Massimo Cellino lodged an appeal against his latest Football League ban last night amid doubts about when the governing body intends to formally disqualify him.
Cellino is contesting the League’s attempt to bar him from sitting as a director at Elland Road for the second time and submitted the necessary paperwork ahead of today’s deadline.
The 59-year-old was given 14 days to challenge the ruling after being told on October 14 that he was in breach of the League’s Owners and Directors Test following his conviction for tax evasion earlier this year. Cellino was fined 40,000 Euros by a Sardinian court in June after being found guilty of failing to pay VAT owed on a Range Rover he imported to Italy from the USA.
The Football League plans to disqualify him until June of next year – the point at which Cellino’s conviction will be classed as spent under English law – but it is not yet clear whether the organisation intends to stay his punishment until after his appeal is heard. Cellino is entitled to request a delay until an independent panel rules on his case and the Football League previously allowed him to remain in charge of Leeds while a previous ownership ban – imposed on him in December of last year – was subject to appeal.
In that instance, Cellino eventually quit United’s board in the final week of January after failing to overturn his punishment for a separate tax offence.
Both Cellino and the Football League were approached for comment yesterday but failed to respond.
An unsuccessful appeal would see Cellino barred from influencing day-to-day operations at Elland Road, forcing him to pass control of the club to another employee or board member.
One report suggested yesterday that his son Edoardo – a current director at Leeds – is in line to take charge in Cellino’s absence, despite Football League rules outlawing the use of ‘shadow directors’ who act on behalf of disqualified board members.
Former chairman Andrew Umbers was given control of the club in the aftermath of the Italian’s suspension last season but he resigned as a United director a fortnight ago.
Cellino, meanwhile, is at the centre of fresh controversy after being quoted as saying he knew nothing of Lucy Ward, the club’s former welfare and education officer whose sacking he sanctioned last month.
Ward – a former Leeds United Ladies player and the partner of ex-United head coach Neil Redfearn – is taking legal action against Leeds and Cellino over her dismissal after 17 years of service in the academy at Thorp Arch.
Ward worked with many of United’s prominent homegrown players, including Fabian Delph and current Leeds midfielder Lewis Cook.
She was accused of gross misconduct and of spending too much time away from the club after travelling to Canada in May to work as a BBC pundit during the Women’s World Cup.
Initially suspended in July – on the same day as Redfearn resigned from his job as academy boss – she was sacked after an appeal last month.
Asked to comment on her case by the Independent, Cellino said: “I don’t know Lucy Ward.”
Ward’s claim for unfair dismissal is one of several which Cellino is facing from ex-employees of United.
Former fitness coach Matt Pears – sacked from his post after missing Leeds’ pre-season friendly against Everton in August, despite receiving permission to attend his brother’s wedding – is also seeking damages.
One-time assistant manager Nigel Gibbs, meanwhile, is due to go to court in January in a bid to secure compensation over his departure from Elland Road in 2014.