Could Leeds United be the latest club added to an energy drink’s sports empire? According to several reports, Red Bull is on the verge of buying the historic but troubled club.
That is the same Red Bull that makes caffeine-ladne sugar bombs, owns an F1 team, a German club, an Austrian club and an American club. It also apparently give you wings.
So what is it doing potentially buying a club like Leeds? Making its way into England for one. The company has rebranded every club it’s bought and named them “Red Bull [insert city here].” It’s good marketing. So it could be Red Bulls Leeds, assuming England’s Football Association allows such a thing. The governing body could block the name change much in the same way that UEFA doesn’t allow corporate names, meaning Red Bull Salzburg gets to be known as FC Salzburg in European competitions.
Assuming The FA doesn’t allow some Red Bull Leeds craziness to strip away the name of a club that has three times been the champion of England, what would Red Bulls mean to Leeds?
For one, Leeds would get ownership that isn’t banned. That’s actually a plus considering current president Massimo Cellino isn’t allowed anywhere near the team until after the season. And that kind of craziness has become too normal since the club began imploding 14 years ago.
Red Bull would provide some much-need stability; at least, relative stability. The club wouldn’t have to worry about some sort of Cellino nonsense, administration, trouble paying loans, Ken Bates-types descending from wherever, etc. Financially, Leeds would be solid and predictable.
Unfortunately, there is a downside – Red Bull doesn’t always do a splendid job of setting a path and seeing it through. It’s gone through five managers at Leipzig since 2009, only once keeping a coach for longer than a year. Meanwhile, It’s had eight managers in nine years since buying New York. Toss in six general managers/sporting directors with its Major League Soccer team and you have ownership that comes up with a plan and scraps it before they can find out if it’s working.
So there is stability in Red Bull. Kind of.
Red Bull has been relatively successful, though. Leipzig has gone from the fifth division to the 2. Bundesliga in six short years, New York won its first ever trophy two years ago, and Salzburg has been Austria’s most successful club under Red Bull’s leadership.
Even in recent years, as Red Bull have limited its spending — especially in New York, where it’s opted against signing high-priced stars in the wake of Thierry Henry’s retirement — its teams have still been good. Year after year, the clubs have won. Maybe they weren’t the absolute best, but they were respectable and competitive in places that weren’t known for such consistency.
Being owned by a corporation that sees your club as a marketing opportunity isn’t elegant. It’s not ideal. Nobody wakes up in the morning hoping their team does that, especially because these clubs are not absurdly flush with cash. But Red Bull does come with predictability.
Leeds United would know what was coming tomorrow. And the next day. And fans would know that their club would be financially stable the day after. Red Bull would be as cautious as they are ambitious, as incongruent as that sounds.
Nobody at Leeds is wishing that Red Bull buys them. Not with hopes of an equally rich individual who would commit himself to the club out there. But Red Bull could finally stabilize Leeds and put it on solid ground. Supporters could do a lot worse, and have.