Wed, Dec 03, 2014 - Page 18 News List

Leeds furious as Football League bars owner Cellino

AFP, LONDON

Fallen giants Leeds United reacted angrily after the Football League ordered owner Massimo Cellino to step down from the running of the club on Monday owing to an unpaid Italian tax bill on a yacht.

April saw Italian businessman Cellino’s takeover of second-tier Leeds go ahead after he successfully appealed against a move blocking him on the grounds of failing the league’s owners’ and directors’ test.

However, after receiving the Italian judge’s report on Cellino’s conviction for tax evasion, the league’s board of directors unanimously agreed last week the 58-year-old was “subject to a disqualifying condition under the terms of the test.”

Officials at the Football League, responsible for England’s three professional divisions immediately below the lucrative Premier League, said Cellino must resign as Leeds president immediately, but added he had 14 days in which to appeal.

Should Cellino’s disqualification be upheld, the ban would only apply until March 18 next year when, under English law, his conviction would be deemed to have been spent, but Leeds said the fact the Football League were prepared to let Cellino return in a matter of months risked destabilizing the team.

“We have [on Monday] received a notice from the Football League disqualifying Mr Cellino from being a director of Leeds United Football Club until 18 March 2015,” a Leeds statement said.

“The steps that the league wishes the club to take — to remove Mr Cellino only to reappoint him in three months’ time — will be destabilizing for the club, its supporters and sponsors, and cannot be in the best interests of any party,” it said.

Earlier, the Football League justified their decision in a statement.

“The board considered detailed legal advice and agreed unanimously ... that Mr Cellino is subject to a disqualifying condition under the terms of the [owners’ and directors’] test,” the statement said.

Cellino responded by saying he had no intention of quitting the club and would appeal against the ruling.

“If I can go [to games] as the president, I’ll go as the president. I’m talking about the law, not some lawyers that don’t know what they’re talking about,” Cellino told Sky Sports News. “It’s the law that will allow me to go, and if not I will go like a supporter and pay for my ticket. I’m never going to give up Leeds United.”

When asked if he would ignore any punishment handed out by the league, Cellino added: “I’m not going to ignore it. I’m not like that.”

“I’m going to respect everything. I’m going to appeal. I’m going to show them they are wrong and I’m sure that the lawyers of the league have not done a proper job,” he said. “I’m not dishonest. I’m not guilty yet, that’s it.”

The fresh round of boardroom drama is as nothing compared with the chaos Cellino, nicknamed the “manager-eater” while dismissing 36 bosses in 20 years as owner of Italian side Cagliari, has created regarding the question of who coaches Leeds.

This month saw Neil Redfearn become the club’s fourth permanent manager in just five months.

The 49-year-old was already in charge as caretaker boss for the second time this season following the sacking of former manager Darko Milanic.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top