Massimo Cellino has failed The Football League’s Owners’ & Directors’ test, barring him from taking over Leeds United Football Club.

Cellino was convicted of tax avoidance in his native Italy earlier this month for failing to pay import duty on a yacht he’d brought to Cagliari from America.

The Football League have been under intense pressure from the media due to Cellino’s sketchy legal history but they appeared to have no grounds on which to fail him until the recent court case in Italy.

Even then, things weren’t straight-forward. Unlike here in England where a guilty verdict stands until a successful appeal at a higher court overturns the original ruling, Article 27 of the Italian constitution states that defendants wishing to appeal should be presumed innocent until they’ve had their case heard.

This led The Football League to seek advice from an expert in Italian law whose interpretation of the ruling seems to have satisfied FL lawyers, leading them to today’s decision.

Cellino now has 14 days to appeal the decision and may consider legal action against The Football League. However, the Italian has stated previously that if he was to fail the Owners’ & Directors’ test, he would respect the decision and walk away, commenting that he’s “too old” to fight such a battle.

For Leeds United, the situation looks grim. GFH Capital remain owners having added around £10m in debt to the club’s books (money owed to Cellino) while the attempted takeover process has been ongoing.

Assuming a third party hasn’t entered the equation, the only option for GFH Capital would be Together Leeds, the Mike Farnan-led consortium who’ve maintained their interest throughout.

Football League statement;

Having fully considered the matter, the Board agreed unanimously that the decision of the Italian Court does constitute a disqualifying condition under its Owners’ and Directors’ Test. The relevant disqualifying condition being that Massimo Cellino has been convicted of an offence involving acts that would reasonably be considered to be dishonest.

In line with Football League regulations, Massimo Cellino is entitled to appeal against the Board’s decision within 14 days.

79 Responses

  1. telraff76

    Absolutely gutted, why do we have special treatment of the wrong kind? Did the dodgy owners in the premiership get the same scrutiny?

    • Colin

      There’s no FL bias on this decision IMHO. He’s guilty of tax evasion. You might not like the decision, but in the long term, the FL might just have done us a MASSIVE favour by not allowing a crook to take over our club.

      • Arne

        This is absolutely a stupid decision. Of course it is nice to know that everything is rosy with owners, however the vast majority is not. I would definitely not let this sentence go against him being our owner. Leeds cannot go forward without a money man. I am sure he would have done amazing things for Leeds, and that is ultimately what is important. End of story!!

      • stelufc

        So is shaun Harveys best mate Geoffrey Richmond, man who gave him his first job in football at bradford, found guilty of 3.5million tax fraud. then there’s his other pal Simon morris currently in prison for blackmail and a housing scam.

        The hypocrisy stinks.

        then you have to factor in the club directors who made this decision, many of them sitting in the relegation zone. what’s the betting on administration followed by a record points deduction “to set an example”

      • henrymouni

        Don’t forget his best mate Bates!
        He knows a plonker when he sees one!

      • Locky

        The word between “allowing” and “crook” you’re looking for is “another”

  2. yorxman

    I wouldn’t like to be waking up as Shaun Harvey in the morning, he might find a present in his bed from Mr Cellino!!:-D

  3. Richard

    It could only happen at Leeds United, What do we have to do to get people on our side for a change, instead of tripping us up at the slightest hint of doing something wrong.

  4. yorxman

    So what’s happening at Birmingham City with their chairman being jailed for 6 years…the silence from the FL on that one is deafening!

  5. Jonathan Davies

    Bullsh*t – why us after all of the crooks and criminals in all of the leagues. Hardly an impartial decision with rival chairmen voting. Disgusts me

  6. Benjamin Peter Richards

    let’s be honest we’ve not had a steady hand at the helm since… fothergill!? silver!?

  7. Ev

    Well that’s the summer gone then, I cant see Leeds being in a position to do serious transfer business in the summer now……… 2 more years atleast then. It makes you feel like giving up doesn’t it ?

  8. Bluesman

    Don’t agree or like the decision, but we will have to live with it. In the long run it may be better if Farnham and co takeover. They are football people and know how to move things forward. Not happy sbout Harvey, but don’t believe he should be in that position. The FL now need to update their rules and processes so this type of thing does not occur again. Their rules and procedures are not fit for purpose and they are a disgrace.

    • Ev

      Issue 1 / Does Farnan actually have any money or just made up of loans that could sink Leeds United ?
      Issue 2 / Are we actually going to be able to buy any players in the summer if we have another 6 months of due diligence to go???
      I really cant see a consortium being any good for Leeds but its better than GFH I guess and that’s assuming Farnan is still interested
      Are there really no multi millionaires out there who are willing to take Leeds United on or are all our fans skint northerners ?

      • Thommohawk

        1) Agree

        2) Considering the £10m we now owe Cellino we’ll be lucky to keep McCormack let alone buy anyone full stop.

        3) There was a multi millionaire so I’m told who was interested originally with the GFH takeover who got frustrated with Bates and fucked off (GFH were only ever the brokers in the deal as far as I’m aware not the money men but they saw opportunity)

        At this point what I’m thinking is administration to wipe our debts, take a season to rebuild and get some decent players back in and in that time shop us to wealthy people we’re a much better proposition as a club without debt.

  9. Thommohawk

    Disappointing news but I can hardly say I’m surprised. Money talks in football we all know this – which is true at Premier League level….the lower leagues however get the book thrown at them because there’s nowhere near as much money involved in it. The whole system is bent and biased.

    I don’t blame Cellino for what he said the other week (walk away if rejected) but maybe with where we are as a club right now and the debts piled up from the Bates vanity projects era perhaps it’s better to go into administration and take the 10 points deduction at the start of next season and rebuild without debts to worry about just operating costs. It’s not like we haven’t stared down administration and obliterated a 10 point deduction before – in fact if I’m not mistaken it was a 10 point deduction that relegated us and on top of that the following season we got whacked with -15 wtf lol.

    Leeds til I die and fuck the FL! We’ll look after ourselves as per effing usual.

    • Drogheda White

      But because that would be our second administration, doesn’t that mean a higher points deduction than the 10??

      • Thommohawk

        I have no idea but it’s not like we’re going anywhere as it is without a Cellino money man. OR complete wipe out of all debts (again) and this time but money into playing squad instead of loss making side projects.

      • Drogheda White

        I agree in theory but if its a -15 or -20 penalty, its still unlikely in the championship that we will get out next season unless we get around 90/100 points?? I personally can wait a season or two more than that IF it’s done right, by the proper people…but recent history doesnt suggest we attract that kind of owner, and thats what worries me

      • TSS

        Again, it’s 10 points for admin. The 15 points was failure to agree CVA, so we were docked 25 points in total (10 one season, -15 to start the next).

        Worth noting that if we did enter admin (which is highly unlikely since GFH would lose chance to make a bit of cash back from Leeds if we did), the points deduction would be applied next season. There’s a cut-off date to prevent clubs exploiting admin rule when they’re safe from relegation.

      • Drogheda White

        So surely GFH must have a plan B? If they want a return on their investment there must be something in the background hopefully!

      • TSS

        A plan B would suggest they operate with some degree of competence, I’ve seen no evidence of that personally.

      • Ev

        that’s the point we would screw up next season……I cant see even Brian Mcdermotts mighty motivational powers being enough to lift leeds out of danger then, especially when we can now look forward to another fucked up summer
        I also don’t think we should talk about Admin like its a good thing, im sick of us screwing over all these businesses that we owe money too

      • Thommohawk

        It’s never that simple with LUFC, ever. I wouldn’t trade being a Leeds fan for anything though at least it’s exciting if nothing else. Something always happening at ER!

        In all seriousness though we have to start thinking longer term. The reality is that even if we have a great season and spawn promotion we ain’t ready as a playing squad or a club for the Prem – look at teams like Leicester this year they had significant investment a couple years ago which is paying dividends now. They’re pissing the league pretty much and they look ready for the next level.

        We are currently nowhere near. It’s going to be at least another 2 seasons probably longer before we’re ready.

      • Dfooster

        Never get anywhere without money, two years five years ten years it will happen when we get major investment like the one we just had taken away from us and not before then. Teams don’t get promoted on just good management anymore and if were looking at mike Farnan as plan B then god help us.

      • Thommohawk

        That’s what I’m saying. We need money because currently the club just isn’t ready from top to bottom. And debt clearance that comes with administration is another way to reset and make money. Unless another rich man comes in to the picture.

        Farnan as far as I’m concerned is just passing the buck, we’d be better off sticking with GFH and GFH would be better off playing the waiting game to try to sell us to another wealthy person than sell to Farnan.

        Hope to be proven wrong though.

    • Ev

      they have the option to throw 15 points at leeds so I would think it would be that and I don’t see how getting a deduction next season would help leeds, it would in effect put us back years if it impacted our chances to get into the playoffs

      • TSS

        It’s 10 points for admin, the 15 points was because Ken Bates rigged the process and HMRC wouldn’t agree to the CVA.

      • Thommohawk

        I didn’t know that, what a tosser he was lol.

      • TSS

        Yeah, you can’t put a club into admin and buy it back out of it debt-free, so he created shell companies with anonymous owners (him) to do it. He also controlled the bulk of the debt the club owed and those companies (him again) would only sell to Bates shell company, despite bigger offers being on the table, that’s why HMRC wouldn’t agree to CVA and we got stuck with -15 deduction. He totally fucked us over there.

      • Dfooster

        And once again it’s the fans who suffer. Whatever happens at leeds it’s always us that suffer

      • Irving08

        Just remind us TSS, for the record, what would have happened to the debt owed to Bates, had the club been sold to one of those interested parties, and did any of these parties have the money both to pay off this debt, and then to put any money put into the club ? Why, in short, did KPMG go with Bates ? (I was on leave of absence, at the time, so I missed the process.)

      • TSS

        They’d have paid Bates’ manufactured debt at agreed %. When a business is in admin, buyers offer pennies on the pound to creditors and they’ll accept the best offer or business is liquidated and any profits made split between them (which will always be close to nothing with LUFC since we have no real assets).

        Every other creditor wanted to accept the highest amount they were being offered, as is the norm, but Bates had manufactured a situation in which he controlled the majority of debt and without those votes, no other option could be accepted. The other offers were worth considerably more to everyone involved, including HMRC.

        Bates’ debt wasn’t real IMO, when he bought the club he said it was basically debt-free with only £6m of long-term manageable debts remaining, then in no time at all, we entered admin with £35m of debt. If you control £18m of that, it doesn’t matter what anyone else wants to do, they have no power. KPMG had no real choice, Bates had the situation locked down.

        It was an incredibly dodgy move which is why HMRC went apeshit and we couldn’t agree a CVA so started the next season on -15. There was a lot of legal fallout too but so many anonymous companies involved, nothing came of it. FAR WORSE case of fraud than anything Cellino has committed, Bates should be behind bars for it.

      • Irving08

        Thanks for that. Makes the FL look very silly, petty even.

      • henrymouni

        And yet the FA thought he was fit and proper!!??

      • maxwatson

        Not defending Bates (or the process where he emerged with a full holding of the club against rival bidders, which looked distinctly dodgy), HMRC have indicated that they will not approve any footballing CVA that treats football debt (outstanding transfer fees, footballer contracts, etc) as senior to HMRC dues. But FL/FA rules enforce this treatment. So except for administrations where the debt is immediately paid in full by the new owners (e.g. Southampton), or where the HMRC element is not included (not likely as it usually a big part of the outstanding debt) most will fail CVA, going forward.

        Also, as a result of the rules adopted after the Bates episode, the new deadline for in-season administrations is 27 March this year, so unless Leeds go into admin before that date, they could be looking at starting next season on -25.

    • Dfooster

      If we went into administration and wiped off our debts we would still be on a sticky wicket because we still wouldn’t own elland road and Thorpe arch which is crippling the club in rent every single month. Administration wouldn’t alter that, the only thing that could get us back running properly is if a squeaky clean angel comes down from heaven and happens to be minted. In the meantime we will continue to be owned by people who don’t have the resources to turn us around which is exactly the sort of people the football league wants us to be owned by.

      You see it keeps us in our place down in the lower leagues and the FL reaps all the revenue off our massive fan base and travelling support.

  10. Leeeeds

    Obviously the FL didn’t want the sleeping giant to awaken and roar.

    One day it’ll happen and they’ll be no excuses..

  11. Drogheda White

    Can’t say I am pleased with the FL decision at all. I’m not sure if Cellino was the saviour we all hoped for, but I’m sure we would of seen a marked improvement next season under his investment….as for were to go now…has the deadline passed for administration penalties this season or is it the end of this week? Corruption in footballs hierarchy really needs to be addressed, not just possible corrupt owners, whole system is a farce!!

  12. Thommohawk

    Let me ask you guys something, is it just me who sees administration as the shortest term solution to what would be a long term problem considering our debts (outside of magic money man takeover)

    For some reason I don’t see this Farnan guy being anything other than another GFH and another consortium without a pot to piss in between them.

      • Thommohawk

        Well asking some Leeds fans to be realistic and think outside the box is like asking a retard to do quantum physics. The way I see it is administration will clear our debts instantly and the club will be fine and free to start over plus will be instantly more attractive to any businessman as a big club sleeping giant without any debt.

        But of course all of that is moot if we don’t NEED to go in to bust again and someone else with money is waiting in the wings ready to snap us up. And even that’s assuming Elonora Sport don’t take over Leeds United even so.

  13. oldschoolbaby

    I can`t remember if it was an animal psychology experiment or just a psychology experiment vicariously conducted on animals. You put a dog in a pen. Half the floor can conduct electricity, the other half can`t. Then you put a current through the floor. The dog struggles to distinguish between the the different areas of the pen. Very shortly the dog stops trying to escape from the electric shock as it`s lost the belief it can find sanctuary. As I recall it`s called learned hopelessness………
    Even those worth £100,000,000 won`t necessarily have much liquidity. It`s very difficult to see where a buyer can come from, or how a consortium can raise money now the banks don`t want to lend
    Sadly, 08 is right, Bates will have money. He would take a perverse pleasure in buying something back for much less than he sold it and he would enjoy screwing any creditors. We can only pray old age has finally robbed him of his motivation
    Anyway, in the short term, we get to see what sort of a partnership McCormack and Smith can forge

    • TSS

      Bates has nowhere near the amount of cash it would take to buy LUFC and keep us afloat, he sold in the first place because he couldn’t afford to cover the losses he’d created (that’s why GFH were paying bills before completing takeover)l

      • oldschoolbaby

        I very much hope you`re right
        I always got the feeling his interest in Leeds wasn`t financial or even a vanity project. We were just a vehicle to feed his pathological desire for friction and confrontation
        Tragically, the club remains hugely vulnerable to passing psychopaths, narcissists and egomaniacs

  14. Dfooster

    I’m surprised how many people are just accepting the decision and talking about Farnan or admin. This decision has no legal basis and is on rocky ground to say the very least. We should be going after the football league BIG time over this and questioning this decision.

    I hope GFH and MC have a bit more fight than we do. Clearly we’ve accepted our fate due to the weariness of constantly been shafted by everyone in the last 10 years and are happy to roll over and “move on”

    MC’s money was vital to the future of our club, and nobody else is waiting in the wings to take his place with the resources needed to turn us around. There is no moving on as things stand.

  15. yorxman

    Peltier’s jumped ship after being left out for 2 whole games, he must like Warnock

  16. ChrisEstMonNom

    Clearly the right decision by the league. How could they possibly allow someone to take over in these circumstances?

    • henrymouni

      They’ve done it before.
      They allowed Bates to buy us twice!!
      They allowed GFH to buy us once!
      What’s wrong Mr Cellino?
      A difference of opinion over tax.
      Soon sorted.
      Birmingham’s owner is serving 6 years in jail!
      They employed Sean Harvey!
      They should be investigating themselves!!
      Mind you , they always dress well!

  17. ChrisEstMonNom

    Anyone who sees this as evidence of bias against our club is deluding themselves.

  18. stelufc

    Cellino’s big mistake was pumping money into the club.

    If he’d acted like the other sharks circling leeds over the past 10 years, he would have probably got approval.

  19. bd

    Cellino is appealing.I like this guy he has teeth and money that’s what any club needs from its owner.

  20. Frank

    I find I keep repeating the same thing over and over when the discussion turns to this fucking takeover, have we all forgotten that we barricaded and protested against Cellino on deadline day? Like has that just completely been wiped from the memory banks of our minds? I cannot understand how the majority of the fan base has back pedalled on this and now think he’s the fucking bees knees.

    He hasn’t changed, he just got a little smarter, appease the fans, stop them protesting, then he gets approval then he can do whatever the fuck he wants. He has a track record of turning his club into feeder clubs for other teams. That’s all he did at Cagliari, buy young sell for cash when they get older. To all you Cellino fans, how good is his money going to look when Byram and Mowatt are smiling holding fucking Norwich shirts talking about moving to the next level, to a big fucking club??

    It makes me fucking sick. There is no magic fix for us, we are high profile. Does anyone want to guess why the football league took such a hard stance on this one? Anybody?? Oh that’s right, we made a complete fucking show of it when he sacked McDermott fuckin chasing taxis out of elland rd, and protesting at Huddersfield, the widespread media coverage we initiated are what brought this to attention and that my dear friends is why we have been made example.

    Fuck it I’m so sick of this fickleness we exhibit at every possible opportunity. “Simon Grayson isn’t up to this level he’s doing a shit job, he’s got no money to spend why does he sign shit players.” “Oh good Grayson’s gone, Warnock now there’s a man who can get us up, he’s done it before albeit with money but he’s got the experience man he can do it at leeds, yeah he plays shit football and he hates us and he’s a cunt but yeah if we go up it doesn’t matter.” “Fuck Warnock plays shit football this is shit get out of our club go back to Cornwall, at least Grayson was entertaining, let’s get Grayson back” “Ooooohhhh Brian McDermott now there’s a manager, he’s a former scout he can pick a player, Reading aren’t too bad to watch, oh what a 3 year contract perfect! We need stability we’ve been too unstable for so long, it’s a project, won’t happen this year he’s gonna blood some youth we’ll be good to go next year” “What we lost?? Fuck you Brian! Shit this Italian twat just sacked Brian!! We love Brian, he gave us €50 in Slovenia!! How dare he!! Let’s protest! Let’s barricade him inside elland road!” “Oh wow he’s got lots of money we love you massimo!! How dare the FL! Save us massimo give us your money!”

    There’s the last 5 years in a nutshell, we are fucking retarded as a fan base, I’m all for making the best of things but were just hungry retarded dogs chasing whoever says they have food. FUCKKKKKK RANT OVER. I’m gonna go drown my sorrows with tobacco and whiskey wake me up when we can appreciate a long term plan and stop humping the leg of every cashed up crook that looks at elland road as he drives by in his tax evaded Fiat 500

    • henrymouni

      If we weren’t retarded, we would have packed in long ago.
      it is difficult to have sensible opinions when we don’t ever really know what is going on – like now!
      Opinions are not truth and should be treated as such.
      I think you will find we are all ok really Frank!

      • Frank

        I meant as a fan base in general not that each and everyone of us is mentally deficient, I just had to get that off my chest. I’m good now and partially regret half of what I wrote

  21. OldJake

    I liked Cellino from the start and think the FL hypocrisy stinks. We had Ridsdale, who ruined the club with other people’s money, then Bates. How can anyone possibly be worse than those two? Seems to me Cellino’s the first person ever to put his hand in his own pocket for LUFC. Better an honest criminal than a dodgy shark in a crap suit. And he was right about McDermott wasn’t he?

    • stelufc

      don’t let the krasner consortium off the hook, they were a set of robbing bastards too

  22. George Wood

    The article states “This led The Football League to seek advice from an expert in Italian
    law whose interpretation of the ruling seems to have satisfied FL
    lawyers, leading them to today’s decision.”, but this isn’t true!

    In the FL statement, please read paragraph 2.3 properly. The Leagues Italian lawyers contend that the Judgement is NOT a conviction for purposes of the OAD test!

    They then made their own decision regardless of the legal advice.

  23. mrbigwheels

    Evening TSS… I’m sure you’ve plenty to do but if you see this… reference GFH and Cellino PLUS other THIRD PARTIES having discussions on who is going to pay this months wages…………………..

    Have you any comment to the inclusion in the press reports of THIRD PARTIES please.

    • Matthew

      I don’t think you’ll see an article for a little while from him, I think he’s supposed to be in Spain at the moment.
      Anyway what more needs to be said? The veil has been lifted, people have finally seen GFH for what they really are. Money grubbing parasites. Fucking hell some of the stuff coming out is down right disgusting. This wage ‘crisis’ never should have happened, they own us, they should pay wages themselves. If they cared about the club they would support it, not let it die on its feet.

      • mrbigwheels

        Thank you, much appreciated Matthew.
        Hope these THIRD PARTIES don’t involve Bates… that’s all.

      • Matthew

        It’s quite depressing, I hope they put us in admin and take what money they can from us before running back to Bahrain. And I hope we don’t end up in league 1 because of these bastards and their antics.

      • Matthew

        Opps major typo there, I meant to say I hope they don’t put us in admin. I think I’ll stop guest posting on this subject and sign in in the future. Sorry.

      • henrymouni

        It is very depressing Matthew.
        Usually when you have a setback, the next game promises better things.
        Just now it is a disaster all round.
        Yesterdays press conference really annoyed me!!
        Adam Pope took up nearly half of it grovelling around BM:-
        On and on about how bad it must be for him and the squad!!
        Would they get paid or not.
        When he finished the next person (Phil Hay?) carried on with the same thing!!
        This played into Brian’s hands as he did not have to complain and whine.
        It was all done for him.
        Nobody had the balls to speak the truth about our disgusting team.
        Nobody pointed out that we were RUBBISH long before this takeover shambles.
        Nobody asked if Brian and the players DESERVED to get paid.
        Nobody pointed out that the travelling fans have to dig DEEP to follow our team of pansies.
        Time off work to be humiliated every away game (and every home game).
        It was unbelievable!
        It was stomach turning!!!
        Talk about being let off the hook.
        Are there no real journalists in town??

      • mrbigwheels

        Adam Pope isn’t doing any favours to anyone really.
        Phil Hay was third questioner, I’m sure but it doesn’t matter…

        The whole press conference has become dour and ‘cringy’ to me.

      • henrymouni

        We’re going to Hell in a hand basket Mr B, and all there concerned about is how the players feel.
        I don’t think they feel anything!
        IF the manager and the players were performing and pushing for promotion, the takeover would take care of itself. They feel no shame. or pride, or sense of responsibility.
        They know they have not earned their salaries, but they take them anyway.

  24. henrymouni

    Just heard the Leeds Utd staff have been paid but NOT the players!
    Seems fair to me!


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