clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Andrea Radrizzani wants Leeds United to reach the Premier League within five years

New owner also discusses how streaming services can disrupt sports broadcasting like Netflix has disrupted cable and satellite TV

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Leeds United v Bolton Wanderers - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Daniel Smith/Getty Images

Ahead of the new season, Andrea Radrizzani has been doing some interviews in the press, no doubt to increase the profile of the club and to build excitement for the new season. After giving a lengthy interview on the BBC, he sat down with the Telegraph to discuss how he came about to buy the club and other topics surrounding the investment in the club and what he sees as the opportunity at Leeds United.

The most interesting part of the interview was when he discussed the deal to buy back Elland Road. As we noted back in June, part of the deal that resulted in the ground being sold to Jacob Adler for £8 million in 2004, a buy-back clause was inserted that increased yearly along with the rent for the club.

Radrizzani had this to say to the Telegraph: “It was not simple. The club had an option to buy but the counterpart pretended this option was not valid anymore. It wasn’t easy, a difficult negotiation.”

Given the amount of money that Adler had made on Elland Road, I would imagine it would not have been an easy negotiation. The initial £8 million investment made by Adler had resulted in 11 years of annually increasing rent and a selling price to Radrizzani that was reportedly £20 million, £3 million over the reported buyback clause. It shows a lot of commitment for the new owner to shell out even more than was “required” by the clause, and avoid months, if not years, of court cases dragging out and ugly headlines in the press.

The other interesting part was Radrizzani’s acknowledgement that he has given himself a “timeline” of five years to get the club back in the Premier League. He acknowledged that Championship clubs are not money-making ventures, but that teams in the Premier League are extremely profitable. It’s a double-edged sword here of course. While their is pressure on the management team to get the team into the playoffs and in the Premier League this season, Radrizzani knows that getting out of the Championship can be a very difficult task. On the other hand, if Leeds don’t get promoted in five years, where does that leave the club? Will he sell on or get annoyed at the fans like previous owners did? Who knows. Let’s focus on the positives.

Part of that discussion was, of course, the issue of broadcast rights and streaming rights. The man made his millions in digital media and understands the market better than almost everyone. The Telegraph quotes him saying “That has been shown clearly on the entertainment side because Netflix has broken the market on pay-TV with entertainment. Can this happen with sport? I think so”.

With the Football League introducing iFollow and Leeds going the PPV route with LUTV, he might be right that the traditional broadcasters and “bundles” are being disrupted by streaming services. One of the biggest roadblocks to cord cutting is the lack of availability of sports, and while services like Sling and DirecTV NOW provide some content, it hasn’t gotten past the bundle problem that plagues cable or satellite providers. Being able to stream your favorite club from anywhere in the world, legally, is a game changer for football clubs all over the world.

Finally, Radrizzani acknowledged that Leeds fans have plenty of reasons to not trust new owners after some challenging years in the past, saying “I think they were just waiting for someone to build a bridge of communication with the club that was missing and they were pleased with that. I also think most of them understand that we are at the beginning of a project. Obviously they dream big but at the end of the day we have to be realistic about what we can do and if we cannot make it this year we work harder to make it next year.”