Football: Leeds worried about ticketless fans

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The Independent Online
LEEDS UNITED may have been saved from the cauldron - but they do not want to find themselves in the firing line when they play their hastily rearranged Uefa Cup match against Partizan Belgrade in the Netherlands next Tuesday.

Europe's governing body moved the first round first leg away from the Yugoslav capital because of the residue of ill-feeling between the nations after the war in Kosovo, but the decision left Leeds with only six days to plan ticketing arrangements. They are concerned that ticketless fans travelling to the Netherlands could become involved in violence, not because they are badly behaved themselves but because the club's supporters have inherited a bad reputation in Europe.

The venue, the Abe Lenstra stadium in Heerenveen, has only a 13,500-capacity and there are fears that many fans could make their own way to the Netherlands and try to pay on the gate, an option which might be available due to the limited time to sell tickets in advance.

Leeds' chairman, Peter Ridsdale, is eager to avoid that happening. He said: "Unfortunately our reputation abroad is not good because of fans' indiscretions in the past. The last thing we want after this very long wait to establish the venue for the game is for there to be even the merest hint of trouble. We like to know who is travelling."

Ian Silvester, Leeds' secretary, said: "There are so many bits and pieces to put together, like security, travel and the ticketing. For a match such as this we would expect 3,000 to 4,000 Leeds fans to be travelling, but it may be that we will be allocated only 1,000 tickets."

Manchester United, who are busy preparing to contest Uefa's refusal to register Massimo Taibi for the Champions' League, find room in their squad to face Liverpool on Saturday from the player who benefited from their previous joust with the appeals system. Ronnie Wallwork, the defender banned for life for manhandling a referee while playing in Belgian for United's feeder club, Antwerp, made a surprise appearance for United's reserves at Leeds on Tuesday and could now travel with the squad to Anfield on Saturday.

However, Wallwork still faces the possibility of receiving a lengthy ban from the Belgian FA next week. The recommendation for a suspension in a case like this is three or four years, and the Belgians are likely to push for that with immediate effect.

Everton's Shareholders Association has called for an extraordinary general meeting of the company in the hope of breaking the deadlock over the club's ownership. The club's chairman, Peter Johnson, who owns 68 per cent of the Goodison Park club, also has a controlling interest in Tranmere despite regulations that forbid multiple ownership of clubs . Johnson has been warned by the Football Association, the Premiership and the Nationwide League to dispose of one of his holdings.

Attempts by the vice-chairman, Bill Kenwright, to buy the club have dragged on since last November and now the shareholders have called for an EGM to force Johnson to debate the issue of dual ownership and to discuss allegations that the club will have to bear the cost of the sale of his shares. The shareholders will also make a formal complaint to the president of the Board of Trade regarding the rights of all shareholders, which they claim are being disregarded by Johnson and his advisors.

Their spokesman, Richard Lewis, said: "We aim to smoke Johnson out and make him answer questions. We intend making life as difficult as we can for him. The aim is to embarrass him and make him come to a meeting to answer questions in public. He cannot continue owning two clubs against football rules and he has a potential buyer in Bill Kenwright. He should take the money and run.

"What concerns us is that Johnson doesn't seem to be bothered about the fact that he owns two clubs. Even Sky, who have a stake in Manchester United, have bought one in Leeds and are believed to be looking at other clubs, are not flouting the rules and buying any more than the 9.9 per cent they are allowed to in those clubs."

Kenwright has put together a pounds 20m offer that he has informed Johnson is waiting but he cannot make the bid formally because if it was turned down he would not be allowed, by company law, to bid again within 12 months. Lewis said: "We are concerned that nothing seems to be happening on the ownership front."