Massimo Cellino has stepped up his feud with the Football League and Sky Sports over fixture disruption by attempting to block the broadcaster from televising Leeds United’s clash with Derby County.
In a highly unprecedented move, United’s owner has instructed staff at Leeds to prevent Sky employees from entering Elland Road ahead of Tuesday night’s Championship game.
Personnel from Sky were refused entry to the stadium on Monday afternoon as they looked to begin preparing for the broadcast. The Football League is now working to resolve the dispute.
Cellino’s bid to obstruct Sky’s broadcast is the latest development in a bitter battle over the number of televised dates and fixture alterations imposed on United this season.
The Elland Road club have already been selected for 11 separate broadcasts, a level of coverage Cellino sees as excessive and which he claims impacts on United’s attendances and commercial revenue.
Leeds are due to receive a fee of around £100,000 from Sky for the clash with Derby, on top of central revenue paid to them each season by the Football League.
The Italian, who is currently abroad in Miami, cut Leeds’ allocation of tickets for away games in a previous act of protest in October but reversed that decision quickly in the face of criticism from United’s fans.
His lawyers have requested a copy of the broadcast deal agreed between the Football League and Sky Sports but the governing body has so refused to grant him access to the contract.
Cellino and Leeds are likely to be held in breach of that deal if tomorrow’s broadcast fails to go ahead, potentially leading to sanctions from the Football League. The fixture itself is not in any doubt.
Cellino, 59, continues to face the threat of disqualification as owner of United by the governing body owing to a tax conviction imposed on him by an Italian court earlier this year.
He is currently appealing that ban and remains in control as majority shareholder at Elland Road.
A spokesperson for the Football League said: “The League has been made aware that Sky personnel have been unable to access Elland Road today as previously arranged.
“We have contacted Leeds United to remind the club of its obligations to our broadcast partner and to ask them for their observations.
“As yet, we have not received a response from anyone in authority at the club, but are hopeful that the matter can be resolved swiftly once the club does engage.”