MPs ready to debate Leeds Utd ownership mystery

LEEDS UNITED are to face Parliamentary demands for an inquiry into how Ken Bates bought control of the club from an offshore company whose owners have remained unknown.

The Championship side’s chairman moved to end speculation about the club’s ownership last month when he purchased 73 per cent of the club from Forward Sports Fund (FSF), based in the Caribbean tax haven of Nevis.

However, an MP who sits on the football governance inquiry has claimed that there are still important questions unanswered and has called for “full disclosure” from Leeds United in the interest of the club’s fans and the wider game.

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Damian Collins, a Tory MP on the culture, media and sport committee which is carrying out the football governance inquiry, is to raise the takeover of Leeds United at an adjournment debate on the issue of football club ownership in Westminster on Tuesday.

He said: “Firstly in terms of the rules regarding ownership of a football club what has happened in the past at Leeds should never be allowed to happen again – that a football club can be bought by offshore trusts of which the supporters of that team have no idea who the owners are.”

Mr Collins said MPs should also ask for more details on the deals which brought Leeds out of administration in 2007 and the recent takeover by Mr Bates.

He added: “The issue over who owns Leeds United has now been resolved but I think important questions remain unanswered.

“If FSF bought Leeds United as an investment I would be interested to know why they sold it now. I would have thought they would want to maximise its full potential which would be if the club got back into the Premiership.”

It was Leeds United’s ultimately unsuccessful promotion push toward the Premiership which put the spotlight on the club’s ownership. FSF was said to be owned by three discretionary trusts but with no public recognition of who each the trusts’ owners are.

Leeds United had previously said that as no individual owned more than 10 per cent of any of the trusts, it did not have to provide further details to the Football League or the FA under their ownership disclosure rules.

In April the FA admitted to MPs that it did not know the identities of the people behind the trusts.

The Premier League added to the controversy when chief executive Richard Scudamore told the inquiry that Leeds would have to reveal the exact identity of the owners if the club won promotion from the Championship.

At the time Mr Bates insisted he had no problem with the Premier League’s requirements.

Last month, it was announced that he had bought control of the club from FSF for an undisclosed sum. The club was bought through a company called Outro, which is wholly owned by Mr Bates and which is also Nevis-based.

A Leeds United spokesman has declined to comment on Mr Collins’ calls for an inquiry.

The involvement of FSF in Leeds’s affairs has been a source of controversy since the offshore company and Mr Bates retained control of the club when it went into administration in 2007.

At the time, local MPs and creditors questioned why major offshore creditors, who effectively controlled the outcome of the administration process, were prepared to waive millions of pounds owed to ensure FSF retained control when other bids to buy the club might have delivered a greater return to creditors.

Mr Bates had denied any connection with the offshore creditors, which were registered in the Caribbean, and said FSF was favoured because it was the only bidder at the time prepared to cover running costs while Leeds remained in administration.