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Football League Disqualify Leeds President Cellino

Mon 1st Dec 2014 | Clubs Ownership

Leeds United President, Massimo Cellino, has been disqualified by the Board of Directors of the Football League.

A statement relating to the news released by the Football League read:

“The Board of Directors of The Football League has, once again, considered the position of Leeds United President, Massimo Cellino, under its Owners' and Directors' Test. 

Previously (March 2014), the Board had ruled that Mr. Cellino was subject to a disqualifying condition after he was found guilty of an offence under Italian tax legislation relating to the non-payment of import duties on a boat (which resulted in him being fined €600,000). In April 2014, this decision was successfully appealed by Mr. Cellino at a hearing of the Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) chaired by an independent QC (sitting alone). 

In reaching his verdict, Tim Kerr QC concluded that: “Mr Cellino has satisfied me that on the facts before me, what he was convicted of was not conduct which would reasonably be considered to be dishonest.” Before going on to state that: “if the reasoned ruling of the court in Cagliari discloses that the conduct of Mr Cellino was such that it would reasonably be considered to be dishonest, he would become subject to a Disqualifying Condition.” 

At its meeting last week, the Board considered the reasoned Judgment of the Italian Court against Mr. Cellino, having successfully applied to the Italian Courts for its full disclosure. The Board considered detailed legal advice and agreed unanimously (with the exception of its Chief Executive, Shaun Harvey, who did not take part in the debate or vote having declared an interest*) that Mr. Cellino is subject to a disqualifying condition under the terms of the Test. 

Mr. Cellino is entitled to appeal the Board's decision to the PCC within 14 days. As the Judgment of the Italian Court has not been published in Italy, The Football League will not make any of its contents public. 

Additionally, the Board concluded that it was appropriate to ask an independent Football Disciplinary Commission (FDC) to consider whether Mr Cellino and/or Leeds United breached League regulations relating to the timely disclosure of relevant information. The matter will be heard by an FDC in due course.” 

Read The decision of The Football League in relation to Mr. Massimo Cellino

Commenting on the decision, Thomas Barnard, sports specialist solicitor at Thomas Eggar LLP said: “Leeds owner Massimo Cellino has been found to be subject to a “Disqualifying Condition” by The Football League.  The finding relates to an investigation by the Italian tax authorities (the full details of which are unknown) concerning Mr Cellino’s liability to tax and its eventual finding that Mr Cellino was guilty of tax evasion.

“As a result of The Football League’s finding, Mr Cellino will be disqualified from holding a senior position at Leeds United Football Club until 18 March 2015 when his conviction will be considered discharged under The Football League’s Owners’ and Directors’ Test (the “Test”).

“Mr Cellino does have the right to appeal pursuant to rule 6.1 of the Test.  To be successful, Mr Cellino will have to show that there are compelling reasons why the finding of the Italian tax authority should not result in him being banned from controlling Leeds UFC.  Mr Cellino has not yet stated whether he intends to appeal but he has 14 days in which to do so.

“The Football League’s decision will be destabilising for the Club.  Subject to the result of any appeal, it’s likely that Mr Cellino will be replaced as the controlling mind at Elland Road.  The case highlights the need for football clubs to have emergency, contingency plans in place should a senior figure be excluded from controlling the team’s affairs.”

*Shaun Harvey was Chief Executive and a Director of Leeds United between 2004 and 2013. 

Posted by: Aaron Gourley 

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