Leeds United: Cellino’s ban suspended again

Massimo Cellino
Massimo Cellino
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The Football Association last night backed down from a ruling ordering Massimo Cellino to quit Leeds United by tomorrow and agreed to delay the Italian’s ban while he mounts another appeal.

The Football Association last night backed down from a ruling ordering Massimo Cellino to quit Leeds United by tomorrow and agreed to delay the Italian’s ban while he mounts another appeal.

The FA has stayed Cellino’s suspension for a second time after Leeds’ co-owner moved to fight the case against him through the governing body’s rule K arbitration process.

Cellino, who was found guilty in December of approving an illegal payment to an unlicensed agent during Ross McCormack’s transfer from Leeds to Fulham in 2014, was instructed to resign from Leeds’ board of directors and sever all ties with the club by February 18 after a first appeal failed to overturn the verdict against him.

The 60-year-old’s initial challenge saw an 18-month suspension cut to 12 months and a £250,000 fine reduced to £100,000 but the appeal panel upheld the original disciplinary ruling which found Cellino had sanctioned a six-figure payment to an unlicensed advisor of McCormack’s, breaching the FA’s agent regulations.

Cellino, however, vowed to contest the decision again via rule K arbitration, an avenue he previously pursued while the Football League was attempting to impose an ownership ban on him last year.

That suspension, which stemmed from Cellino’s conviction in a tax evasion case in Cagliari, was withdrawn after a change to Italian law quashed the court’s judgement.

The FA offered no timescale for an outcome of the arbitration process but said Cellino had alleged that the first appeal board was “irrational, procedurally unfair” and had shown “apparent bias”.

A statement from the governing body read: “On February 3, 2017, Cellino’s 18-month suspension for breaching the FA’s football agent regulations was reduced to 12 months following a successful appeal. The Leeds United

owner also had his £250,000 fine reduced to £100,000.

“The sanctions imposed by an FA appeal board against Cellino have now been stayed pending the outcome of a legal challenge brought by Cellino in arbitration pursuant to FA Rule K.

“Cellino alleges the decision of the FA appeal board was irrational, procedurally unfair, and that there was apparent bias. All other aspects of the arbitration shall remain confidential until such time as a decision has been made.”

Cellino, who bought a majority share Leeds in April 2014 and has served one Football League ownership ban during his time in charge, was facing a departure from Elland Road less than two months after agreeing to sell 50 per cent of the club to Italian businessman Andrea Radrizzani.

As part of the McCormack case, United as a club were fined separately by the FA after pleading guilty to a charge of breaching FA rules during the striker’s transfer.

Their financial penalty was also reduced on appeal from £250,000 to £200,000. Leeds declared themselves “disappointed” with the reduction but are not expected to contest the fine further.

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