Leeds ownership up in the air

2014-12-01 16:04
Leeds United logo (File)

London - Fallen giants Leeds United have reacted angrily after the English Football League ordered owner Massimo Cellino to step down from the running of the club on Monday owing to an unpaid Italian tax bill on a yacht.

April saw Italian businessman Cellino's takeover of second-tier Leeds go ahead after he successfully appealed against a move blocking him on the grounds of failing the League's owners' and directors' test.

However, after receiving the Italian judge's report on Cellino's conviction for tax evasion, the League's board of directors unanimously agreed last week the 58-year-old was "subject to a disqualifying condition under the terms of the Test".

Officials at the Football League, responsible for England's three professional divisions immediately below the lucrative Premier League, said Cellino must resign as Leeds president immediately, but added he had 14 days in which to appeal.

Should Cellino's disqualification be upheld, the ban would only apply until March 18 next year when, under English law, his conviction would be deemed to have been spent.

But north of England side Leeds said the fact the League were prepared to let Cellino return in a matter of months risked "destabilising" the Elland Road side.

"We have (on Monday) received a notice from the Football League disqualifying Mr Cellino from being a director of Leeds United Football Club until 18 March 2015," said a Leeds statement.

"The steps that the League wishes the club to take -- to remove Mr Cellino only to re-appoint him in three months' time -- will be destabilising for the club, its supporters and sponsors and cannot be in the best interests of any party."

Earlier, the Football League justified their decision in a statement which said: "The board considered detailed legal advice and agreed unanimously....that Mr Cellino is subject to a disqualifying condition under the terms of the (Owners' and Directors') Test."

But the fresh round of boardroom drama is as nothing compared to the chaos Cellino, nicknamed the 'manager-eater' while dismissing 36 bosses in 20 years as owner of Italian side Cagliari, has created regarding the question of who coaches Leeds.

November saw Neil Redfearn become the club's fourth permanent manager in just five months.

The 49-year-old was already in charge as caretaker boss for the second time this season following the sacking of Darko Milanic.

However, Leeds -- despite their 2-0 win over Derby last weekend -- are just five points above the relegation zone in the second division Championship.

The Yorkshire club were once one of English football's superpowers, winning the domestic title in 1969 and 1974 and reaching the European Cup final in 1975.

They were also the last English champions of the pre-Premier League era in 1992.

Only 13 years ago, Leeds were regarded as one of emerging forces in Europe after a memorable run to the Champions League semi-finals fuelled by bright young talents Harry Kewell, Alan Smith and Paul Robinson before financial problems contributed to their relegation from the Premier League.

Read more on:    leeds united  |  massimo cellino  |  soccer

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