HarveyIf you feel as if the Leeds United takeover saga has stalled, that’s probably because it has.

While we all love to demonstrate our victim complex, throw stones at the Football League and insist everything is their fault because they hate us and we don’t care (except, sometimes we do…), on this occasion, they’re almost entirely blameless.

I say ‘almost’ blameless because I consider the Owners & Directors test (previously known as the Fit & Proper test) to be a pitiful display of pointless bureaucracy that serves absolutely no purpose, so because of it’s very existence, the Football League must take some blame.

But alas, the test exists and passing it is no more complicated than completing a dot-to-dot. Or rather, it shouldn’t be more complicated than completing a dot-to-dot.

Unfortunately, things are never quite so straightforward for Leeds United. While other clubs simply fill out what the Football League describes as “primarily a self-certification” test, stick it in the mail and then exchange the keys, Leeds United has to explain to the Football League why its current ownership doesn’t make any sense before they can even begin to consider the prospective new owners.

The part the Football League is most confused about is how Gulf Financial House came to be in a position where they can sell 75% of a football club to Massimo Cellino when they announced to the Bahrain Bourse (and presumably, the Football League) that they’d sold their majority stake last year.

The answer it seems, is quite simple. A quick glance at Leeds United’s ever-changing ownership statement will show the total disappearance of Salah Nooruddin, the (presumably former) chairman who was more illusive than a David Batty goal.

Nooruddin, it would seem, held a considerable stake in Leeds United Football Club for a time and GFH claim they have consolidated his shareholding with their own to facilitate the sale of 75% to Massimo Cellino.

Which is fine. Or at least, it should have been.

You see, the problem is, the Football League clearly didn’t know this had happened. Whether they were informed of any equity movement (ie. the original movement to Nooruddin) is questionable, but they clearly didn’t know about the latest movement or they wouldn’t have returned to GFH with questions about how they came to hold 75% of the club.

Any change in the ownership and director status at a Football Club must be reported to the Football League within 14 days. This would appear to be a pretty basic oversight and the Football League are now awaiting paperwork to verify these transactions, which makes you wonder how many more GFH webs the Football League will have to untangle before Cellino can take charge of the club and start making it his own.

The ultimate irony is, Shaun “3 administrations, yet still fit and proper” Harvey, the man who helped sell Leeds United to the hopeless Gulf Financial House in the first place, is the man charged with untangling the web of Leeds United’s ownership. This is a man who claimed to not know who owned Leeds United when he himself was the club’s CEO.

To make matters worse, GFH’s failure to supply the Football League with the appropriate paperwork has allowed another issue to come into play in the shape of a court case for tax evasion back in Cellino’s homeland.

It seems Leeds United’s new owner set up a business in America, through which he purchased a yacht to avoid paying tax. Said yacht was then shipped to Italy where the Italian didn’t think he’d have to pay import duty because the yacht is technically owned by an American company.

While it’s perfectly legal for an American company to ship assets to Italy without paying import duty, the Italian prosecutor is arguing that Massimo Cellino has deliberately exploited the system, and in doing so, should be charged with tax evasion. The company in question was set up only a month before the yacht was purchased and appears to function as nothing but a yacht-buying company, so it’s hard to argue Cellino didn’t try to avoid tax.

But tax avoidance isn’t illegal. The British Cayman Islands, Monaco and anywhere you can expect to find Ken Bates and his kind thrive on creating tax loopholes for billionaires, a clever accountant will see to it that your average billionaire pays less tax than you and I.

Tax evasion is something else entirely, but there’s a grey area between avoidance and evasion in which lawyers for the state and lawyers for the billionaires regularly battle it out. This is just another in a long line of such cases.

As such, it’s unlikely that this will lead to a criminal charge so it should have no effect on Cellino’s clearance. However, some reports claim the Football League will wait for the outcome of the case before making a decision, so they clearly feel there’s a chance (however slim) that this will give them grounds to deny Cellino’s clearance, meaning Leeds United’s takeover could be sunk by our would-be new owners’ lavish spending.

You simply cannot make this stuff up.

22 Responses

  1. Carl

    You don’t seem to post many updates these days TSS, but when you do they always help to make sense of the crazy situation at Elland Road. Thank you for yet another very informative piece.

  2. China White

    Everywhere I read that the FL is ‘likely’ to wait for the outcome of the Tax Evasion case against Cellino., nowhere do I read what this assumption is based on. To wait for the outcome of what will surely be a lengthy trial is ridiculous. The only comments I have read from the FL is that they have to work on an ‘innocent until proven guilty’ assumption.
    In this regard, its ‘likely’ that the Tax Evasion charges will have no bearing on the fit and proper outcome.
    Its more likely to fall over on the dodgy practices of GFH and the selling and re selling from the Bahrani who’s name starts with N and I’m sure to mis-spell.

    • TSS

      Best case scenario is that the League revoke the director status of everyone involved with GFH, banning them from serving in such a capacity so they can have absolutely no input once Cellino takes over. Drives me mad that David Haigh has managed to secure a promotion from all the chaos he caused.

      • markman

        I am not sure what Mr Haigh has been up to.
        but,i do have time for the guy as he put money into the club when it was needed.

  3. Jonhu62

    Come on Shaun, pull your socks up!!!! Didn’t we make it clear when you were CEO of our great club?
    Question has to be, how is this man deciding the future of our club, surely a conflict of interest?

    • TSS

      Well, the Football League would argue – quite rightly – that they don’t make a decision as such.

      The O&D test is effectively self-cert. You either meet the qualifying criteria or you don’t, the Football League’s only role in this is to investigate whether the answers you’ve provided are truthful. They may be more inclined to thorougly investigate someone with controversial background, but it’s the same test for everyone and the rules don’t change. They can’t, the FL would be torn apart in court otherwise.

  4. Mythic

    As you say you could not make this up.
    Given that Senor Cellino is a resident of the United States where tax avoidance is treated with the same aggression as evasion in most other parts of the world I think it is safe to assume that the Italian authorities are just as guilty as Cellino himself at “trying it on”. Italians seem to have a shoot first ask questions later to most things, afterall they indicted Patrick Head for manslaughter when Ayrton Senna was killed at Monza and it took years for them to get the case dropped .
    One would hope therefore that even poacher turned gamekeeper Mr Harvey can see the tax case as a nonsense, but then again….

  5. markman

    Another nightmare scenario is that whatever the decision on march 18th
    the loser appeals and the whole thing drags on and on and on.
    and the FL use that as an excuse for not making a decision.

    • TSS

      If the FL’s own words, Cellino is innocent until proven guilty, so if this does drag on (as these things tend to do in Italy) they wouldn’t hold it against him. Once all the paperwork has been submitted and any follow-up questions answered, the FL are supposed to respond within 5 days so it’s on GFH really.

  6. Bluesman

    We all hate Harvey. Of course he is to blame. He was part go the very unhealthy Bates machine. He was up to his neck in GFH and gas no place in this process. The FL cannot be seen to be right because of Mr Maladminstration.

  7. Goody

    Not sure that Mr Haigh will have put his own money in – may be a question that the FL still require an answer to!
    I still can’t believe that anyone , not least the regulator , would employ Mr Harvey after his track record of administrations and close association with that tax exile, Master Bates.
    FL – your having a laugh! Only problem is the joke is on us. Last time everyone else laughed this much is when they hit us with -15 as a result of Bates stiching up a dodgy exit from our last Bates induced administration

    • Dfooster

      Other people can laugh all they want but if cellino has nothing to answer for in court as suspected then come the summer it will be us that’s laughing when cellino starts splashing the cash.

      • TSS

        *We hope. I really wish our fans wouldn’t count their chickens with Cellino and wait for actions to justify praise, we’ve made the mistake of celebrating new owners as saviours far too many times in the past and this guys record leaves plenty of reason to be cautious.

  8. Dfooster

    You only have to have been on this website a handful of times to know that the scratching shed don’t rate GFH that highly.

    And whilst I’m the first to admit they are not perfect I will give them credit for being the only ones who were prepared to untangle all the mess bates left us in from a financial point if view and from a legal point if view all whilst lowering season ticket prices and managing to keep hold of our better players for the first time in 5 years.

    Yeah ok they may not have had as much money as we all would have hoped but there’s no denying they paved the way for our club to go from being run by a money laundering tyrant to someone who wants to take the club back to where it belongs by splashing his own personal wealth.

    I think the scratching shed would do well to remember that the next time they feel like digging their claws into GFH.

    • TSS

      We were more critical of Bates than anyone, even in the early days when the majority of our fanbase considered him a saviour so I don’t think any reminders are necessary there.

      As for GFH, we were actually supportive of them too, right up to the point they screwed everything up and one of their key people (David Haigh) led the club through two months of chaos, which totally ruined our season, all while he somehow wormed his way into a promotion under the new regime.

      We/I judged GFH solely on actions – when they were good, they were praised, when they weren’t, they were criticised. That’s not unfair, they’re running a football club. Shouldn’t we – as a fanbase – demand a level of competence they’ve totally failed to exhibit these last 3 months?

      GFH took 2 steps forwards and 2 steps back, they were praised heading forwards and criticised heading backwards, that’s how every single working person in the entire world is judged, it’s how every football player and manager has to be judged and it should extend to the owners too. No one is saying GFH did no good, just that they undid it all these last few months and will leave behind a legacy of failure.

  9. Bluesman

    Normally I would say that the FL are being cautious because of all there past mistakes, but I then realise that they don’t give a fuck. Let me tell you that Harvey is laying awake at night, worrying about Leeds United! Yeah, that is a real porky! But what is true, is that there needs to be a review of their processes and why Harvey is involved!

  10. Matthew

    One way or another this takeover saga has to end, we can’t have another repeat of this season. I think Cellino deserves a chance, he can’t be any worse than GFH or Bates and has the money to move us forward. I don’t want us losing to fucking Rochdale in the cup next season or getting smashed by the Wendies or Bolton again. If anything if Cellino wants to replace McDermott he should just get rid now and appoint a Caretaker manager while taking the time to find the right guy. Also if Cellino gets the approval, he needs to send Kebe back to Palace.

  11. PMH

    Gazing into my crystal ball I see … playoffs out of sight …. Cellino becomes owner … relegation worries …. MCDermott gets fired after 8-0 defeat by Charlton …. idiot manager with an Italian surname is hired … relegation narrowly avoided … strange new team emerges … Leeds fans soon tire of Cellino and his clown … Leeds miss playoffs next season … manager gets fired twice i… Cellino fires three managers in one week and appoints himself manager … arrested by Interpol at half time in a cup game at Chelsea … with manager in an Italian jail Leeds get promoted to the Premiership.

    OK. I admit the happy ending thing is a lie.

    • Matthew

      It’s McDermotts insistence of sticking with Kebe and in a way Stewart that is most frustrating, it’s like everyone but the man himself can see the guy is either shit or simply isn’t trying. We’re essentially a 10 man team when Kebe is playing. 9 if Stewart is having a bad day. Just send Kebe home, please. McDermotts a nice guy but his love for Kebe is fucking annoying, at least Billy Paynter, though lacking talent actually attempted to make an effort.

  12. PMH

    Sticking to football, I have to say that BMcD has managed to convince me that he is not up to the job. The guy says the right things, but the signings and on the field performance have been poor, and intermittently calamitous. Two wingers were acquired at a point when it was clear that the team needed a stronger backbone. His persistent babbling about “moral courage” is really getting on my nerves. It is football, not Afghanistan. You give your players a game plan they can execute and feel confident in, then get them pumped up and they will perform OK. Get too clever, or ask them to do things beyond their ability, and they will crash. A midfield passing game clearly is not within the capabilities of this group, so it will have to be hoofball from now on,

  13. crofty121

    there still seems to be negativity about Cellino from TSS……….this is a great article and confirms what many know, hence the reason why Cellino is now refusing to bank roll the club. Hopefully its mind games and gets GFH and the FL to get their finger out!!
    Firstly, unless another billionaire pops up and wants to splash the cash Cellino is our only answer!!
    les judge him on what hes achieved so far…..
    1) bankrolled the club paying wages.
    2) stopped the winding up by Flowers by paying the deby
    3) keeping the club afloat and purchased players (albiet loan signings)
    4) stopping the sale of prizer assets like McCormack
    5) listening to the fans in supporting MCD (even though he doesnt deserve it and should never have backed Flowers bid, proves he was even clueless about that)
    6) publicially announced he would purchase ER and TP
    7) showed he is a football fan and he has Leeds best interests at heart
    8) kept a seria c team in the top division in italy for the majority of his years in charge with a crowd of 5K fans (financially improbable these days)
    9) kept his team out of any match fixing and following scandals that became prominant in italy (one of the very few clubs in the whole of italys football set-up that kept a clean nose.
    Anyway all that points to the clear fact he is right man for the job…..im struglling to intellectually conquer otherwise.
    in his own words ‘ i have been questioned about stealing funds…..why leeds doesnt have anything to steal’
    Cellino in M.O.T


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