Confusion reigns following another bewildering day at Leeds United after club owners GFH Capital revealed they have not given up hope of Massimo Cellino’s company Eleonora Sport taking over – despite the Football League disqualifying him from purchasing a majority stake.
The league issued a statement yesterday morning saying that the Italian businessman, convicted last week for tax evasion after not paying import duty on a yacht, had failed their owners and directors’ test.
Several hours later, GFH Capital insisted they were still in talks with the league and Eleonora Sport in a bid “to find a solution that is suitable to all parties”.
The rival Together Leeds consortium, led by Mike Farnan, are monitoring developments and plan to meet towards the end of this week.
In line with league regulations, Cellino is entitled to appeal against the decision within 14 days and the indications last night suggested he will carry on his fight to purchase the club.
Previously, he has said that he would “walk away without a fight” if his takeover was not approved.
The 57-year-old, who has bankrolled the club since the start of February and paid United’s wages for the past two months, said: “I have to appeal. I feel a responsibility to the fans who I am proud to say wanted me.”
“There are hours, not the next few days. Leeds needs help, needs blood, needs money. Leeds can’t wait.
“What worries me is I am the only one worrying about that. It’s embarrassing.
“I am not worrying about the money I have already paid and maybe am going to lose.
“I am feeling embarrassed, ashamed and down.
“It’s not nice to say. I feel lost. I am not a crook. I didn’t come to Leeds to do anything bad.”
GFH Capital exchanged contracts to sell 75 per cent of the club’s shares to Eleonora Sport on February 7 and despite being disappointed at the league ruling, they have vowed not to abandon the sale of the club to Cellino. And they have also attempted to reassure fans about their commitment to Leeds amid grave fears from supporters about the financial situation at the club in the event of Cellino’s bid being knocked back.
Earlier this month, managing director David Haigh said there was no chance that the club will go into administration.
A statement read: “The club and its shareholders are disappointed at the decision of the Football League not to approve Massimo Cellino as a director of Leeds United FC.
“However, the board and executive management of the club will continue discussions with the Football League and Eleonora Sport to find a solution that is suitable to all parties.
“Our shareholders continue to support the club directly or through additional investments as has always been the case.
“We would like to reassure the fans of the continuity of our great club.”
The League’s decision to block Cellino’s takeover was taken at a board meeting on Sunday evening which considered his eligibility in the wake of his conviction in Sardinia.
The league said: “Mr Cellino was recently found guilty beyond reasonable doubt by a Court in Sardinia of an offence under Italian tax legislation relating to the non-payment of import duties on a boat.
“This resulted in a fine of 600,000 euros (£500,800), an order for the payment of trial costs and the confiscation of the boat in question.
“Having fully considered the matter, the board agreed unanimously that the decision of the Italian court does constitute a disqualifying condition under its owners’ and directors’ test.
“The relevant disqualifying condition being that Massimo Cellino has been convicted of an offence involving acts that would reasonably be considered to be dishonest.’’
“In line with Football League regulations, Massimo Cellino is entitled to appeal against the decision within 14 days. In such circumstances, the league would seek to expedite the process to deliver certainly to all parties in the shortest possible timeframe.”
Meanwhile, Brian McDermott says his decision to let Connor Wickham return to Sunderland early was due to his desire not to potentially jeopardise future relations with the Wearsiders.
Wickham returned to the Stadium of Light yesterday, with McDermott ceding to Black Cats boss Gus Poyet’s request for the 20-year-old to go back despite not completing 28 days of his loan at United.
Emergency loan rules governing players who sign on 93-day loans like Wickham state that loanees cannot be recalled in the first 28 days by parent club’s.
In Wickham’s case, that technically wasn’t until tomorrow, with the striker joining Leeds on February 26.
But McDermott, contacted on Sunday by Poyet - facing a striking crisis with just one forward available for tomorrow’s Premier League trip to Liverpool - says that letting him leave 24 hours early was the sensible option.
McDermott said: “Gus did right for me by letting me have Connor in the first place.
“If there’s a situation where we can get a player from Sunderland again, I want to make sure I do the right thing as far as we are concerned.”