The local council and Leeds United officials are currently discussing plans for a new training ground in Holbeck. The site of the former Matthew Murray school – demolished between 2005 and 2006 – is now wasteland. While there have been a few ideas about what to do with the land, many in the Holbeck area, and across the city, believe training facilities to be a worthwhile investment. Here’s why:
The state of Leeds United’s current facilities
Thorp Arch was built in 1994 as the brainchild of Leeds’ legendary manager Howard Wilkinson. At the time, the facility was hailed as a huge step forward by many in the game and became the envy of most clubs in England. But 23 years on, Thorp Arch is looking dated.
Training grounds across the country (especially those in the Premier League) are either catching up with the facility, or are overtaking it. The opening of Manchester City’s Eastlands – now the Ethiad Training Complex – is a case in point. The Manchester club’s £200 million investment gave it an 80-acre site with a 7000-seater stadium, education rooms, sports science and medical facilities.
By contrast, Thorp Arch was denied the upgrades it desperately needed ever since Leeds were relegated in 2004 right up until 2013, when then-chairman, Andrea Radrizzani, put money into cosmetic improvements. This is mainly due to the fact that the current training ground is rented (and has been ever since the club dropped down into the Football League). The club was in dire financial trouble and earned £4.2 million from the sale – but this comes at a cost…
The owners are now paying £700,000 a year to rent Thorp Arch. By the end of its lease in 2029, the club would be paying well over £1 million each year just to use a tired facility it used to own.
Effects of regeneration on local community
Leeds city centre has been subject to major regeneration over the last few years – and we’ve seen the difference that the new Trinity & Victoria Gate shopping centres and a host of modern bars and restaurants make to the local economy.
In the age of social media, many people now play games online, with bingosites.uk often their first port of call. Yet the success of a number of new brick-and mortar bingo halls outside central Leeds shows that there is still a market for traditional gaming. As a result, a new luxury bingo hall, Dirty Martini, is due in Leeds city centre. This will generate jobs and boost financial well-being in the community.
How this applies to Leeds United...
With all of this in mind, it stands to reason sporting success also has many positive effects on the economy. Having had the local football team in the Premier League in years gone by, the council is well aware of the boost Leeds United’s potential success could have on the city’s economy. The city of Leeds is already the UK’s major financial centre outside of London, but a rise in United’s fortunes can only help the northern city’s continued growth.
The plans for a new training ground also tie in with the councils aim to regenerate Holbeck and Beeston. If existing plans go ahead, the grounds will also include a Community Sports Village as a means of making a difference to young people in the area.
What should we make of the new training ground discussions in Holbeck?