Leeds United: Cellino’s bid to overturn ban could run into the summer months

Massimo Cellino
Massimo Cellino
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Massimo Cellino’s latest bid to overturn his Football League ownership ban is set to run into the summer with an FA arbitration hearing unlikely to take place for at least three months.

Cellino announced yesterday that he would not return to Leeds United when his disqualification ended on April 10 and was instead planning to fight the Football League independently to “protect the club from any sanctions.”

Cellino was formally barred from running Leeds last month after losing an appeal to the Football League’s Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) and he has cut all ties with United by quitting the boards of both Leeds and his UK firm Eleonora Sport and selling a minority stake in the club.

United chairman Andrew Umbers told the YEP that the shares sold by Cellino have been purchased by the Italian’s family trust.

Cellino, who was banned over a conviction for tax evasion and faces other imminent court cases in Italy, is now attempting to quash his disqualification via Football Association Rule K, a provision which allows for arbitration between two parties involved in a footballing dispute.

A three-man panel will re-consider the League’s ruling but the process will be protracted. FA rules state that the hearing should take place within 119 days of the appointment of a panel chairman - a timeframe which would stretch beyond the end of the season.

The regulations also insist on strict confidentiality surrounding arbitration proceedings and a spokesman for the FA declined to comment on the status of Cellino’s claim, saying: “Unfortunately, where Rule K is used (we) are not in a position to confirm whether any parties are subject to this.”

Cellino has insisted repeatedly that pressure from the authorities would not force him or Eleonora Sport to abandon their ownership of Leeds but he has not commented on when or if he will return to Elland Road if the FA’s arbitration panel finds against him.

Eleonora Sport continues to hold a 75 per cent stake in Leeds and the club is currently under the control of Umbers.