Leeds United: Cellino "will take ownership fight to the European courts"

Massimo Cellino
Massimo Cellino
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Massimo Cellino is ready to take his fight against a second Football League ban as far as the European Court of Human Rights, the Italian’s lawyer claimed tonight.

Giorgio Altieri, a leading member of Cellino’s legal team, said the Leeds United owner would pursue other legal avenues if an arbitration panel refuses to overturn a Football League ruling barring him from running Leeds until next summer.

Cellino is facing a 223-day disqualification after the League ruled that a tax conviction imposed on him by a Sardinian court in June breached its rules on club owners and directors.

The 59-year-old Italian is contesting that decision and has had his suspension stayed until a panel set up by the League rules on his appeal in the weeks ahead.

But Altieri, a partner with Italian law firm Tonucci, told La Repubblica that Cellino would step up his long-running battle with the League by mounting action in the UK and European courts.

Cellino was banned by the League’s board for the first time last season following a separate conviction for tax evasion in Italy. He failed with an attempt to overturn that disqualification.

Altieri said: “This time the chance to get clarification on the whole story is (greater).

“Even if we get no justice, we will appeal to the High Court and then the European Court of Human Rights if necessary.

“We believe we can clarify a story which, unfortunately, is delaying the revival of one of the most popular clubs in English football.”

The threat of legal action against the League comes despite recent indications that Cellino is ready to sell his majority stake in Leeds and abandon Elland Road after 19 fraught months as owner.

Cellino, who bought a 75 per cent share in United in April 2014, has been in contact with potential buyers in the past fortnight, including lifelong supporter and local businessman Steve Parkin.

The former Cagliari owner also offered to sell his shares “without profit” to supporters group Leeds Fans United last month, though that proposal collapsed acrimoniously in a matter of days.

Cellino has been at odds with the Football League for most of his reign but he came in for fierce criticism from United’s supporters last month amid a downturn in results which led to the sacking of ex-head coach Uwe Rosler.

Cellino subsequently announced that he would not be attending any more of Leeds’ games, saying: “The fans made it clear they believe I am no longer the best person for this job and for the first time I am starting to think that they may be correct.”

Regardless of those comments, Cellino confirmed that he would pursue his appeal against the League and suggested that the Football Association might be asked to arbitrate in the dispute.

It is unclear whether Altieri’s latest remarks are a sign of renewed reluctance on Cellino’s part to sell United.

Cellino was unavailable for comment.