Massimo Cellino’s disqualification as owner of Leeds has been delayed until the end of his appeal, scheduled for January 15.
The League announced yesterday (Dec 23) that Cellino’s appeal hearing would be staged next month and confirmed that it had agreed to postpone punishment of him until after a verdict was returned.
The governing body will allow Cellino to remain as a Leeds director while his appeal is being considered by its Professional Conduct Committee (PCC), despite initially ordering him to resign before the end of this month.
Cellino was disqualified from owning United on December 1 due to a tax conviction imposed on him by a court in Cagliari.
The 58-year-old is challenging the decision but the Football League informed him at the outset that he was required to quit the board at Elland Road within 28 days, a deadline which fell on Monday of next week. Cellino was due to regain control of Leeds on March 18, 2015, the date on which his conviction for tax evasion is spent under UK law. In a statement issued yesterday, the Football League said: “The original decision required Mr Cellino to resign as a director of Leeds United and cease acting as a ‘relevant person’ in line with Football League regulations by December 29. The League has agreed to defer that deadline until two days after the handing down of the final decision of the PCC. As a consequence, the parties have agreed that if Mr Cellino is unsuccessful in his appeal, any disqualification period will be extended by an amount equivalent to the length of time between December 29 and the deferred deadline.”
Cellino admitted a fortnight ago that he was prepared to quit on December 29, telling United’s directors that we would stand down to prevent the club facing further sanctions from the League. “I don’t want to bring any problems on the club so if I have to resign in 28 days and then wait to finish my appeal, I will,” Cellino said. “I’m fighting this and we think we will win so after the appeal I will be back.”
The delay will allow Cellino to actively control Leeds throughout the January transfer window, with a verdict from his appeal expected to arrive up to three weeks after the hearing.
Neither Cellino nor United have outlined a contingency plan for managing the club if he is forced to step away. The League, meanwhile, has made no comment on whether it expects Cellino to attempt to sell his and Eleonora Sport Ltd’s 75 per cent stake in United should his disqualification stand.
Cellino’s legal representatives want his appeal to be heard by a three-man PCC panel made up of two Football League directors and an independent barrister.
The Football League has confirmed that the committee will again be chaired Tim Kerr QC, the man who overturned a bid by the League to block Cellino’s takeover of Leeds in March. The appeal is likely to be heard in a single day.