Massimo CellinoThe slowest takeover approval in Football League history continues to drag on for Leeds United as Massimo Cellino gets to grips with his new surroundings and sanctions the loan signings of two quality players in Jack Butland and Connor Wickham.

Butland has already featured for The Whites, putting in an impressive display against Middlesbrough last weekend which helped to secure Leeds’ first clean-sheet in two months. Connor Wickham meanwhile is a near certainty to start alongside Ross McCormack for the early kick-off at Loftus Road on Saturday forming one of the deadliest looking strikeforces in the Championship.

But while the club has received a substantial boost on the field, uncertainty surrounding Cellino’s takeover continues to distract from the main event.

Football League approval is effectively a self-certification process, little more than a box-ticking exercise which determines whether you qualify for ownership of a football club, yet Cellino et al really seem to be struggling with it.

This all leaves a level of uncertainty which would be distracting to any football club. While I’m 99.9% certain the Football League have no grounds on which they can fail Cellino, there’s always that slim possibility everything will fall through leaving us with questions about the health of the club’s finances going forwards.

The Italian is already paying our wage bill via loans to GFH, he’s also cleared the debt to Enterprise Insurance and presumably sanctioned the signings of Butland and Wickham. That’s a hefty seven-figure sum which makes no odds if he does complete his takeover, but would have to be repaid if he doesn’t. It shouldn’t come to that, of course, but while ever Football League confirmation drags on, that nagging doubt is still in the back of everyone’s mind.

It’s incredibly naïve of anyone to think cash will solve all our problems and we should just welcome Cellino with open arms because he appears to have plenty of it, but the grim reality of modern football is that club’s without cash don’t get very far.

The incredible levels of loyalty Leeds United fans continue to demonstrate means there’ll always be a future for the club, but our future will be a bleaker one without generous investment. Think of it like gambling, you can play free poker and enjoy it in much the same way as you run a football club on the cheap, but neither provide much entertainment. We need someone like Cellino to come in and up the ante, place his chips and bet on a brighter future. And fans know this, it’s why the delay in Football League approval continues to frustrate us all.

The trouble Cellino appears to be having is with the paperwork required and while progress has been made on this front, the Football League took the unusual step of issuing a statement to update fans on the current situation. In the statement, the FL revealed that they’re still waiting for further documentation to be provided before they can proceed.

Said statement has since been removed from the Football League website (though you can see a copy of it here), which was an unusual and utterly pointless move from whoever made the decision to remove it as the statement had already been copied by every major news outlet, spreading across the internet like wildfire.

Nevertheless, the statement served its presumed purpose – to get fans and media attention off the Football League, and put it back on Massimo Cellino and GFH, who the FL insist are the ones holding up proceedings by failing to provide the paperwork they’ve requested in a timely manner.

More cynical fans may suggest that the Football League are deliberately stalling the process to try and find an out, which isn’t beyond the realms of possibility, but the Football League’s Owners & Directors test is a cowardly exercise which aims to remove them from any real decision-making process.

The most obvious reason for a hold-up and additional paperwork requests is the way in which Cellino plans to structure the club, placing 75% into a holding company called Eleonora Sports, the controlling interests of which will be split between himself and the rest of his family.

This would presumably mean that each individual with an ownership share of the club has to meet the guidelines before the takeover can be ratified, meaning the process is more complicated than if one individual bought the club outright. Until Cellino, GFH and their lawyers can provide the paperwork which allows the Football League to tick all their boxes, it’s impossible to say when this saga will finally come to an end and Leeds United fans can focus solely on the football.

  • LUFC_MAC

    It’s Leeds United, we never get a smooth ride.
    A long as this take over happens I don’t mind waiting but they’ll be some old fart digging up a pile of excuse to stop this takeover happening.

    Best fans in the world – mot.

    • tim campbell

      The person in question is Shaun Harvey who is venting his bitterness and frustration at his former club through this process

  • Irving08

    Good analysis. I suspect your final paragraph contains the explanation. I don’t think Leeds fans should over-dramatise the situation or feel victimised, though I am not holding my breath. Cue, Radio Leeds:’0h Brian, how does it feel……’.

  • KeeeflyWhite

    Though we’ll never know, it seems to me that the FL ask questions, which get answered and then they ask more questions. They said in their statement that there could be more questions arising from the latest set of answers. I wouldn’t understand if this was down to Cellino and his lawyers not being forthcoming, as the are already bankrolling the club and clearly want it. Due to my low regard of the FL, I think they are being deliberately pedantic in their dealings with us.
    Perhaps the problem is with GFH retaining a 25% share, as they have proven to be bith useless and potless this past year. How many other takeovers have involved the current owners holding on to this %age?

  • maxwatson

    Based on the comment on twitter earlier that the hold-up is on the GFH side, remember that if MC buys 75% and the club needs to raise more funds, then all parties would normally need to put in pro-rata amounts to maintain their funding ratios. So if the club needs (for the sake of argument) $100m and GFH (again for the sake of argument) have 10%, at that point they either have to put in $10m of the amount or accept dilution. Given their general unwillingness to put in anything, this may be a concern. If they have what are called “anti-dilution rights”, and can also veto the larger injection, that could force an administration. So I’m not surprised the FL wants documentation from them.

    Re the twitter comment I just saw, and associated Italian article, about QSI not being likely to buy Cagliari, bear in mind that the Qatari royal family also own Malaga, which is more similar to Cagliari than PSG, and not via QSI. Separately, the Sardinian press seemed to think the other day that contracts for the sale of Cagliari have been exchanged but are in escrow, and nobody knows who the buyer is (Chinese, Qatari, American, take your pick). Nobody really knows anything.

    I’ve never been certain Cagliari has a buyer anyhow. How can the Cellinos be claiming they will be moving all these players over to Leeds from a club they sold at a premium? It feels more like they will use Cagliari as a feeder club and let it drift down into Serie B.

  • maxwatson

    “The most obvious reason for a hold-up and additional paperwork requests is the way in which Cellino plans to structure the club, placing 75% into a holding company called Eleonora Sports, the controlling interests of which will be split between himself and the rest of his family.”

    It’s still an incredibly simple form and everyone involved will have passed. You need to have 20% of the shares (which would mean a maximum of 3 people being tested, since the total only has 75%) or effective control, which basically means, since the other people are probably his family, Sgr. Cellino himself.

    The issue – it would seem – is on the funding and on the non-Cellino part of the funding structure.

    • TSS

      Not strictly true. If you read through the rules, they’re very vague on who does and doesn’t have to pass, for example, there’s a part about anyone fulfilling the duties of an owner/director needing to pass regardless of share holding so determining who’ll be doing what has maybe played a part…

  • Mick444

    Makes we wonder how the hell GFH ever got control of Leeds United in the first place . If the role of the FL is to ensure prospective new owners can afford to run the club then how did GFH ever get approval to proceed with the purchase from Masterbates. Maybe Mr Harvey could answer that question?? It is obvious Cellino has the financial clout to run the club because he has already put more cash into it’s running than Bates ever did – and if that is not a great indication of his intentions as a “potential” new owner I am lost for words. TSS always provides a good read but regardless of any Cellino eccentricities he could not do more than he has already to show the Leeds fans his intentions. Butland and Wickam on board, debts accumulated by GFH paid all before he is officially on board. I have no doubt he would not be putting cash into the club if he was not 100% sure he will receive FL approval. The waiting game is a pain but for the first time in years we have a chance to build a competitive team with a manager of great integrity at the helm. Maybe I have lived outside of Yorkshire for too long but for once in my life my cup runner over!

  • bd

    Does the FL think owners like Abramovich earned him money honestly?!

    Cellino would not be pumping money into Leeds Utd if he didnt think he could get approval.I think he just did n’t realise the level of bureaucracy (paper work) needed. In Italy it is pretty much non existent.

  • spellz

    I for one am dubious of anyone that walks through the gates of ER promising anything, I have never wanted a takeover to hurry up and get approved as much as this one though.
    So far we have signed be it on loan two of the the most promising youngsters outside our own youth squad in a long time, I would love to see if he buys ER too so come on football league what is the delay are the premier League still saying they would not allow him to represent the club as the board at that level still or what? whatever the case we have some die hard fans and that passion can only turn to success eventually so all you want aways remain positive because at Leeds United things do not happen quickly we are always playing the waiting game.

    M.O.T AA