Massimo CellinoMassimo Cellino’s attempt to takeover Leeds United looks to have been thwarted by a yacht after the Italian businessman was convicted of “falso in bilancio” (false accounting) and ordered to pay €600,000 in fines, while the yacht in question was seized by the Italian government.

The decision came early this morning and appears to give the Football League grounds to reject Cellino’s takeover under a rule in the Owners’ & Directors’ test which can disqualify anyone for an “unspent conviction for dishonesty,” which is a rather vague term but must surely apply here.

Unspent, by English law, is usually five years for a conviction which results in a fine so that’s not going to help Cellino any. He could of course appeal the conviction and probably will since there seems to be an endless appeals process in Italy which makes a mockery of their legal system, but it’d likely take months for an appeal to be prepared and for the case to reach court again.

All of this leaves Leeds United waiting for confirmation from the Football League that the verdict bars Cellino from completing his takeover.

In the meantime, the club would be wise to start considering a Plan B. The only remaining party known to be interested in a takeover of the club is Mike Farnan’s consortium who’ve maintained interest throughout. There are questions to be answered with regards to the level of funding this consortium can bring to the table, but they do have relevant experience working in football so should be aware of what they’re getting themselves in for (Leeds United are hardly unique when it comes to football clubs losing vast amounts of money).

But money remains the primary concern for Leeds United, which is the only reason Massimo Cellino became a preferred choice of fans in the first place. The club is haemorrhaging money at an alarming rate, so any new owner would have to have considerable backing to cover Leeds United’s operating losses while also servicing the debts, this is before they even start to consider squad improvements.

Those debts have only increased while the club has been in limbo waiting for the Football League’s decision on Cellino. The Italian has invested around £10m into the club since reaching an agreement with GFH which will have to be paid back if/when the Football League reject his takeover.

Worrying times for Leeds United then. Or ‘business as usual’ you could say. On and on…

Update: Short statement issued by The Football League which says they’re in “ongoing discussions with [Massimo Cellino’s] legal representatives” following the outcome of the court-case this morning.