Whites left rudderless after Cellino ban is upheld on appeal TSS January 19, 2015 Leeds United 20 Comments Massimo Cellino will be forced to step down from the board of Leeds United within the next 48 hours after an appeals hearing upheld The Football League’s ban. The Italian’s problems began when he first arrived at Elland Road and The Football League rejected his takeover after determining a conviction for failing to pay import tax on a yacht in his native Italy fell within the disqualifying criteria of their Owners’ & Director’s Test. Cellino launched an appeal against the decision and was allowed to complete his takeover of the club, though the QC inserted a caveat into the ruling, stating that it was impossible to determine whether Cellino had committed a “dishonest act” until a written verdict was filed and the judge’s reasoning was outlined. The vague Football League rule states that anyone considered to have committed a dishonest act can be disqualified from ownership and while The Football League’s board unanimously agreed that Cellino’s failure to pay import tax could reasonably be considered dishonest, Cellino’s lawyers successfully argued this wasn’t necessarily the case. This left the club and Cellino with a dark cloud hanging over them as The Football League waited for the written judgement to be provided. Months later and after The Guardian leaked the report, it became apparent Cellino’s Italian lawyer had been in possession of the written verdict for some time and while Massimo Cellino maintains he hasn’t seen the document himself, The Football League were less than impressed by his failure to produce the document and will seek to impose further punishment on the Italian as a consequence. With Cellino (and/or his lawyers) uncooperative, The Football League successfully petitioned the Italian courts for the written judgement and quickly concluded that the judge’s verdict had found him guilty of a dishonest act, thus confirming his ban. Once again, an appeal was launched which Cellino today lost, but if you chase this back to the beginning, Cellino still comes out on top – if you consider being lumbered with a financial catastrophe of an English football club you can’t control an advantage, that is. While The Football League will be celebrating a win for their Owners’ & Directors’ test, the Italian still managed to take ownership of Leeds United so instead of the disqualifying ban which would have prevented him from purchasing the club in the first place, The Football League can only remove him from power until the conviction is considered spent under UK law. The date for this would have been mid-March but the appeals process pushed that back until the 10th of April which is still a rather minor punishment compared to outright ban The Football League originally sought. That’s unlikely to be the end of Cellino’s troubles however as The Football League could add a misconduct charge to his punishment for failing to supply the written verdict. There’s also additional and very similar court cases to follow in Italy later this year which would undoubtedly result in further – and lengthier – bans. Losing the appeal this time around means Cellino would have very little basis to launch an appeal next time and any subsequent ban(s) would almost certainly be upheld. It’s unclear as to whether Cellino can or will take this any further with the Court of Arbitration for Sport a possible next step, but as his ownership becomes evermore complicated, you have to question whether it’s possible to run a football club under such turbulent conditions and what will, if any, Cellino has left to fight against so many obstacles. Cellino must already be considering his options and if there is an interested buyer out there, I suspect he’d be very receptive to an approach. In the meantime, it’s unclear as to who will run Leeds United in Cellino’s absence and what effect – if any – this will have on the club’s recruitment plans over the next few days. Just another crisis for the world’s foremost crisis club.