I've always liked Russell Crowe. He's a damn good actor and underneath his gruff exterior, he comes across as a down-to-earth bloke, pretty much.
So it spiked my interest when I heard that the Gladiator star had recently asked his Twitter followers whether or not he should buy Leeds United.
Now a Leeds United fan consortium is planning to meet with the lifelong Leeds Utd fan next month to discuss Crowe potentially taking over at Elland Road. This got me excited.
Firstly I'm a big Rugby League fan, especially of South Sydney Rabbitohs - a club that's co-owned by Crowe. It's a club that he has helped turn around, culminating last year with South Sydney's first NRL Grand Final win in over 100 years.
For the first time in donkey's years Leeds United has a potential investor that could actually make a difference at the club, not just one to save it from insolvency. Russell Crowe has the passion and knowledge that could turn Leeds United into a Premier League club again.
Don't get me wrong, Russell taking over is very much a pipe-dream at the moment, but just thinking about the possibilities made me feel nostalgic. It's been almost 15 years since Leeds United were in the Premier League, which for a city the size of Leeds is completely unacceptable. Manchester has two Premier League teams, and even Hull has one, well for the time-being at least.
A lot has changed in Leeds since United were relegated from the Premier League in 2004. Although Leeds has gone from strength to strength recently with several multi-million pound developments, it failed to capitalise on its success in the 90s as the shopping capital of the North and under performed in the 00s during a tough economic period.
So, could the resurgence of a Premier League football team in the city be a catalyst for Leeds to move on to the next level?
Personally I can't help but think that Leeds United's return to the top flight of English football would. It would drive further investment and development, pushing the city to be the best it can be. In a nutshell, Leeds needs a Premier League team.
As I mentioned, I'm a massive Rugby League fan, and I have been lucky enough to witness Leeds Rhino's dominance over the past decade. I will continue to champion either codes of rugby as a sport over football to anyone who will listen, but unfortunately it doesn't have the same economic pull that football does.
The same goes for cricket, we have a championship winning team based in Leeds, and occasionally host big ticket England internationals, but this short burst of activity isn't really sustainable enough for Leeds to grow long term. The rain doesn't help too much either.
To use Hull City FC as an example, the city's economy has benefited from around £100m as a knock-on effect of top flight football, reinvesting into the city as it continues to grow as a future City of Culture. This is a great example of the incredible opportunity for Leeds, and Leeds Utd, with a fan-base probably ten times the size of Hull's.
So what exactly would a successful Premier League team bring to the city? Well, amongst the key benefits, I think it would lead to the following:
- A Premier League team would positively increase the amount of visitors to the city, firstly from around the UK, then in time, potentially from around Europe. The sudden surge of regular visitors would grow the economy immediately with hotels, pubs, cafes, restaurants and shops benefiting straight away. Heck, by then Leeds will be the shopping destination in the UK, outside of London
- As such, Leeds would need to implement an integrated public transport system that could get fans to games in a fast and efficient way. Did someone say Trolley Bus? Investing and developing a strong and reliable transport system would benefit Leeds' residents and visitors a-like. Leeds is one of the fastest growing cities in the UK and a new transport system would allow the city to grow, helping more people get in and out of the city, without congestion choking the life out of it
- A Premier League club in the city would encourage more overnight stays in Leeds. As a city we're pretty great at attracting day visitors, but struggle to get them to stay over. The increased amount of people coming to the city to watch top flight football could change this
- And of course there would be an increase in footfall through Leeds Bradford Airport. A Premier League team playing in a European championship could mean that new flight destinations would have to be added to cater for demand. Leeds Bradford International Airport is crying out for investment and development, and having a Premier League team on its doorstep could be the perfect excuse
- But if anything the main benefit to Leeds would be how we can link the latter two together. The airport needs to be more accessible to everyone. And an improved public transport route to the airport would give Leeds' residents a greater incentive to use their local airport
- With all this in place, Leeds would be in an ideal place to start shouting about itself, and a strong communications strategy would put Leeds on the global map and position Leeds as a modern and cultural European city
- Finally, with the points mentioned above combined with the other developments taking place; Leeds would be in an ideal position to become the European Capital of Culture. I mean, it's not like previous UK cities that were the European Capital of Culture had anything to do with football! Just four of the biggest clubs in Europe were based in Glasgow and Liverpool: Rangers & Celtic, Liverpool FC & Everton
This might not sound like rocket science, and it's fairly obvious that a Premier League club would benefit any city, but if Leeds wants to increase its global influence and become the destination that it deserves to be - it needs a Premier League team.
C'mon Russell, help us out.
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