Leeds United: Return of Elland Road to Leeds still priority – Cellino

Massimo Cellino.
Massimo Cellino.
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Massimo Cellino has reiterated his commitment to buying Leeds United’s stadium from its private owners and said he will use funds raised from the sale of Cagliari to repurchase Elland Road.

Speaking during the unveiling of David Hockaday as United’s new head coach, Cellino highlighted Elland Road as a priority among his aims at Leeds, saying he was “embarrassed to be a guest in my own house.”

The Italian, who has previously promised to buy back the ground before the end of 2014, would need more than £15m to regain ownership of Elland Road for the first time since its controversial sale 10 years ago.

The ex-Leeds board led by Gerald Krasner sold the stadium to property developer Jacob Adler in 2004, raising £8m at a time when United were under pressure to repay a substantial loan.

Adler negotiated a 25-year lease and also gave the club the right to buy back the ground for a set fee at any stage before 2029. Both the rent and the buy-back cost rise by three per cent annually, and Leeds currently pay £1.4m a year to use Elland Road.

Neither Ken Bates, who took control of the club from Krasner’s board, nor Gulf Finance House – the Bahraini bank which Cellino bought out in April – were able to repurchase the ground, but Cellino claimed the recent takeover of Serie A side Cagliari would help to provide the necessary finance.

“I’m going to buy back this stadium because I’m embarrassed to be a guest in my house,” he said. “That’s my dream and I’m going to do it.

“I sold Cagliari mostly to buy this stadium back for the people. It’s very important.”

Cellino agreed a deal to sell Cagliari – the club he bought back in 1992 – to the Giulini family on June 11 and is believed to have officially severed ties with the Sardinian team on Thursday morning.

The takeover cost the Giulinis around £36m, more than twice the price of repurchasing Elland Road.

Cellino told the YEP in May that any sale of Cagliari would not alter his financial strategy at Leeds but the deal with the Giulinis appears to have increased the likelihood of Elland Road coming back under United’s control.

The stadium’s deeds were transferred by Adler to Teak Commercial Limited, an offshore firm in the British Virgin Islands, in early 2005 and have remained in Teak’s hands ever since.

The shareholders and beneficiaries of the company are anonymous, but Adler is still thought to retain ownership of Elland Road.

The Manchester businessman also owns United’s training ground at Thorp Arch having bought it around the same time as the sale of Elland Road.

Cellino closed Thorp Arch temporarily this summer to save on running costs and spoke again on Thursday about leaving the complex completely when next season ends.

Leeds have a lease on Thorp Arch running for another 15 years and pay an annual rent of around £600,000.

“For this year, yes (the players will train there) but we are looking for land close by,” Cellino said. “My intention is to move the training centre close by Elland Road.

“You know that I’m very superstitious. Thorp Arch has been built in 2002. Since then we are down. I don’t think it’s a very lucky place. Something is wrong in that place. It’s too far away.”