Leeds United: Cellino calls in the lawyers to look at ‘impossible’ situation

Massimo Cellino
Massimo Cellino
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Massimo Cellino invited lawyers from London into Leeds United yesterday as he intensified the fire-fighting which is slowly defining the early weeks of his reign at Elland Road.

The Italian has called in outside assistance to review the club’s operating costs and help bring under control a situation described by Cellino as “unbelievable, impossible.”

Staff at Leeds are waiting for redundancies to begin in earnest with the club a week-and-a-half into the summer and already experiencing the first parts of Cellino’s plan to cut the outgoings of a club who are losing more than £1m a month.

Cellino took the unprecedented step of temporarily closing United’s Thorp Arch training ground last Friday, moving several employees to Elland Road and shutting the complex until pre-season training begins at the start of July.

The 57-year-old is widely expected to reduce United’s workforce and he was reported last week to have included club ambassadors Eddie Gray, Peter Lorimer and Dominic Matteo in the list of probable sackings.

The three former Leeds players, all of whom were appointed by previous owner Gulf Finance House (GFH), have had no contact from Cellino about their positions.

Cellino spoke briefly to the YEP about the situation at Elland Road on Monday night, saying: “We have serious problems but we are fixing them.

“Some of what happens here is unbelievable, impossible, but I must sort it out.”

Asked about plans for widespread redundancies, Italian businessman Cellino said: “I don’t sack staff who want to work with me and who do what they’re paid to do.”

The Leeds United Supporters Trust (LUST) shed light on the finances at Elland Road yesterday by saying Cellino had revealed daily operating costs of more than £100,000 during conversations with three of the Trust’s board members.

Cellino met with LUST representatives on Monday and accused GFH of mortgaging season-ticket money for the 2014-15 season prior to his 75 per cent buy-out.

According to a statement issued by LUST, Cellino said he had repaid the loan since taking charge at Elland Road on April 7.

Sales of tickets for next season began last week.

But GFH – the Bahraini bank which continues to hold a 10 per cent stake in United – later rejected his comments, with a spokesman saying: “It’s untrue that the season-ticket money for the 2014-15 season was mortgaged before Mr Cellino’s takeover, as he seems to be suggesting to the Trust.”

Leeds mortgaged season-ticket funds before GFH’s buy-out of Ken Bates in December 2012, taking a loan of £5m from private firm Ticketus to finance the redevelopment of Elland Road’s East Stand.

The final instalment of that loan – a sum of around £3.3m –was repaid using money put up by supporters for 2013-14 season tickets.

United, meanwhile, are under pressure to reach final decisions on the future of their out-of-contract players with the deadline for offering new deals due to pass on Saturday of this week.

Young left-back Charlie Taylor – on loan at League Two club Fleetwood Town – is in line for an improved contract but the fate of the wider squad and any plans to transfer-list under-contract professionals remain unannounced.

Leeds United director of football Victor Orta. PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe

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