Leeds United: Cellino makes stand on away tickets

Massimo Cellino
Massimo Cellino
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Leeds United are set to start limiting away ticket sales to 2,000 per fixture in response to the Football League’s rescheduling of games for television.

Leeds United are set to start limiting away ticket sales to 2,000 per fixture in response to the Football League’s rescheduling of games for television.

Massimo Cellino has called on the Football League to rethink the way games are chosen, as he believes Leeds fans are being “exploited”.

The Italian owner added that broadcasting games is damaging the club’s finances, to the extent that he fears “for the future of Leeds United”.

He has also said that fans need to reconsider their continued away support, calling for “silence” away from home to send a message to the governing body.

In response the Leeds United Supporters’ Trust (LUST) have admitted they are “astonished” by the statement and have called on the club to refund all fans who purchased memberships for the season.

Reaction on social media to the decision was exceptionally negative.

Cellino was unrepentant in response to the reaction of the fans, telling the Yorkshire Evening Post: “They don’t understand.”

A statement written by Cellino and published on Leeds’ website yesterday, said: “Our loyal Season Ticket Holders are being unfairly penalised by the large amount of fixture changes.

“They have already paid to attend these games but many are no longer able to and attendances are suffering as a result of this.

“This affects our revenue to a level where the club is losing money with each televised home game, as Sky’s compensation payments are not enough to cover the losses in ticketing, retail and catering.”

Cellino continued by admitting the club has questioned television scheduling before.

He added: “We understand the value that Leeds United brings to the Football League, but we should be shown respect for that - we shouldn’t be exploited because of it.

“We do not want to challenge the Football League or Sky, we simply want them to listen to us.

“We have used the correct channels in appealing to the Football League but the issues remain, so we have no choice but to take strong action to protect the future of Leeds United.”

The owner said the club will “be selling no more than 2,000 tickets for each away game from now on”, which is likely to damage other club’s finances.

“We are encouraging you,” Cellino continued, “as supporters, to think before purchasing ticket for away matches – our silence, especially away from home, will demonstrate our disappointment.

“At away games our supporters are being taken advantage of because they travel in such large numbers.

“This unfairly benefits the home clubs, who increase the price of tickets, food and drinks for our fans.”

Cellino concluded: “If these issues cannot be addressed then I fear for the future of Leeds United, which is why I am taking this stance and calling for the fans to follow. The future of our club is at stake.”

LUST have said that while they do not agree with the rescheduling of games, they “fail to see how limiting our allocation at away games assists this.”

They continued: “The Trust is also astonished that the club, through the Chairman, makes this statement and decision without the basics of consultation with fans’ groups.

“If the Trust had been contacted we would have wanted to point out that the power of a wide support like ours across the country lies in its presence, not its absence.

“Ninety nine per cent of fans who purchase Gold, Silver and Bronze membership cards do so because they are required to in order to attend away games. We call on the club to refund all who paid for 15/16 cards on the grounds that such opportunity is now denied to supporters by this what we consider an ill-thought through decision.”

Cellino spoke exclusively to the YEP last night, claiming this was his only solution to the issue.

He said: “The fans complain but a lot of people are complaining to us about Sky. I have no option, no other way. What else can I do to bring up the problem?

“We tried to speak to the Football League but they don’t even reply. Maybe the fans think we are happy with the televised games but they should know that we are fighting. I had to bring the problem up.

“This will get worse and worse if we don’t do something. It is killing us. Sky, they could put every game for Leeds on a Thursday night and we could do nothing. It costs us money, it f***s up our list of games. We can do nothing. We can’t say no. It is in the contract (between Sky and the Football League).

“Next season, why would people buy season tickets? Why, when the the games change so much? If we hurt ourselves then it does nothing but if we hurt other clubs and take away the money they get from (away) tickets then other people will have a problem, not just us. Then something might happen.”

Meanwhile, Cellino’s legal affairs in Italy are no closer to being resolved after two court cases involving him were delayed in Cagliari yesterday.

The case of Lucky 23 - a private yacht on which Cellino is accused of failing to pay around £75,000 in tax - has been put back to January 27.

United’s chairman is also embroiled in another tax dispute relating to the transfer of two former Cagliari players, Joe Bizera and Edgar Alvarez during his time as owner of the Serie A club.

That case was also adjourned yesteday and will resume on December 10.