Massimo Cellino is heading for another battle with the authorities after he and Leeds United were charged by the Football Association over an alleged illegal payment made by the club during the transfer of Ross McCormack to Fulham.
The controversial Italian could be hit with an FA ban over a £185,000 agent’s fee arising from McCormack’s move from Elland Road in 2014. Cellino is accused of breaking FA rules by sanctioning the six-figure payment as part of the £10.75million deal which took Scotland international McCormack to Craven Cottage two years ago.
Leeds and McCormack’s licensed agent, Derek Day, have been charged of breaching the FA’s agent regulations during that transfer. Day also faces a possible suspension while United are expected to be hit with a substantial fine if found guilty.
Cellino indicated last night that he would contest the allegations against him, saying he was “confused” by the FA’s claims.
The case surrounds a payment of £185,000 which Leeds agreed to make to Day following the sale of McCormack.
Day is alleged to have taken that money on behalf of McCormack’s advisor, Barry Hughes, who is not licensed by the FA. That deal is seen by the governing body as a breach of its rules governing football agents.
McCormack was sold to Fulham in one of the first transfers completed after Cellino’s takeover of Leeds in April 2014.
The FA has been investigating allegations of an illegal payment for many months and brought charges against the three parties yesterday. They have all been given until this Friday to submit a formal response.
A statement from the governing body read: “Leeds United have been charged for breaching the FA’s football agent regulations.
“The alleged misconduct relates to the transaction involving the transfer
Turn to page 47
of Ross McCormack from Leeds to Fulham on July 8, 2014.
“Leeds chairman Massimo Cellino and authorised agent Derek Day have also been charged for breaching FA Rules and the FA’s football agent regulations respectively, in relation to the same matter.
“All parties have until 20 May 2016 to reply to the charges.”
McCormack is not accused of any wrongdoing.
The FA has given no clear indication as to what punishment Leeds, Cellino or Day might face but sources familiar with charges of this nature have told the YEP that a fine is most likely for the club. The FA, however, has the power to impose bans on both Cellino and Day.
Arsenal were fined £60,000 for a breach of agents’ rules after signing Calum Chambers from Southampton in 2014 but the case involving McCormack is understood to be seen by the FA as significantly more serious. The FA, meanwhile, is still believed to be investigating possible breaches of its rules on third-party ownership by Leeds and Cellino relating to the loan signing of Brazilian midfielder Adryan from Flamengo two years ago, Adryan was interviewed by FA officials at Thorp Arch shortly before his year-long loan expired at the end of the 2014-15 season.
The latest charges come just days after the Football League was forced to back down from its attempt to inflict an 223-day ownership ban on Cellino for a tax conviction in Italy.
That punishment is set to be withdrawn following the decision by Italy’s Court of Appeal to quash Cellino’s offence.
The 59-year-old’s acquittal will spare him from a disqualification which was still to be imposed by the Football League pending an appeal but he remains at the centre of another court case in Italy, concerning his time as owner of Cagliari.
Cellino is one of eight people accused of embezzlement and forgery during the construction of IS Arenas, a temporary stadium built in Sardinia for Cagliari’s use in 2012.
A judge began hearing evidence at the first day of the trial yesterday, a session which Cellino did not attend. He denies all the allegations against him.
Two other men were jailed last week after moving to plea bargain with the prosecution while a third was cleared of any wrongdoing and acquitted.
The case resumes in Cagliari on June 1 with further hearings scheduled for July.