Leeds United: Leeds seek League approval for Cellino to rejoin board

Massimo Cellino.
Massimo Cellino.
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Leeds United have asked the Football League to reapprove Massimo Cellino as a club director with the Italian ready to head-up the board at Elland Road again.

Cellino is set to retake the League’s Owners and Directors Test - two months after vowing to remain “independent” of United while he fought against the governing body’s treatment of him.

His disqualification as Leeds owner - imposed in January following his conviction for tax evasion in Italy last year - ended on Sunday but Cellino is still intent on overturning the League’s decision to ban him and has asked the Football Association to arbitrate in the dispute.

Cellino claims the guilty verdict against him in Italy should not be classed as a formal conviction until it has passed through three stages of appeal, an argument which was turned down when he challenged his Football League disqualification earlier this year.

The failure of that challenge saw the 58-year-old barred from exerting any control over United’s day-to-day operations for 79 days.

That ban was subsequently extended to the end of this season due to Cellino’s failure to supply the League with documents relating to his court case in Cagliari.

Cellino resigned as United president towards the end of January but in a statement published on the club’s official website on February 24, he insisted he would not retake his seat on the Elland Road board while the FA’s arbitration process was pending.

Cellino said that decision would allow him to “be free of defending myself as any normal citizen” while chairman Andrew Umbers claimed Cellino’s “independent action” would “help the football club avoid any sanctions.”

An FA arbitration ruling in Cellino’s failure would potentially protect the Italian from additional bans if future court cases in Italy result in new convictions.

Two other tax cases, in which Cellino is accused to avoid VAT on a yacht and Range Rover respectively, are due to be heard by a judge in Cagliari next month.

Cellino denies any wrongdoing but the Football League is likely to move to disqualify him from running United again if he is found guilty. Neither Leeds nor the FA have yet confirmed a date for Cellino’s arbitration hearing.

Approached by the YEP today, the Football League declined to comment on when Cellino was likely to receive approval to retake his seat on the board at Elland Road.

A spokesman would only confirm that the rules of the League “require any individual seeking to operate as a relevant person at a club to certify themselves under the Owners and Directors Test.”

Cellino’s existing conviction for tax evasion in Italy is spent under UK law, meaning the former Cagliari owner should presently comply with League regulations.

It is not clear if his wait for approval from the governing body will delay key decisions at Leeds.

The Italian is contemplating the future of head coach Neil Redfearn, who is out of contract this summer and yet to speak to Cellino about his future, and United are still to finalise a retained list with seven players at the end of loan deals and another eight out of contract next month.

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