A Leeds United fans’ group has questioned the Football League’s motives behind its decision this week to disqualify Massimo Cellino from owning the club.
Cellino has until December 15 to lodge an appeal against the League’s decision to ban him under its ‘owners’ and directors’ test’, which was announced on Monday. (Dec 1)
Leeds United Supporters’ Trust claims the League is perceived by the general public to be carrying out “a witch hunt to satisfy bruised egos”, while the fans’ group has also urged Cellino to be open about any further charges he faces in Italy.
A LUST statement said: “We would question the Football League regarding the timing of this latest action as it appears that it has been timed to cause maximum disruption to any plans that the management of Leeds United might have for the upcoming transfer window and the key fixture period between now and Easter.
“In terms of their governance, it is our opinion, that it would be much more constructive for them to spend time redeveloping their outdated owners and directors test so that it is more robust and fit for purpose.
“Times have changed over the last 10 years and there are countless examples of the test failing to address modern day ownership issues with the current situation at Leeds United being the latest of these.”
Cellino was convicted in Italy of failing to pay import duty on his yacht Nelie in March and successfully appealed against the League’s decision to block his takeover of the club in April.
The League has since received further evidence from the court in Sardinia, which confirmed Cellino had acted dishonestly, and subsequently deemed the Italian to be unfit to remain as owner.
Cellino will be able to resume as club owner on March 18 next year when his conviction is spent under UK law.
LUST said: “Does it really make sense for the Football League to continue to spend time and resources pursuing the ‘Nelie’ situation when their best case outcome is a three-month ban from control of the club?
“Rather than demonstrating a determination to stamp out rogue behaviour it appears to the general public more as a witch-hunt to satisfy their bruised egos.
“We do not suggest that owners should be allowed to continue unchecked and are not calling for the Football League to ignore potential activity that would disqualify individuals from owning or controlling a club but, some form of common sense has to prevail and the Football League should also consider the effect on their own credibility and member clubs before imposing any actions. After all the Football League has a duty of care to its member clubs.”
Cellino has an outstanding charge of embezzlement hanging over him from his time as owner of Cagliari and faces another charge of tax evasion on a second yacht.
LUST added: “Whilst he has publicly stated that he is running the club under proper rules we would call on Massimo Cellino to confirm that his activities outside of football are also as compliant and that Leeds fans can be assured there are no further actions lingering in the background waiting to surface.
“Should there be any doubt on this, in the same way that we urge the Football league to utilise common sense and abide by their duty of care obligations, we would further call for Massimo Cellino to make the proper arrangements to ensure that the club will not suffer any further as a result.”