I must confess at the outset that I have never written an article or indeed a blog before, nor have I ever been inclined to do so until recently. My sudden urge to put my two pennies worth down in writing was inspired by recent comments made by Shaun Harvey surrounding the Leeds United Ownership ‘saga’.

At a recent press-conference Mr Harvey reiterated that any element of dishonesty present in the written judgement of Massimo Cellino’s legal case would prompt the Football League to disqualify the aforementioned from being a Director of Leeds United Football Club and force him to sell his shares.

This brings me nicely to the Football Leagues Owners and Directors test; the test that Mr Harvey’s comments alluded to whilst breaching his own Football League Policy on ‘not commenting on individual cases’. More on Mr Harvey’s lack of professionalism later.

At this point I’d like to draw your attention to a quote:

“The Owners’ and Directors’ test is concerned with ensuring that Clubs are not managed or controlled by individuals who may present a risk to the Club’s position”

This is a direct quote from the Football League’s regulations. It forms the basic principle underlying the test that the Football League implements – to mitigate the risk to a club and to maintain the ‘reputation’ (please contain your laughter) of the game.

Not even the most cynical of fans could argue that this is a bad thing and of course football’s presiding organisations should be looking to protect their member clubs from unnecessary risk. This is precisely the reason why the Football League’s decision to implement the test in a given situation should always be measured against the principle of mitigating the risk to the club. After all what is the point in implementing a rule which fails to achieve its underlying purpose.

The Football League have the complete discretion over the application of the Owners and Directors Test and by reiterating their desire to disqualify Mr. Cellino, Mr Harvey is implying that this would be in the best interest of Leeds Untied Football club.

Really Mr Harvey?

In no uncertain terms, the removal of Massimo Cellino would be catastrophic and would leave the club’s finances in a perilous position – who would fund the club? The forced sale of his shares would create a ‘false’ market environment with every chancer circling the club like a pack of wild dogs, looking to make a quick buck and drive a hard bargain with a man who has no choice but to sell.

The financial uncertainty and organisational chaos off the pitch is likely to impact matters on it. Players wondering whom they are going to be playing for, who is going to pay their wages? It’s not a dramatic stretching of the imagination to foresee relegation being a real possibility under those circumstances, Administration? Liquidation?

How is any of this in the best interests of Leeds United? This is not scare mongering or fanciful analysis but the stark reality of what could happened should Cellino be disqualified. You would therefore be inclined to think that a rational minded Governing Body would not take such a decision lightly. After all, the entire test is designed to limit the risk to the club… isn’t it?

So what risk does Mr. Cellino pose to Leeds United?

This is a man with an undoubted chequered past. However it is notable that his previous misdemeanors took place in Italy. With the greatest of respect I wouldn’t place too much emphasis on convictions brought by a country where Silvio Berlusconi was Prime Minister. As far as politics and law are concerned some consider Italy outlaw country where some businessmen bend rules as far as they can. I don’t think for one minute that Cellino would be as stupid as to try and do anything below board in England.

Nobody is suggesting that Cellino doesn’t pose a risk to Leeds, but let’s cross that bridge when we come to it. The man has successfully sustained Cagliari in Serie A for the majority of his stewardship and his recent efforts at Elland Road have seen him do more for the club than the previous two owners combined, paying off substantial debts, stabilizing the club and given us fresh hope with a new squad of players – hope that was destroyed by two previous, calamitous regimes.

The reality is that Cellinio’s previous exploits are no worse than that of others involved in football be they Russian Oligarchs, rapists, or convicted fraudsters. Being honest – how much integrity is there left to protect in Football when the International Governing Body are as corrupt as they come and where bribery forms a legitimate part of a World Cup bidding process.

How successfully has the Owners and Directors Test been in previous years? Coventry, Portsmouth, Blackburn, Leeds, Birmingham to name but a few are all clubs that have suffered at the hands of owners who shouldn’t have passed this test. Why is it only Leeds that gets targeted?

How much integrity does the Football League have? How fit for purpose are those that seem to be so incessant on protecting the virtues of football only when it concerns Leeds United.

They are a body made up of representatives of their member clubs. How can those with vested interest in their own clubs be trusted to remain impartial, unbiased and objective when it comes to deciding the fate of one of their direct competitors? Meanwhile the fans just have to sit back and watch aghast at whatever punishment their club is dealt.

What of the man in charge of this Governing Body, a man who is responsible for picking it’s battles who is free to apply the rules to whoever he likes, who’s power and decisions are totally unfettered?

This is a man who has been involved in numerous Football administrations – interestingly the Directors and Owners Test also disqualifies any Director who has been involved in two administrations post 2004. No wonder Mr Harvey jumped to the other side of the fence so quickly! Doesn’t say much for his competence does it.

This is a man described by Ofcom as a bully. He recently remarked that all Cellino has done is “bring in 15 players and stablise the clubs finances” What is wrong with that Shaun? Clearing up the mess you helped create – the startling audacity of such a comment is only matched by the fact that it was made by someone who is supposed to be an impartial arbiter and custodian of the League.

Not exactly the sort of character befitting the role of Chief Executive of the Football League is it.

Mr Harvey was responsible for brokering the very deal that sold us to GFH Capital, an investment bank he assured us that would take the club forward, yet nearly ran us into financial ruin. He passed the torch to David Haigh, a man who now sits in a Dubai prison cell accused of Money Laundering and Fraud? Where was the Football League then?

This is just the tip of the iceberg.

Under Ken Bates ‘non-ownership’ and Harvey’s complicit stewardship Leeds United was owned for 6 years by a faceless Shell Company in the Cayman Islands – a tax haven, or in layman terms a place where rich business men can strategically and legally/illegally (circumstances depending) place their assets in an attempt to reduce their tax bill; you know the thing Mr Harvey is so keen on pursuing with Mr Cellino!

His tenure was so dodgy that it even warranted special attention in a Government investigation into Football Ownership. Harvey swore on oath that neither he nor Ken Bates knew who owned the club.

The Individual in charge of the Football League and so willing to risk the future of Leeds Untied Football club couldn’t even name the owner of the very same club – let alone whether or not they were fit and proper! The mystery shell company shortly sold the company to Ken Bates not long after the investigation – shocking I know.

The hypocrisy and outrageous duplicity of Shaun Harvey would be laughable if the consequences for Leeds United Football club were not so dire. His actions during his career make Cellino’s pale into insignificance and yet he is the very man who sits proud on his moral high horse whilst waiving his banner of integrity in his crusade to preserve the good name of football, and of course the best interests of Leeds United.

Meanwhile the majority of the football world and the media sit idly by, concentrating on non-truths and portraying Cellinio as the pantomime villain.

The bleak reality of the situation is that disqualifying Cellino would breach the very principle of which the Owners and Directors test is supposed to protect – but what else would you expect from a biased governing body who are accountable to no one and who are led by an individual like Shaun Harvey.

To use Shaun Harveys own words, The ‘cloud hanging over Leeds United’ is just a small part of the storm that sits over football in general, a storm where the lightning seems to target my club, no our club, on a regular basis and a storm that is created by non-other than the very people who are there to protect our clubs interests.

In the event Cellino is found guilty of dishonesty perhaps he should just set up a faceless company in the Cayman Islands and plead ignorance – oh how fitting that would be.

Simon Picket