the square ball week: noel lloyd specialBack
The photographs of Noel appear courtesy of the Lloyd family.
Takeover talk has dimmed this week, and optimism about new owners has turned to pessimistic speculation that Ken Bates has hunkered down in his Elland Throne, like King Canute, bellowing at the tide that threatens to dislodge him. What will it take, to remove Ken Bates? On the island of Tortola in the BVI – where 7.7% of Leeds United is officially owned – they know exactly what it takes. They have a park and a statue to prove it. It takes Positive Action Movement – and it takes a man like Noel Lloyd.
It was May last year when Noel Lloyd’s name first appeared in my inbox, courtesy of Wayne at The Beaten Generation. There wasn’t much info and I admit I slept on it at first – it was something to take a look at later. Then I did take a look, and the story I found was astounding. After a summer of research and writing, we published it in The Square Ball in November 2011; and this week we have put the full text online, permanently, at TheSquareBall.net/Noel-Lloyd.
At first it looked like just another entry in Bates’ euphemistically colourful business career, eclipsing even the shenanigans of the Irish Trust Bank. Ken Bates’ brief spell in the BVI at the end of the sixties has been mentioned before – Tom Bower includes it in his chapter ‘The Chairman’ – an excellent introduction to all things Bates – in his book Broken Dreams. Ken even referred to it himself in his programme notes last season: “Since leaving school I have had an interesting life,” he said, “and if you haven’t got caught up in political unrest in the Caribbean, you haven’t lived.” ‘Caught up’ – an interesting choice of phrase. As I trawled online archives of the Virgin Islands Daily, looked through the eerily familiar sounding back numbers of Bates’ Chairman’s Corner in Oldham Athletic’s programme, and read the scathing commentary in academic journal The Caribbean Quarterly – “If George Washington could return he would immediately drop dead again when he saw the development that had taken place in the nation he helped to found” – I realised that there was much more to this story than had been known before.
From a summer tour with Oldham and business dealings with the illegal regime – condemned by the United Nations as run by a “racist minority” – in Rhodesia, where Bates was photographed with the leader of that minority, Prime Minister Ian Smith; to an enormous opportunity in the British Virgin Islands, which could have made him $300million in today’s money, Ken Bates had come a long way from his council estate upbringing by the end of the sixties. What he had in Tortola and Anegada, in fact, was not just a business opportunity, but the start of an empire. Through an extraordinary agreement with the outgoing administrator, Bates’ company, Batehill, were granted a 199 year lease on 90% of Anegada – an undeveloped island the size of Manhattan – and the harbour areas of Tortola; a lease which would cost only $30,000 a year for over 8,000 acres of land – land which could fetch $160,000 per acre – and which charged 0% taxation on Batehill and their activities. Local people were to have only 10% of Anegada for themselves, and believed they would be locked out of the harbour developments on Tortola.
Which is where Noel Lloyd stepped in.
At one point in my research, I had the beginning – Ken’s trips to Rhodesia, the Batehill agreements; and the end – the slow efforts of the Foreign Office to remove Bates, the outcry in the House of Lords. What I didn’t have was the middle – the story of how a 199 year empire became a $5.8million dollar buyout. That middle came in the form of a documentary film, by BVI film-makers Andrea and Amanda Wilson, called ‘Noel Lloyd: A Patriotic Man.’ Suddenly, the story I was telling wasn’t so much about Ken Bates being a bad man anymore. Instead, it was about Noel Lloyd being a great man, and it was all the better for it.
It was Noel Lloyd who, as he spread word around Tortola about the impact the Batehill development would have, was inspired in the wake of the assassination of Martin Luther King to take action. As he put it in an interview in the Wilson’s film:
“It was Positive Action Movement. I didn’t get a group of people, and we discuss and form a movement. I took positive action and I moved. And as I moved, people followed.”
Noel’s first action was a solo march, calling the people to a meeting. On the recreation ground two days later, a large audience gathered to hear speeches in memory of Dr. King, and against Batehill. The next day, Noel led a march to the government buildings.
That was the start of two weeks of frantic action, captured in ‘A Patriotic Man’ in interviews with Noel’s contempories and recreations of events by modern day students, and hopefully successfully depicted in our article. Ken Bates becomes a sideline figure as Noel Lloyd was arrested, freed, himself arrested a police station full of sleeping officers, was arrested again, and after taking all the blame upon himself in court as an absent member of the RAF, escaped into the countryside after hiding in a cistern. Noel’s friends and family remain convinced that he was either drugged or beaten at the hands of the police, and when he reappeared in town, his supporters again kept him out of the clutches of the law. By the time Noel Lloyd was flown to Jamaica so he could get hospital treatment – saluted on to his flight by the British military – Tortola was a tinderbox, and Ken Bates’ dreams of empire were under severe threat. The words of one Tortolan woman, Louella Harrigan, summed up the mood on the island:
“Regardless, we got to take back our country from Kenneth Bates, and whatever we’re going to do we’re going to march this morning, and we are going to take our country back! This lease must be revoked, and Kenneth Bates must go!”
Today, there is a park in Roadtown, Tortola, in memory of the struggle to defeat Ken Bates – The Positive Action Movement Park. And where we in Leeds have statues of Billy Bremner and Don Revie to remember our heroes, in Tortola they have a statue of Noel Lloyd, to remember his role in saving their islands from Ken Bates. Our telling of the story of Noel Lloyd and Positive Action Movement starts at TheSquareBall.net/Noel-Lloyd. We hope you find it as inspiring as we do.
There are only a few other things to point you towards this week. Takeover fatigue, the long Jubilee weekend and the approaching European Championships have meant things have been quiet around LUFC this week… perhaps too quiet. The Scratching Shed followed the takeover speculation to its logical conclusion by attempting to analyse the current silence at Elland Road. TSS have a brief round up of current transfer non-events, too. Travels of a Leeds Fan’s take on Leeds so far this summer is that without some sort of investment, next season looks like a write-off – we’d point out that it’s only just June, man, except we’ve got a nagging feeling he’s right.
Our must-read for this week, while our future is in such doubt, comes courtesy of The Beaten Generation, showing what can happen at a football club when the fans take charge. Red Bull ‘rebranded’ Austria Salzburg in 2005 – around the time Bates arrived at Leeds – leaving the fans of the Violett-Weiss no option but to start their own club again from scratch. TBG’s been out to see how they’re getting on (again), and if their successive promotions and army of supporters aren’t enough to convince you that their co-operative ownership model is working for them, how about the fact that they’re having tons and tons of fun along the way?
Finally, if this lull in takeover fever ain’t for you, and you’re yearning for last week’s high-octane drama of Chicagoans, Sheikhs, and Waccoe-forum mini-dramas, Fear and Loathing in LS11’s fifth week of summer torture has it all in one handy rundown. F&L also give us the inside scoop on one of the week’s highlights: the social media hijacking of the advertising hoardings at Wembley to get some not-so-subtle Leeds themed messages on during the England game (and if you too are all about ‘Doing It For Redders’, HowsonIsNow would like to offer you this t-shirt). Following on from the Bates Out banner at Blackburn, we’d like to wholeheartedly encourage more of this kind of thing.