Cagliari vs. JuventusMassimo 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.