49ers Get In On English Soccer Scene With $13.5m Investment In Leeds United

Leeds United celebrates scoring a goal. Photo by Graham Hunt/ProSports/REX/Shutterstock (9769287ao)

Why? Paraag Marathe, accustomed to the question, knows the answer. The San Francisco 49ers president of enterprises finds himself in the media spotlight after the NFL franchise invested $13.5m (£10m) in English soccer club Leeds United.

“The potential is huge,” Maranthe observed. “It’s an opportunity for a great resurrection. This was once one of the best teams in Europe. Even a casual fan will have heard of them — half of our players have heard of them. They have global brand recognition.”

Leeds United’s heyday was in the 1960s and 1970s when the late Don Revie took charge of a team which regularly challenged for the title, as well as domestic and European trophies.

Although champions at the birth of the Premier League in 1992, it wasn’t until the end of that decade Leeds began a journey which saw they soar to football’s elite. Their subsequent crash and burn into the underworld of the Football League remains one of the sport’s sorriest tales.

Close to bankruptcy, a madness engulfed the club’s citadel Elland Road and all who took control. The hope is that the 49ers add sanity to a combustible club.

It’s not an investment undertaken lightly. “The goal is building something which will last. Going big on rebuilding the culture of the football side of the organization — that’s what the appointment of Bielsa is. It’s all about rebooting that football culture.”

Certainly, a return to the Premier League is part of the reboot. However, the Champions League, and looking ahead a European Super League, is the real ambition. Can the 49ers and Leeds United live the dream?