Cellino disqualified from Leeds United and how not to run a football club
SINCE the fallout of Peter Risdale’s creative interpretation of debt, Leeds United have been a mess. Even if you loathe the club (hello Manchester United fans and Brian Clough’s ghost), you have to feel sorry for the Leeds fans.
They went from Champions League cup runs, to playing in the third tier of English football, Leeds’ financial implosion is up there with the worst (notably Portsmouth and Rangers).
Leeds started off by selling Rio Ferdinand to Manchester United for £30m, which was the first sign of trouble, and ended up with Kevin Blackwell watching most of his team getting sold or released on free transfers to reduce the wage bill, trying to build a team from free transfers and the lint and buttons found in his tracksuit bottoms.
Then, along came Ken Bates, and soon enough, Leeds entered administration. The club had gone from one of English football’s biggest, most notorious names, to a company selling off the training ground and stadium.
So where are we now? Leeds’ European exploits are all but forgotten to a great number of modern football fans. They will have only heard of the club when Massimo Cellino took over. Again, the whole thing was a mess. Cellino was a bizarre, superstitious man, afraid of the colour purple and the number 17. Concerning the latter, the chairman got rid of goalkeeper Paddy Kenny because of his ‘unlucky’ birthday, as well as renaming the seats in the stadium 16B (from 17).
And now, the Italian has failed the Football League’s fit and proper ownership test and is likely to be forced into selling Leeds – a club he acquired only in April.
Cellino was found guilty of tax evasion by a court last week, which means he failed the Owners’ and Directors’ Test of the Football League, but of course, before he sells, he likely to appeal.
“At its meeting last week, the Board considered the reasoned Judgment of the Italian Court against Mr. Cellino, having successfully applied to the Italian Courts for its full disclosure,” a Football League statement read. “The Board considered detailed legal advice and agreed unanimously (with the exception of its Chief Executive, Shaun Harvey, who did not take part in the debate or vote having declared an interest) that Mr. Cellino is subject to a disqualifying condition under the terms of the Test.
“Mr. Cellino is entitled to appeal the Board’s decision to the PCC within 14 days. As the Judgment of the Italian Court has not been published in Italy, The Football League will not make any of its contents public.”
“Additionally, the Board concluded that it was appropriate to ask an independent Football Disciplinary Commission (FDC) to consider whether Mr Cellino and/or Leeds United breached League regulations relating to the timely disclosure of relevant information. The matter will be heard by an FDC in due course.”
Leeds issued a statement themselves, saying: “The club is in the process of taking legal advice on the reasoning of the decision. In the interim, the club notes that nothing has changed since the decision of the Football League’s Professional Conduct Committee in April 2014.”
“The steps that the League wishes the club to take – to remove Mr Cellino only to re-appoint him in three months’ time – will be destabilising for the club, its supporters and sponsors and cannot be in the best interests of any party.”
Is this the beginning of a turnaround for the Yorkshire side?