clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Why New York Red Bulls fans may want to keep an eye on Russell Crowe and Leeds United

New, 1 comment

If you see a little "Red Bull buying/selling soccer club" chat over the next couple of weeks, don't say we didn't warn you...

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

One of English football's favorite rumors in recent years is the notion that Papa Red Bull has the hots for Leeds United. In 2013, there was talk of a sponsorship deal, which triggered concerns about stadium naming rights. That blossomed into a full-blown "Red Bull will buy Leeds United" rumor - which didn't go anywhere.

But the club was sold, however: to Massimo Cellino, an Italian businessman who was almost instantly greeted with suspicion by England's football media, the Football League, and fans of Leeds United (Cellino's 22-year run as owner of Cagliari was characterized by an alarming number of managerial changes - 36 or so).

The arrival of new ownership simply created new uncertainties about Leeds United's future. Cellino's business methods appear to have a habit of attracting scrutiny from Italy's judicial system. He failed the Football League's "ownership test" in 2014, saw that decision overturned on appeal, then got himself into fresh legal difficulty and was banned from owning a Football League club again in 2015 - this time, the appeal was not successful. (Which simply means he has to withdraw his own personal stake and association with the club while serving the period of disqualification stipulated by the Football League; Leeds United is still held by a company associated with the Cellino family.)

While those matters were working their way to a conclusion, Papa Red Bull's name popped up again. There was talk of Red Bull buying a stake in Leeds United in November 2014. Papa said that wasn't true. In December 2014, when Cellino's latest disqualification from ownership in the Football League was announced, the Red Bull rumor returned. Papa said it wasn't true again. And then the guy appointed to run Leeds United while Cellino figured out his legal issues took a moment to also say there wasn't any substance to the Red Bull stories.

We've been told several times over the last two years that Red Bull is absolutely, positively not interested in buying Leeds United.

So why should RBNY fans keep an eye on the business affairs of a club in England's second tier? Because recent history suggests that every time there's a whisper of Leeds being sold, Red Bull is linked to it. And there is another whisper.

Russell Crowe - yes, that Russell Crowe - is a big Leeds United fan. And a rich one. And one with a history of investing in sports teams (he part owns an Australian rugby club). He's been floated as a potential savior for a team that could use a little stability at the top - and he likes the idea. Leeds chairman Andrew Umbers has already come forward to quash the latest sale rumor. And that kind of talk has already proved sufficient provocation for one outlet to (not entirely seriously, in fairness) toss Papa's name back into the mix.

What does this mean for RBNY? MLS-watchers like to speculate about Red Bull selling almost as much as Leeds-watchers like to talk up Red Bull buying. If the "Red Bull wants Leeds" rumor starts up again, brace yourself: we could be in for fresh round of speculation regarding Papa's commitment to RBNY.