Leeds United, QSI and Deliveroo are a match made in 2019
In the late 19th century, a team from Lancashire became the first to pass the ball. They changed football, and in redistributing resources for the benefit of the group as a whole, prefigured the rise of British pseudo-socialism that would begin with “homes for heroes” and eventually flourish as the “post-war consensus”.
In the early 21st century, a team from Yorkshire, Leeds United, did a similar thing. Well, ish. Leeds spent recklessly, gambling on success and building castles on sand (or Champions League runs on blank cheques if you prefer). They did so four years before similar behaviour came back to bite the entire world in the arsehole. Just as the pass foreshadowed socialism, Leeds’ very own brand of disaster capitalism pointed the way for the world.
And now ten years later, they’re at it again. As Britain leaves the EU and prepares to become a rotting carcass for the chlorinated vultures of global capitalism to feast on, Leeds are a poster boy once again. Not content with becoming a second laundrette in European football for Qatar’s global image (if rumours are to be believed), Leeds are also getting in on that very Western form of exploitation - the gig economy - with the announcement that next year the club’s training gear will be sponsored by Deliveroo.
Coincidence? Come on now, this is Leeds United, a fanbase fonder of conspiracy than either cock up or coincidence, so let’s go. What if the two are related?
Many fans, commentators, and most importantly, Phil Hay, have pointed out that an injection of cash from Qatar wouldn’t actually mean that much for Leeds because FFP means they wouldn’t really be able to spend it. But. FFP has already been circumvented by Derby (stadium shenanigans), City (shifty sponsorship - ALLEGEDLY!!!) and PSG (???) What if Leeds have partnered with Deliveroo, hoping to harness their experience in taking a scythe to employment protections with a view to cutting up UEFA’s equally insubstantial rules?
Here’s how it’ll work. Players will all sign up to the Leeds United platform. The app will tell them exactly where and when they’re needed. They’ll be paid only when required, and will not strictly be “employees” but rather “outside contractors” engaged in “footballing consultancy”. Radrizzani will be found furiously consulting with Victor Orta in a specially installed side-room at Thorpe Arch about who’ll get the shift and who might not be able to feed the kids or pay the mortgage this month. Bielsa, the humble king and good Marxist that he is, will take the squad as it is presented to him, and work wonders all the same.
Presumably Patrick Bamford’s phone will ping rarely, needed only when Roofe’s bike has a puncture, Tyler Roberts has gone back to the valleys for the weekend, and Hélder Costa’s work-permit paperwork gets stuck with the DWP, lost in a post-Brexit avalanche of bureaucracy. If Ryan Edmonton also has an A level biology exam that day then, yes, Paddy’s phone will buzz, interrupting his fifteenth straight rendition of “Ode to Joy” on the violin (practice makes perfect!) and he’ll get a shift on the Elland Road turf.
But it’s not just in the spheres of Brexit and precarious work that Leeds United have captured the zeitgeist this week. The YEP headline announcing the arrival of their “newest recruit” Rafa Mujica played up his credentials by noting he has “played alongside Barcelona’s Lionel Messi”. This has a very “took a selfie with a former love Island contestant and got 173 likes on Instagram” feel to it. You are famous now. They touched you - caressed you even - with an arm around the shoulders. And now you can be a former Love Island contestant too. You have cold hard currency, in the form of little red hearts, to prove it. A very 2019 vibe.
Last year, after fifteen years out of the limelight, Marcelo Bielsa thrust Leeds United back into the thick of the action. Now, in his second season, and the club’s centenary, he seems determined to go one further - to ensure that the club entirely encapsulates every facet of modern life. That really would be quite the feat. I mean, I’d be happy with just the promotion to be honest, but it’d be something to see.