They’re strange folks at the Football League. When the news broke this morning of Massimo Cellino’s less-than-ideal result in the Italian Courts, I rather expected that we’d have a ringing non-endorsement of the King of Corn in good time for an early lunch. This pessimistic view was based on close to fifty years’ experience of the game’s authorities being ready, willing and indeed eager to do Leeds United a power of no-good at every possible opportunity – the so-called “Hardaker Approach”. But in the hours since the court decision was reached, all we’ve had from the League is a brief, bland statement which noted the Cellino verdict and added only: “We are engaged in an ongoing dialogue with his legal representatives in this country and cannot comment further at this time.”
Heads will be scratched and brains will be cudgelled as to precisely what that dialogue is aiming to establish. There are various theories flying around, surrounding issues such as whether the matter is a civil or a criminal one, whether the status of Cellino remains innocent until proven guilty when there are still legal stages to be gone through – and, significantly, whether the League’s test should even apply to Cellino because of their own 30% stake provision – Cellino apparently only has 9.5% of Eleonora Sports, the company that is in the process of acquiring 75% of Leeds United.
It is the fact that this “ongoing dialogue” is going on at all, though, that is really of most interest. There is just the faintest whiff of a suspicion that the League would like to have its biggest club, its most compelling attraction, established on a secure footing if at all possible. It may just be to this end that talks and negotiations are now going on. In various corners of the Leeds United universe, there are stubborn voices of faith, claiming that the takeover will go through, that all parties have long been prepared for today’s eventuality and that a way will be found to confirm the takeover, with whatever technical or cosmetic tweaks that might be necessary.
Such a theory also allows for the fact that yet another administration may not simply be a disaster for Leeds United, but also for the game’s governing body below Premier League level – and maybe even for the Premier League itself, for whom the eventual participation of Leeds is more and more being spoken of as A Good Thing. This line of thinking says that Leeds’ presence would be welcomed in a league which has long marketed itself on glamour and excitement, but which has had rather too many Wigans, Cardiffs and Norwich Cities lately – and not enough Leeds Uniteds, Sheffield Wednesdays and even Nottingham Forests. Leeds are easily the biggest pull below the Premier League, and there would be distinct financial benefits for any League containing a Leeds team doing well and pushing up the table.
It’s all speculation of course – but, given the theory that the Football League were simply waiting for today’s Cellino court verdict in order to give a simple yea or nay, the fact that there is still apparently so much to talk about may well prove significant in the final reckoning.
Not that I am holding my breath, of course. There is the Carson Yeung precedent and there is the fact that Cellino promises to be a breath of fresh air at Leeds. But for it to end up happily, with Leeds building for promotion under a minted benefactor just sounds that bit too good to be true. For it to happen, we’d surely need to have a bit of good luck. And we all know that good luck and Leeds United go together like ice cream and mustard.
Still – it might yet be an interesting few days ahead. But whether that’ll be in a good way, or a bad way, remains very much up in the air.