Massimo Cellino and the Football League are on a fresh collision course over fixture disruption after Sky Sports carried out their plan to televise next month’s Championship game between Leeds United and Middlesbrough.
Boro’s trip to Elland Road will take place on Monday, February 15, two days later than first planned, following Sky’s request for a rearrangement less than four weeks before the original date.
The last-minute alteration will re-ignite a bitter feud between Cellino and the Football League which appeared to come to a head last month when United’s Italian owner threatened to shut Sky out of a 2-2 draw with Derby County on December 27.
Cellino, who was abroad on a Christmas break in Miami, initially barred Sky’s employees from entering Elland Road in what he said was a protest against repeated chances to Leeds’ fixture list.
The Football League reacted by threatening United with a misconduct charge, warning that it could impose a “full range of sanctions” on the club, and Cellino relented around four hours before kick-off.
He later issued a statement which accused the governing body of using its regulations “as a stick to beat the club on behalf of Sky”.
The forthcoming meeting with Boro is the 13th time United have been chosen for a live broadcast this season.
Cellino claims that Leeds lose money during televised home games due to falls in other commercial revenue, despite receiving a match fee in excess of £100,000.
The disruption has also led to criticism of Sky and the Football League from United’s supporters and head coach, Steve Evans. Among the fans affected by the latest switch are a group of 34 Norwegians who were due to fly in for the Saturday date.
Cellino vowed that Sky’s entry to the Derby game would be “the last time” he allowed the broadcaster into Elland Road this season but Leeds are yet to respond to news of the latest rearrangement. The club and Cellino have been asked to comment.
Sky’s broadcast trucks were forced to sit idle in Fullarton Park car park until the afternoon of the clash with Derby as Football League chief executive Shaun Harvey - Leeds’ former CEO - tried to resolve the dispute.
Speaking to the Mirror, Cellino said: “I’m still in shock. Ask the Leeds United fans what they think. It’s up to the Football League.
“I’m still trying to understand it and I’m a little confused by the rules and other legal matters. I’m still working on it.”
Cellino’s legal team have asked the Football League for a copy of the broadcast contract agreed with Sky when the firm finalised terms in February this year. The governing body is understood to have turned down that request.
Its deal with Sky was described by the League as “hugely significant” and Championship clubs are believed to receive an annual central payment of around £5m as a result.