeds United ever moved out they will lose the right to the pitch and Leeds' name."

He also said the club would no longer be forced to sell players to pay off their debts and that two offers for young Leeds stars had been turned down this week.

"No player will be sold unless Kevin Blackwell wants to sell him," he added.

Leeds former directors have agreed to leave loans totalling £4.4m in the company for four years.

Bates said that move allied to an agreement with the Inland Revenue over payments had reduced the current debt.

The Inland Revenue had been paid £1.2m and the VAT office had received £1.6m since his takeover.

"I came in here with an open mind where Kevin Blackwell was concerned,” confirmed Bates, "but then I found out what a magnificent job he had done since August.

"There was only him and Gary Kelly here in June but he has created a young team and got 40 points. He has done a marvellous job and I have told him he has my unqualified support. The footballing decisions are his and not mine."

Bates also backed chief executive Shaun Harvey who had done "a fantastic fire fighting job".

Bates, who revealed he had some knowledge of what was going on at Leeds from talking to former Leeds and Chelsea chief executive Trevor Birch, said: "The debt has now come down. There is not a great deal of debt."

Asked how he saw the club’s future, Bates replied: "I promise Leeds fans, to borrow Cilla Black’s phrase, we are gonna have a lorra lorra laughs.

"A couple of weeks ago Leeds had their head above water gasping for their next breath. Now they are on the surface swimming against the tide. The next job is to get them swimming with the tide."

Bates paid tribute to the outgoing board led by Gerald Krasner and to Birch: "There wouldn’t be a Leeds today if he hadn’t have been here," but stressed that the latter, who is now back in the accountancy world, would not be returning to Elland Road, although he has offered his "advice and support free of charge if we need it".