Cellino & the Football League’s Big Mistake


For a brief fleeting moment (foolishly) on Saturday evening I had to rewatch the highlights on The Football League Show of Leeds clinically disposing of Derby County “If we played till midnight we wouldn’t have scored” lamented Steve McLaren. And he was right..

Leeds have a great blend not only of youth, and flair right now, but a real grit and determination to win games. I did fancy us to give Derby a scare, but in my wildest dreams I didnt expect that performance.

The lord giveth though, and the lord taketh away. By this evening after a 9 hour Excel Marathon due to our financial year end at work I was reading the typical Leeds United Denouement.. or better put, how either  – The Football League / Inland Revenue / GFH Capital / Ken Bates – Insert name of nuisance here – had contrived to wholly remove any shine from an otherwise satisfactory weekend.

The manoeuvrings of The Football League have taken an almost comic turn now. Seemingly desperate to regularly make an example of Leeds United whenever they can, their quite frankly bizarre ruling for Massimo Cellino to be disqualified until March 2015 when his conviction for Tax Evasion is spent seems completely counterproductive for all parties involved.

Let’s spare ourselves reliving their victimisation of the club in 2007; sure Ken Bates was far from squeaky in that administration process and certainly didnt abide by their rules – but who suffered from the bloody minded actions of both the FL & HMRC? Local businesses and supporters of the club, the very people they profess to be defending with their ruinous litigations and rulings.

This time round albeit Massimo Cellino has found himself enmeshed in Tax Evasion cases in Italy, their very nature hardly represent an ENRON or Bernie Madoff scale issue. Evading taxes is wrong, it’s illegal. Taxes pay for our Hospitals, Armed Forces, National Infrastructure, and disgraced MP’s former mistresses lodgings and so on.

It’s the offence du jour in the media, Starbucks, Amazon you name them, theyre being railed in the media for this shameful offence. The defence has often been, that theyre simply looking at the rulebook and paying what they need to, it doesnt make it any better – but what would happen to our retail landscape and high street rents & UK Employment if these 2 business closed down?

HMRC are realistic about these things as distasteful as they may immediately seem – but the Football League seems quite happy to throw the baby out with the bathwater at Leeds United.

Bin Massimo Cellino and his Money – and what happens to Leeds? Do Red Bull or Yorkshire Forward swoop in? Do the club go into admin with vast amounts of cash still owed to GFH Capital, Ken Bates & Massimo Cellino as the working Capital just vanishes… probably the latter. Do the club then ironically get fined for having no money and points deducted etc etc ad nauseam… of course they do.

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One really has to search deep within to establish whether The Football League are simply acting out of pure petulance having had their noses rubbed in it in April when QC Tim Kerr threw out their decision making as flawed. Is Massimo Cellino a fraudster or unfit to run a club? Is not paying VAT on a Yacht he bought and registered in the USA (where he paid all local taxes) and then sailed to Sardinia really a heinous crime? This is a man who has the resources to pour millions of Euro into Leeds United (and has done). Cellino has the wherewithal to challenge the Football league – and this little black duck really hopes he does. In fact I’d love it if the FL were challenged both up to UEFA & FIFA for their unwarranted barracking and nuisance to Leeds United as a business. Could Massimo Cellino be a director of a UK Business –well yes he could.

Has he honoured the debts racked up during the farcical spells of ownership under Ken Bates and GFH Capital? Yes he has. Has he in short saved one of Europe’s most famous historic clubs from financial ruin? Absolutely.

The Football League though when it comes to Leeds seem to be patronising to a painful degree, they know best for our club. They put Ken Bates under pressure in 2007, and if only we poor uneducated morons at Elland Road could see it now – theyre trying to do the same and save us from ourselves. Can’t we all see what a dreadful owner Cellino is? Erm no..

Hes certainly better than Carson Yeung or Owen Oyston, or ‘exotic’ publisher David Sullivan at West Ham. Leeds United seem to be stuck in a vicious circle of claim and counterclaim. What if Yorkshire Forward had stepped in and bought us. Hamstrung by GFH Capital’s debts they no doubt would have suffered for the financial mismanagement of the prior regimes too, a points deduction? Forced relegation? Probably.

No matter how many creditors are settled or disgruntled former owners ad business associate placated it seems the FL are rarely if ever happy, and always ready to pounce on any opportunity to make life hard for Leeds United.

Massimo Cellino has been described as ‘disheartened’ by the situation at Leeds, he has been in Bahrain working on a £20m injection into Leeds United with our former owners. Buying Elland Road seems to have taken a backseat now, with the situation deemed complex to resolve. Funny, you’d have thought that presenting the owner (Jacob Adler) with the asking price would do it – well not at Leeds.

Its Cellinos next move which is critical – will he challenge The Football Leagues ruling as ridiculous (how could a business owner reasonably be extracted from said business for 3 months?) or prejudicial? Only 3 months from a conviction being fully spent he finds himself banned from club ownership? What about the preceding 8 months? The football league seems hell bent on contradicting itself wholesale? Retrospectively applying legislation is a thorny issue in law, it is far from reasonable, applicable or not. Will Cellino go straight to court to crystallise the issue inasmuch as he is being seemingly singled out by the Football league.

The day will hopefully soon come where we can really just write a few lines on how great our kids were on Saturday (Mowatt and Cook completely outshone the vastly over rated Will Hughes) and how it was feeling great to support Leeds. Cellino has plenty of fight in him, heres hoping he really does challenge the latest ruling of the grey suited legal eagles of the Football League. Thanks for not voting Shaun.

Reporter – Matthew Brown -Bolton

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  • richardofyorks

    All agreed. But what happens come nextMarch if he’s also ‘found guilty’ of the second case in Sardinia? They’ll disqualify him (with glee no doubt) for another 12 months until that ‘conviction’ is spent. He needs to find a ‘Bernie Ecclestone’ way of making that case disappear and pronto.

  • henrymouni

    The Football League’s ONLY concern should be:-
    How has he done running Leeds.
    If he has done a good job, in clearing the debt and progressing, then he IS A FIT & PROPER owner.
    There are so many dodgy owners running clubs that have not achieved as much as Mr Cellino.
    So why target him?
    He deserves praise not criticism.

  • Lars

    This is a witch hunt pure, go figure that a group that Harvey presides over would come after Leeds. As Henry mentioned below all he has done is come in clean things up and work towards operating healthy instead of hemorrhaging yet they have “the clubs best interests” in mind? Corrupt the lot of ’em