Leeds chairman eyes Europa spot and new stadium after 49ers increase investment

Leeds chairman Andrea Radrizzani has targeted Europa League football and a new Elland Road stadium after increased investment from San Francisco 49ers.

The Premier League club announced on Monday that NFL franchise the 49ers has increased its stake in the West Yorkshire club from 15 to 37 per cent.

Paraag Marathe, president of 49ers’ financial arm, 49ers Enterprises, has been appointed Leeds’ vice-chairman, having already been a member of the club’s board.

Radrizzani believes the deal, understood to be worth up to £50million, will help Leeds fulfil their potential on and off the pitch and challenge the top flight’s ‘big six’.

“My dream – and I think I share the same dream as Paraag – is to play one of these European nights in a new stadium with Leeds United,” Radrizzani said.

“So until I accomplish this dream you’ll see me around for a long (time). But I’m also realistic. To achieve that level we need to be smart, consistent and rational with the decisions.

“I think it would be fair to say in three years we’ll try to be in and around the Europa League, or in those places.

“We need to go gradually and a realistic goal would be in three or four years to be a Europa League club. That’s what we need to work for after promotion.”

Leeds, promoted back to the top flight for the first time in 16 years last season, have fallen way behind English football’s top six clubs in terms of revenue and infrastructure.

Radrizzani is determined to close the gap, but recognises Leeds must first become a stable Premier League club.

“(To close the gap) on the top six, it’s almost impossible,” he said. “We need to be just next to them. We need to be in the range of clubs like Everton, West Ham, Aston Villa.

Elland Road has been Leeds' home since the club was formed in 1919
Elland Road has been Leeds' home since the club was formed in 1919

“They’re clubs that can challenge the top six, but are just the line below.

“We need to double our revenue in three to five years, that’s necessary, and hopefully build a new stadium that can bring bigger revenue and give solidity to the club.”

The 49ers bought an initial 15 per cent stake in 2018 from majority owner Radrizzani, who completed his 100 per cent takeover from fellow Italian Massimo Cellino in 2017.

Marathe, who will be “more involved in the decision-making process and day-to-day operations”, played down the notion that the 49ers will one day become Leeds’ sole owners.

“No I envisage the day where we continue to grow as a club and experience more success together as partners,” he said. “I can’t underscore that enough.”

Marathe added: “This is a powerful club with a remarkable history that has such strong bones to be one of the most, already is, one of the most recognisable brands in global football.

“You see that manifested as soon as we got promoted – how much we’re talked about on social media, how much passion the club plays with, how many times we’re playing in prime-time matches on Sky – this is clearly a club that belongs and this is just the beginning of a long journey.”