Massimo Cellino faces wait for Football League approval TSS February 12, 2014 Leeds United 48 Comments Massimo Cellino seemed to be operating under the assumption that the Football League would clear his takeover of Leeds United today, but a decision could still take several days. Speaking last week, Cellino explained how he planned to meet the Football League on Wednesday and purchase Elland Road on Thursday, a clear indication that the Italian believed he would officially become owner of Leeds United today. However, there seems to have been some misunderstanding as to what today’s meeting with the Football League would produce, and it now seems a definitive answer on Cellino’s clearance was never a likely outcome. The purpose of today’s meeting (which is believed to have been requested by Cellino, not the Football League) seems to revolve around the paperwork the Football League require from the club and Massimo Cellino, but as of last Thursday, hadn’t received. It’s worth noting that the Football League’s Owners & Directors test is (to paraphrase this document from the Football League) primarily a self-certification test. I’ve referred to it in the past as a ‘pointless box-ticking exercise’ which I stand by completely. The onus is on seller and buyer to ensure they comply with the legal framework set out by the Football League for ownership of a football club and while you’d hope the Football League check to ensure information provided is accurate, that’s the only part they really play in the whole process. Simply put, the Football League have gone to great lengths to ensure the test is entirely objective, based on nothing but UK Law. As a result, the forms Massimo Cellino fills out determines whether he can own an English football club, not – as many seem to believe – a committee of Football League executives offering their subjective opinions on what constitutes fit and proper. In this instance, we seem to be waiting for Massimo Cellino to provide the Football League with the appropriate forms. Once he’s done that, the Football League will review the forms and the information Cellino has provided will determine the answer (assuming everything is accurate and the FL don’t have reason to question his answers). How long this last part takes isn’t exactly set in stone. According to section 3.3b of the Football League Owners & Directors Test, clubs must provide the League with the necessary paperwork within 10 working days, at which point the League will review said paperwork and aim to issue a response within 5 working days. The response won’t necessarily be a definitive one, as the rules state “The League shall confirm to the Club whether or not he is liable to be disqualified as a Club Director” meaning they only have to give an indication as to whether he’s failed to meet the qualifying criteria. However, the rest of the document does seem to suggest he can start to undertake the duties of an owner/director at this point. What this means is, we should know the outcome by next Wednesday (at the latest), assuming Massimo Cellino and his lawyers managed to get their paperwork in order today and the League don’t find reason to question the information he provides. Football League bureaucracy. Fun stuff, right? EDITED POST: This post originally stated that FL confirmation can take up to 15 days. While true, the first 10 days appears to be the grace period a club is allowed to inform the Football League of a change in director/ownership. The Football League’s response once paperwork is received should take no more than 5 working days. Aplanir Massimo Cellino Should take legal action against the useless morons, and challenge the football league of the legality of interfering in club business, football is the only thing I see is anything to do with the football league not who and who don’t own a football club TSS Legal action because Cellino failed to provide the paperwork? This has nothing to do with the FL, I’ve just explained that above. He needs to complete the necessary forms, the FL will then review them to ensure information is accurate and the decision makes itself. It’s effectively self-cert. Flippin-Pop-It-Bruva I’m glad for Brian he didn’t meet Cellino last night it was hardly a game that showcased his managerial prowess. I’ve read quite a few blogs in the last week that says us fans are united but i can see quite a shift in attitudes to both cellino as owner and also Brian as manager. I suppose times of uncertainty bring uncertainty of opinion. I feel for Brian but at the same time i feel these 5 matches will determine his outcome. His tactics are becoming ever so predictable and i cant remember the last time one of his substitutes impacted the game. The modern game doesn’t allow managers time anymore and with that i feel that the pressure with Brian is mounting, he needs to find a formula for playing away from home and i’m not sure a 4-5-1 formation will get him any wins [a bit like when we played Watford in the playoffs all those years ago it reeks of playing for the draw] The crowd were fully behind him at Brighton and only the armchair supporters were heckling him on social media but something tells me there’s a shift in opinion happening here, a bit like the shift of sand in a desert only the wind will tell us which way we will go. TSS Trouble is, what subs does he have which could impact the game? The first XI isn’t bad, but beyond that it’s all a bit meh. If only there was a window in which clubs could bring in new players midway through the season, I bet that’d help matters… Lee Baker The transfer window concept is a complete waste of space. Its main purpose was to stabilise the ever-increasing player transfer fees. But what has it done instead? Have the powers-that-be never heard of the law of supply and demand? They’ve reduced the supply of players and increased the demand. And they wonder why prices have gone up even quicker. Realising what they’d done, they ‘rectified it’ by introducing the player loan system. When that didn’t help they introduced the emergency loan window. And when they’d finished with that they decided to restrict the squad sizes of Premier League clubs. Can’t they just admit they’ve got it all wrong and scrap the whole system? If a player wants to move from club A to B, club A wants to sell him and club B wants to buy him, where is the problem? Flippin-Pop-It-Bruva The substitutes are still Brian’s signings/choices, even if he wasn’t backed by the board. Im just a bit disapointed as he was supposed to be a scout………..I cant imagine another window helping leeds, Look at the last window! I think for leeds at the moment its best of we have just a three hour window! Irving08 But why let Varney go out on loan – or Green, for that matter ? Is it for current financial reasons or is Brian thinking of next season, when he doesn’t want them around ? His reluctance to select either player this season suggest that he doesn’t fancy them and/or he wants to offload as many of the older players as he can. (Varney’s getting the man of the match against Leicester must have been a bit of an embarrassment.) The trouble with unloading loadable players is that the ones Brian has brought to the club to take their place do not look as if they could ever form part of a promotion challenging First X1 (not even the anomalous Kebe).I am not sure if there is a way forward for Brian that does not involve taking some risks this season with our home grown talent. I fear for him otherwise. Dr Zen My understanding is Varney doesn’t want to play for Leeds and Green is pretty terrible. It’s not like Green is going to come on and change a game. Tyler75 Actually, I though we played reasonably well against Brighton and should have at least had a point; we were well organised and when Brian pushed Rudi further forward in the second half, looked the more likely until the all too familiar defensive lapse allowed Brighton their one and only clear opportunity. As for substitutions, I thought Matt Smith has definitely made a difference coming off the bench this season, not least against Yeovil on Saturday. Townie sounds to me like this is like flying Ryanair ! And this bloke does not have a boarding card. So he’s screwed until he produces his docs. Simples………he can stamp his feet all he likes but the sour faced lass at the gate has all the power. Bluesman So, the pantomime goes on! Nothing new there. Cellino seems to have some problems with paperwork and authorities, lol. That is probably why they say that he is a maverick. I think that a point worth mentioning is that Cellino has lawyers covering this, so it is very likely that they would get the paperwork right! I don’t want to start conspiracy theories, but there seems to be an assumption that the FL is fairly limited in what it can and cannot consider. The fact is that everyone appears to be threatening the FL with legal action if they don’t get the decision right. It is therefore likely that the FL will look at all the issues and the history of individuals very carefully. This is a situation, with everyone and their lawyers getting involved. It will be difficult for the FL and they may well be being asked questions from the outside, given information obtained from other sources and challenged (advised) about what they should be looking at. This is all very hypothetical as the takeover may go through in a couple of days? Or, may be it will be a long and drawn out process with legal challenges, interlocutors injunctions on the decision etc Tero. It took a week for the FL to make a statement to LUFC, that the player Cellino wanted to bring to Leeds…The FL said the players papers didn’t arrive on time or something to that affect… Sorry the players name eludes me… spellz For once can one of our on going off the field dramas be a short one so we can get back to attempting to play the beautiful game, I for one just want this takeover done now. maxwatson The actual rules, rather than the summary, are here: http://www.football-league.co.uk/regulations/20130704/appendix-3_2293633_2128209 They say that the prospective owner/director should allow 10 normal working days before completion of control, to submit paperwork. Within 5 normal working days of receipt the FL should provide a response. That doesn’t add up to 15, it implies 5-10. Cellino’s lawyer is, as is well documented, Chris Farnell (http://ipslaw.co.uk/people/). If you look at his record, it strikes me as highly unlikely that there would be any mystery as to the paperwork required for a change of control at Leeds. So why the meeting? I rather suspect that the plan is to take the money from the Cagliari sale, which looked like happening far more quickly, but hasn’t, and to invest that in Leeds, hence the stalling. The Italian press is today saying it still expects a sale to the Qataris for close to €100m, maybe by early next week. I can see no reason under the FL rules to actually block the Leeds move – the 1996 conviction was actually reversed in August 2012 (http://www.unionesarda.it/articoli/articolo/285570) so the only pertinent one would be the 2001 conviction, 15 months suspended, which would be considered spent under the act referenced by the FL rules (http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1974/53). TSS Good spot. It should be within 5 days of completing paperwork then, which is why they were at FL today as I understand it. Will update above to reflect this. (Read through those rules myself and totally missed that part somehow). As you say, it’s odd that Farnell hasn’t been able to handle this himself, but he also seemed confused by the power structure so who knows. Could be that Cellino is waiting for sale of Cagliari to go through and stalling in the meantime, but I doubt that personally, he’s already paid the first sum to GFH, there’s nothing else due ’til next year. EDIT: On second glance, it actually says the FL will inform a club whether the director is likely to be denied within 5 working days, it doesn’t say clearance will be given at that point. They’ve left that wide open it seems. maxwatson Thanks. BTW I assume the 10 day window is in case there is a problem with the initial submission, so theoretically this allows for 2 goes at getting it right. TSS It’s just a grace period I think? I imagine you can resubmit as many times as you like if it was just an error in paperwork, the 10 day part just seems to be the time you have to inform the Football League of a planned change in ownership/director, thereby starting the whole approval process,,, Such a tedious document designed to cover the FL’s back. maxwatson My reading of it is, allow 10 days in case you screw it up, or we respond in a way that you have to rethink. But it should take 5 days if the paperwork is OK. For the lower leagues (conference and below) the FA runs the same test and it is a 2 page form, and even most of that is explanation; there are maybe 5 fields to actually fill in. If the 1996 conviction had not been quashed and was still within the period it would be hellishly complex. It converted from a €400m fine and a sentence to a 14 month suspended sentence in 2000, via an Italian plea bargain, which can be used without actually admitting guilt. So there would be an argument about “what was the original sentence” (the 1974 act used to determine whether a sentence is unspent takes the original sentence, not one subsequently modified by negotiation), the timing of the sentence (1996 or 2000) and also whether it was a conviction at all, given the nuance of Italian law around admission of guilt. In that case the FL “don’t worry, we’ll have it back in 5 days” rule would have been pretty entertaining to watch. TSS Well, they only promise to give an indication of whether he’s likely to fail, which leaves some room for them to squirm around in. Ginger White Ok the FL summary actually says ‘form Cubs’ rather than ‘from clubs’? Call me suspicious but this is either a misrepresentation of the truth or a subversive attempt to encourage it’s members to promote Sir Baden-Powell’s uniformed military organisation or owners will not pass the ‘fit and proper’ test. Cellino in/out! Brian in/out! (delete as appropriate) TSS “Cellino in/out! Brian in/out! (delete as appropriate)” Our fanbase seems to be changing their minds every week so you’ll have to write that in pencil and provide them with erasers. maxwatson Or if you are at Cagliari: Cellino out, Sheikh it all about. I’ll get my coat. TSS I’ve already called you a taxi, you can wait outside until it arrives. Tare Or a well furnished Camel? Tare Ginger White My point exactly. I thought I had the answer with Cellino’s money and Brian’s long term footballing nous, dream ticket scenario, but now I’m not so sure. Is it the players? Get a load of better ones in and we’re flying? Is it the tactics, training and motivation? Get a better manager in and we’re flying? Is it the ownership? Get a richer, better business nous and Leeds United fans in and we’re flying? Tell me what to think, Leeds fans! TSS We didn’t play too badly against Brighton. Kenny hadn’t had a save to make when they scored – which was a messy moment and not entirely Tom Lees’ fault as many are suggesting (Byram should have been marking Lualua for a start so Tom Lees wouldn’t have been dragged out of position and ended up in no man’s land, but no one wants to speak ill of the golden child). We needed the transfer window we never got, there are too many Warnock relics in this team in need of replacing, Kenny being one, another being Warnock who – while obviously a good player – isn’t quick enough, Varney’s gone but McCormack still hasn’t got the support he needs. We missed Stewart too, which was a bizarre decision the club made (I didn’t even know you could take breaks in loan spells?) It had 0-0 written all over it really, which away to Brighton wouldn’t have been a bad result. The fact Kenny hadn’t had to move until he picked ball out from back of his net tells you everything (and he didn’t move to try and prevent ball hitting back of his own net either). The defence didn’t do too badly at all we just didn’t create much in an attacking sense and never got McCormack in the game. Terrible game, but you can’t really fault the system. We absorbed pressure as intended for the most part and attempted to play on the counter-attack, we just lack players who can do that effectively. Irving08 I agree about Stewart – why second guess in this way. But it isn’t the first questionable loan-type decision Brian has made; sending Aidy White to Sheffield United was also odd, not to say, cruel. (Or should we excuse Brian for not foreseeing that he would soon be playing 3-5–2 ?). Brian’s actions are too often those of a man who seems to think he has time to play with. This approach may have suited Reading (in the end, it turned out not to suit them even) but it is not right for Leeds. Like the City itself, we are a restless entity, with a pervading sense of incompleteness. Managing us requires a special person, possibly restless too, but certainly driven. Leslie Silver realised this, which is why he drew up a list of the 6 best Mangers in the country, proceeded to interview personally three of them and paid the winner very well. Irving08 I wonder ? Both before and after the Huddersfield match I did an informal canvas of opinion among 45 +, thoughtful, rock-solid supporters, and not a single person felt – when pushed – that Brian could take us up. But no-one was calling for his head. My hunch then is that ambivalence – not fickleness – is the best way to describe the most common feeling among regular supporters. Results over the coming month or so plus the posture and actions of the new ownership will resolve this ambivalence one way or another – for the time being anyway. (One interesting finding was the number of fans who thought Simon Grayson was the better Manager – ‘if Bates had just given him some real money to buy a couple of defenders in his first Championship season, we’d already be in the Premiership’). andy not very well thought out this statement! im sure Cellino’s lawyers know how to dot the i’s and cross the t’s i think you will find its GFH that is lacking in this department. hence the hold up. TSS Oh, I dunno, Cellino’s lawyer is the guy who sacked McDermott, I wouldn’t put too much faith in his competency. But it’s a self-cert process basically, it appears to be Cellino who’s having a bit of trouble with it which is why he requested meeting with FL. He’s not English so hasn’t had to deal with our incredibly pointless levels of bureaucracy before, any English person who’s ever successfully completed a passport form would probably breeze through it, but people from outside Britain don’t have the “benefit” of our lifetime’s experience in filling out the most ridiculously overcomplicated forms. (Apologies for going off-track there, I’ve just had to fill out a passport renewal form 3 times…) andy so Cellino wants to buy in to a failing business and wants to make changes straight away to stop it from being a loss making business and sacks the inept manager? (you could say i am not in the McDermott fan club). but the way the team was set up Tuesday was for a 0-0 draw. not good when your head is in the nose! i cant see a millionaires lawyer being that inept to not understand British law! sorry to hear about passport renewal trouble. PMH Inept is he? It makes me laugh that some believe that managers come with a magic wand. Silk purse/pig’s ear come to mind. BMcD is a competent manager getting mid-Championship results out of mid-championship talent on a newly put together team. Warnock was also competent, based on his CV of many years, and got similar results under similar conditions. You really have to judge managers over 2-3 years, not 2-3 matches. Bluesman TSS. I think that you will find that the FA have a legal duty as a quasi judicial body to give proper and thorough consideration to the test! If they have an ounce of sense they will have lawyers crawling all over the paperwork and advising them what they must consider, look at and question. They would be foolish not to do so as both sides are likely to make a legal challenge on their decision if there is anything to challenge from their decision. Cellino, Flowers and Farnham will also have their lawyers looking at it. This could be very messy or it could sail through. We will know within the next two weeks though! TSS Firstly, the FA don’t ratify the takeover, they have no power whatsoever to act, the Football League ratifies it. This isn’t me being pedantic, it’s an important point because the FA and FL have different rules for ownership (they’re broadly the same, but there’s enough minor differences for the distinction to be necessary). Secondly, and this is key, the FL don’t pass judgement. Even the term “quasi-judicial body” is a bit of stretch, they’re merely the administrative branch of the game. They don’t even have any real power, the club’s do, that’s why it went to a vote on our minus 15 deduction because the FL can only enforce pre-existing rules which have been agreed by member clubs. There are no subjective parts to this test whatsoever (because it all had to be agreed upon by clubs for it to be introduced and they wanted to cover their backs against legal challenges), it’s entirely objective and as the FL state themselves in the link included in article above, it’s primarily self-cert. Sure, they’ll check the information Cellino provides, but if he can tick all the right boxes (which he can) the decision makes itself, which is exactly what the test was designed to do so that it prevents any kind of legal challenge. Which brings me on to my final point, Farnan and Flowers have no grounds on which to make a legal challenge. Flowers was making his based on debt owed to his company, but since that’s taken care of in the takeover, it leaves nothing for him to argue (not that taking the club to court was ever his intention anyway) As for Farnan, he can blow all the hot air he likes, but unless he can find reason within the boundaries of the test which should stop Cellino taking over – which he won’t since there are none – he has no case to argue either. I honestly can’t understand what Farnan is playing at, his recent actions just seem like shameless self-promotion. Asking the FL to intervene was just sad and pathetic, they don’t have the authority to tell clubs who they can and can’t speak to. Yes, the FL will review answers given by Cellino, but nothing in the rules prevents him from taking over a football club. Since the whole thing is entirely objective and based only on the O&D test, this is cut and dry. Tare I do not believe that there are any legal challenges but a well written conspiracy manuscript to destroy LUFC. Somehow this farce which began since NW was appointed are just questions what was the timescale and what was achieved via it. Change from KB-GFH took about before London Olympics- where? And second TOMA well you now the rest. I hate to see this anti process taking place here where millions fans of LUFC are suffering. One fact is here that we are such a big Global Branch of European football Clubs that greedy hairy hands are reaching out for us and laughing all way running to the bank. Cellino Family is ok for me but pending for the actions taking place. Tare Belle Farnan’s actions sad? Go back and have a good look at what exactly has gone on with this whole takeover debacle and then decide who is sad. If you really think that the Cellino “takeover” is all above board and okey dokey, then you are the sad one. Farnan is the only one in this whole episode who has the best interests of the club at heart, this Cellino is very bad news for us. Just look at his actions on the 31 January, that tells you all you need to know about the man. John Brown I have to speak. Apparently the last 2 months wages to the players have been n the form of subs by one party or another. This reflects a dire financial situation. Any discussion of the team or management is moot in such a circumstance. Matthew Whatever happens, once this season is over we do need a major revamp of the first team squad, it simply isn’t good enough to achieve promotion, let’s be realistic here. We could do with 2-3 decent midfielders, another 2-3 decent defenders, and another quality striker to add to what we have. If Cellino can add to this squad in a positive way while understanding the need for stability i.e keeping the manager, I say welcome aboard. Brighton should have been a wake up call to some. PMH The team is not a premiership team, true, but making wholesale changes brings its own problems. It would probably take the best part of a year to figure out who is worth keeping of the new recruits. Then you have to get them all playing together. You do this while you are chopping and changing managers every few months. It takes patience and good judgement, not just cash, to turn a championship team into a premiership contender. The current manager is doomed, as are the next two.or three. Matthew That is what pre season is for, get a good amount of players in early and get the team gelling with a half dozen friendlies. If Cellino is serious he would get the manager to line up his targets before the window opens and bring em all in when humanly possible. Irving08 Cellino and the other owners will be the stability. Then come the fans, with our passion (probably we should be first). Managers come and go. On the evidence to date, Brian would need an awful lot of money to take us up. Matthew He may be able to do it cheaply with the right signings. By this I mean if he went after free transfers who are decent players but are also players who are looking for a better offer from another club. These players are pretty common. No kidding this is a major rebuilding job but with the right support a manager could in theory build a team in the next transfer window. John Good luck with Cellino… we know this man in Cagliari……. ;-( How many managers? Hmm…. It’s been strangely quiet lately. Cellino is about to fire another Cagliari manager, this will set things going again….. Matthew No news is good news. Mike N Being mischevious here, but is Shaun the Sheep looking out for Capn Birdseye? If he can delay the takeover long enough that Massimo looses interest, we slip into admin then Uncle Cuddly buys the club back for a pittance (1p in the pound). I know that there would be other bidders, but who controls the majority of the debt? I don’t know, can someone enlighten me? Matthew Won’t we get like 10-15 points deducted if we slip back into admin? We don’t deserve league 1 football again. We really don’t. Matthew And to clarify I don’t believe we’ll ever slip back into admin, I was just wondering if anything.