The Football League: Incompetent, Corrupt, Arrogant Hypocrites – by Rob Atkinson

The Football League Panel, yesterday

The Football League Panel, yesterday

The classic defence against a libel suit is “But it’s the truth, m’Lud”. I therefore have no qualms about the title of this blog, which I hope will be read by some of the parties to what was, ultimately, an indefensible decision to block Eleonora Sport’s proposed takeover of Leeds United.  In bending over backwards to apply the letter of their Owners and Directors (OAD) Test, the League have proven themselves unable – or more likely unwilling –  to see the wood for the trees. They are blatantly guilty of pettifogging insistence on the letter, as opposed to the spirit, of the so-called “Fit & Proper” test.  The fact is that any set of regulations must be capable of interpretation so as to allow for the achievement of the greater good.  In other words, rules are for the guidance of wise men and the obedience of fools.  The League now stand before the football and sporting world as purblind fools. Worse, they are hypocritical fools, fools with selective vision, fools who are self-evidently prey to massive conflicts of interest.

The most obvious problem with today’s decision has nothing whatsoever to do with Massimo Cellino, and everything to do with several people who are happily getting on with the business of running various football clubs whilst at the same time carrying the burden of shady dealings which you might – on today’s evidence – have expected to disqualify them from their football activities.

Step forward, for instance, Carson Yeung of Birmingham City.  Except Carson cannot actually step forward very far, because he’s languishing in a 12′ by 12′ cell somewhere in China, guilty as charged on five counts of money laundering amounting to somewhere in the region of £55m.  Or there’s that nice Mr Owen Oyston, of Blackpool FC.  He’s a convicted rapist who did time for his crime and will be on the Sex Offenders Register for evermore – but the League have cocked a deaf’un to the misdemeanours of both these men.  Oyston’s son Karl, incidentally, was on the League panel which ruled on Cellino today.  His rapist dad remains a director and majority shareholder at Blackpool, a matter which apparently tasks the gentlemen of the League not one jot.  I wonder how Karl kept either of his faces straight?

Add to this little hymn to venal and otherwise dodgy behaviour the less than appetising track records of various other owners around the League; men who veer just the right side of criminality, but whose conduct in office would surely cause raised eyebrows in a responsible governing body. There’s the porn barons Sullivan and Gold at West Ham United.  Assem Allam at Hull City who wants to re-name his club Hull Tigers, and who advised supporters chanting “City Till We Die” to go ahead and die as soon as they liked.  There’s Vincent Tan at Cardiff City, who has ridden roughshod over the history and tradition of the Bluebirds by making them play in red, who wants his ‘keeper to chip in with some goals and who will hopefully suffer a deserved relegation for sacking the manager who gained Premier League status for him and appointing an inexperienced nobody.

It’s not really that impressive wherever you look around the League – and yet the complacent Burghers who serve on panels such as today’s are blind to it all, blind to everything except their overweening need to find some reason – any reason – to disqualify Massimo Cellino.  They eventually got him on a matter of unpaid tax on his yacht, “Nélie”, for which he was heavily fined and had the boat confiscated.  But there’s neither rhyme nor reason, there’s neither logic nor consistency in the League stance, not given the context of the case and the precedents set by the ongoing acceptance of some of the bad boys mentioned above.  A couple of days ago, I wrote that the League’s treatment of the thousands of Leeds fans sweating upon the outcome to this saga was “Cruel and Unusual”, as defined by the Eighth Amendment to the US Constitution.  It always did strike me as a blatant flouting of this amendment that the good old US of A had a liking for leaving convicted criminals incarcerated on Death Row, sometimes for decades – and then casually popping them into an electric chair and snuffing them out.  Cruel indeed – but sadly not that unusual in the States. The unconscionable lengths that the Cellino decision process has been dragged out to – only for that ultimate, smug and self-satisfied “No” at the end of weeks of torture for legions of Whites – does rather smack of this kind of cruelty on a more mundane level.

But the Football League mandarins evidently don’t care about that.  They don’t care about the conflict of interests apparent in the constitution of their panel, including as it did men in charge of football clubs with a vested interest in keeping Leeds, profitable, well-supported Leeds, in the same division as their own teams.  And not forgetting, of course, that son of a rapist.  They don’t care that their organisation is headed by a man in Shaun Harvey who, as United CEO, left Leeds under a cloud when his crooked confrère Ken Bates was ousted, the pair having compassed the near demise of United in nigh on a decade of financial dodginess and general mismanagement. They give not one solitary damn about the glaring examples of criminality elsewhere in club hierarchies throughout the League, nor indeed about the fact that Cellino wanted Leeds, Leeds and most of its fans wanted Cellino and the additional fact that the Italian has the personal wealth necessary to spark a revival at a club which has suffered in penury for twelve long and depressing years.  None of that makes one bit of difference to the shortsighted idiots and hypocritical charlatans of the Football League.  They have chosen to snatch the lifebelt away from the palpably struggling Leeds United and they are prepared to see the club suffer financially and risk possible administration, points deductions, relegation – maybe even liquidation – rather than abandon their tenacious quest to confound this potentially transforming takeover.  Is this in the best interests – interests they are duty-bound to protect, by the way – of their most famous and high-profile member club?

You tell me, then.  By its own lights, what is the Football League worth?  Have they shown an ounce of competence or common sense throughout this farcical process?  The dear old Grauniad says they’re finally stepping up to the plate“, the clear implication being that, as I’ve written above, they’ve not been too bothered in the past about much greater misdeeds than Cellino’s alleged Italian tax faux pas.  Strange how it’s always Leeds United that causes the League to get all moralistic and start enforcing draconian sanctions.  How Mr Hardaker would approve.  But nothing about this case inspires the least confidence, I would argue, in the Football League’s worthiness or ability to judge even a village Best Marrow Contest.  The holes, conflicts and inconsistencies in today’s decision conspire to make that all too tragically clear.

So I say again, tell me – given all of the above – are the Football League really fit for purpose?  Are they even remotely “fit and proper”?

Not on your bloody Nélie.

54 responses to “The Football League: Incompetent, Corrupt, Arrogant Hypocrites – by Rob Atkinson

  1. Jon Davies

    In the words of some famous sons of Leeds ‘I predict a riot’


    • The football leagues decision should be appealed on the grounds that the takeover application should have been judged by an independent panel. Secondly under the free movement of workers if Cellino is eligible to own an Italian club he must also be allowed to run an english club without discrimination other wise his Italian ownership should also cease. Cellino should be adjudged innocent pending an appeal and the same rule of law of an Italian citizen should also carry for a worker in another European state. The Football League have erred greatly and should be taken to task. If this was another major football power it would have been appealed.


  2. You have hit the nail on the proverbial head perfectly Rob. Im dissapointed and really worried now that we could go into admistration for not being able to meet our financial obligations. I hope im wrong, but I knew this would happen, and it wouldnt/couldnt happen to anybody other than Leeds. The Football league wont be happy until they put us in the conference ala Luton, and look at how long they have been in that league already. Anthrax at the ready


  3. Reading this just got me all angry again Rob, It beggars belief.


    • Me too. Thanks for the retweet fella – MOT


      • You seen the Football League congratulating Phil Beeton on facebook? How very much dare they! I had to post this article obviously with the headline as the header. And not a problem mate, Really struck a chord with me. Of all the blogs and articles I read yours are the ones I look forward to reading the most.


  4. Great article Rob, very readable and absolutely shows what a set of short-memoried blinkered hypocrites are in charge. But sadly, aren’t they merely representative of society in general?


  5. A great article and read Rob and it echoes mine and no doubt thousands of Leeds fans thoughts world wide. We just knew it was coming from those set of bastards at the FL though didn’t we? But they just kept us all hanging on for as long as possible, all hoping that they for once, would be on our side. It beggars belief how rival club chairman (with some that have chequered history themselves + Shaun Harvey- who didn’t GFH sack?) can make this decision. I’m angry, annoyed & gutted. We need to keep believing though! One day we will get out of this mess and be proud of our great club again


  6. I agree with all of that. March outside the football league offices, give them something to think about. The fanbase can save this club


  7. Great article Rob, it’s beginning to feel like the FL are engineering our club back into administration…what odds another 25 point deduction…you can almost see the announcement of the “reluctant” press release as the suits try to nail the lid on the LUFC coffin….good job we have the best fans in the world


  8. rob the delay in this takeover was very suspicious the football leaugue would have got him one way or another if it wasnt the yacht and he was aquitted they still would make no decision till they got something else on him as cellino said hes not here to rob the club because there is nothing to rob football league talk about an act of been dishonest sure wouldnt this disqualify 99% of is it the other 1% running all the clubs in england dont think so


  9. darren lufc

    we shall over come , we shall over come , we shall over come some day ay ay ay oh oh deep in my heart , i do believe . WE SHALL OVERCOME SOME DAY. leeds UNITED .leeds UNITED .leeds UNITED …MOT


  10. couldnt agree more !


  11. This is the same Football League who in January passed Roland Duchatelet at Charlton who own several clubs including Standard Liege basically told Charlton that they will be a feeder club for Standard Liege who will sign all of Charlton’s better players yet passes the Football League fit and proper persons test no problem with no questions asked. Cellino has owned Cagliari for 22 years in the most corrupt league in the world yet Cagliari have never been punished or accused of corruption and have been a very well run club in those 22 years Cellino has run them and what about all the owners that Portsmouth have had over the years how did they manage to pass the Leagues test. The sooner the Football League is disbanded and merged with the Premier league the better.


  12. worst of it is the corrupt FL met on a sunday get double/triple time on a decision they made weeks ago regardless. Those in glass houses should beware of how easily they can be seen as false hypocrites, long live Leeds, down with the bunch of secretaries unfit to be any way involves with football other than self appointed.


  13. Leeds Forever

    Great article as per Mr Atkinson’s other articles. Re Vincent Tan I can only say that if the League cared to dig a little perhaps they would have disqualified him . . . but then again maybe not since it’s only Leeds they are after. Ask any Malaysian and they will tell you about Vincent Tan . . . I will say no more, already I fear the Triad knocking on my door!


  14. I seriously doubt all members were present on a Sunday yet will no doubt claim expenses. Isn’t expenses fraud, fraud? how can a full vote take place without all members? FL disclose locations of members please and confirm all members were present on Sunday.


  15. This report should be given to Cillinos lawyers.Its obvious they dont know the half of it.To be honest this has given me
    great hope for the future or our great club.Judged by these chalatans is an eye opener for me.Thankyou Rob for telling the world about the F/L.Rules for the boys i say.They will be shaking each others hands right now.disgraceful.


  16. Stephen Neal

    I think Cellino should take the FL to the High Court, on just what has been written in this article. Let the FL explain themselves to a Judge, because what has happened in this decision is so obviously corrupt.


  17. Steven from Australia

    great article again Rob should we not try and get Massimo Cellino to fight our corner if he feels the passion for the club I think he would, to me he also looks like he would like to stick it up any one who does not like him (if you hate Leeds United have a go temperament ) if any one knows how to contact him via any social media at all they need to post it on line so that we can all appeal to him to fight the good cause. we need to reply in mass to this judgment and get him on our side if he has passion for the club he will help us and fight lets face it he is Italian so he should have passion MOT


  18. Nelie the rigged yacht elephant said goodbye to the circus,,,,,,,


  19. scottywhites

    your a great read rob and i fear the worst at the min, iv been a leeds fan since i was 6, 34 years iv supported leeds iv been through good and bad this is as big kick in the teeth as we have ever had i think the fl must be held responsible if we go into admin and docked points we are on our knees and fl know this hence there decision.If we as leeds fans all stuck 100 quid in the pot could we afford to take the b…..ds to court if so my 100s in and lets MOT


  20. Rob, isn’t there anybody in Leeds that has power AND the same love for Leeds U that we all have? It’s a great article…but all it achieves is that it pisses me off more because it’s too well written! isn’t there someone…ANYONE…that can actually help us? A lawyer, a member of parliament…MI5! How is it that we have one of the biggest (authentic) followings anywhere and yet have nobody fighting for us with any clout?


  21. Cellino picked up a fresh conviction, so he fails the test. End of. Oyston and co. didn’t. It’s all very well saying they shouldn’t be allowed to be own football clubs, but forcing people to sell their shares is very different to blocking their purchase in the first place.

    As for the comments here and elsewhere, everyone’s a lawyer, aren’t they?

    Regarding Shaun Harvey, are you sure, Rob? Are you really sure? Because I remember events differently. Ratface, as I’ve always affectionately called him, was asked to stay on the board by GFH and agreed to do so. He left of his own accord when offered a better position at the FL. He wasn’t purged by GFH and I see no good reason to assume that he’s (still) in Bates’ pocket. In any case, you’re partial to a few of Bad Santa’s elves yourself. (Poyet, Hoddle, I think one or two other such weasels.)

    This doesn’t mean that the general thrust of comments directed at the fine fellows at the FL aren’t true. And of course I’m pleased that my club is still (for now, we’ll see who gets their paws on it) my club, and will not be owned by a convicted embezzler and serial tax dodger, who wants to sell his current club and leave them – reportedly – 47 million (is it Euros or pounds, as if it matters) in debt, and without a stadium and training ground (because he isn’t, or wasn’t, selling that valuable piece of real estate!)

    But the facts are still the facts, whether I like them or not (there are plenty I don’t), and Cellino fails the letter of the test so decisively as to leave no leeway.

    I suppose we’re going to have to wait for the appeal that he isn’t going to make now, but when that’s over we should find ourselves with someone half decent in charge – if we’re lucky. At least it’s no longer certain death.


  22. The current Football League should be disbanded and there should be a call for a new board of committee members to be formed to take over. All futures FL members should be free of any alliance or as owners of any football club. And as for Shaun Harvey, it seems you have a reputation worst than all those that have been mentioned. Pity you wasn’t on that flight MH370.


  23. The football league are wan_kers ,the football league are wan_kers
    90 minutes of sing against Donny on Saturday


  24. In the know

    This group has not been fit for purpose since they allowed leverage take over on Man United. The date cats were licking the cream then and will continue to do so whilst ever there is money to grab


  25. Very well put Rob , you are spot on and why would cellino purposely not pay his dues on the yaught when it amounted to him what it costs in dinner money to the normal working man. He’s even said it himself , he could pay the fine tomorrow. If he wanted to fiddle surely he would make it worth his while . The fl have found an excuse . A very flimsy excuse to stamp us into the dirt again. Well f… the fl , we shall overcome cos we are Leeds…. Bournemouth away today coach leaving at 8.30 , can’t wait to support my team . All this bollocks just makes my love for my club stronger. Us against the world .Forever Leeds…..M.O.T


  26. f*****g ***** ****** and b*******ds rob , i hate em all


  27. Agree with everything you say Rob ,but let’s just take a step back here. Lawyers will be working hard in the background and I read something in the statement about not fit and proper to be a director? The FL can’t rule on that and this whole process should go to the Courts. We are in the EEC and individuals have legal rights.
    I think everyone will be looking at some way to unlock this and I don’t think it would stand up in a court. As someone said, Italian law cannot be interpreted as English law within the EEC. I feel the FL have been ill advised on that in scratching around to find something, nay anything to create a dirty hands up to vote in favour of refusal.
    On that point I have never understood how football players get guaranteed wage payments in an Administration and it what other industry is there interference in the purchase of shares in a limited company? What legal rights do the FL have in this respect?
    Time for GFH to step up and make a legal challenge. What about Cellino’s human rights in the EEC.


  28. Mass demonstrations is the only answer and let’s employ people to carry out forensic analysis of their personal finances and business dealings. We will then see how squeaky clean theses bastards are. It is no good taking it any more. We need to be clever and start a financial and legal rout of the individuals in the league. Let’s set up a fund now to start the investigations into their business activity. I am sure we will be able to find the odd tax evasion here snd there. LUST need to get involved too. It us no good sitting back snd posturing questions. We need some answers about the shenanigans of the FL and owners!


  29. sniffersshorts

    if there any crooks in this matter its GFH, they promised long term stability, and it was them that gave the football league every reason to believe this and sanctioned their deal. They along with the FL are complete and utter arses, these people have no idea how to run a football club and did not have the funds to run us. Cellino is fit and proper, is a football minded man and has the cash. How other clubs across the world are not being bought to task is beyond me if Bayern Munichs c/o has admitted to laundering 27 million, its obvious corrupt money has been used in the running of that club, yet why can they compete in the Champions league. As we have been told to wait, they should be under investigation, along with Birmingham city et all. yet again we are being mauled like a rat in a dogs mouth, and ridiculed and shown as an example. we should now be asking en mass of the football league board why did you originally sanction GFH , I suspect back handers via Bates and them, I can assure you they are as corrupt as others we are just a shield to deflect them having the finger pointed at them. they are laughing behind their hands and they enjoyed turning the knife, whilst they could prolong it. if Cellino is a canny man, he should now put a bid via Elenora just naming his kids as directors, and remain a sleeping partner, is this possible I don’t know I am just hoping and guessing!, as when the time comes and he sells on when we make the promised, if he sells on its family money, after all does he need it, it would be a legacy for his family and his family man, its more than money here, the man does have passion.


  30. I am seething with rage about this.

    The double standards, dragging it out to validate their bullshit and not to mention the conflicts of interest and dodgy owners of clubs that had no trouble, who make Cellino look like a Saint (indeed, the Saint & Saviour I want him to be for LUFC).

    I think I am going to report the FL for corruption, and breach of EU employment law.

    What exactly have LUFC done to deserve this blatant hatred from the powers that be?

    Fuck the FL.


  31. snifferclarkesboots

    The FL could do us a favour by telling us exactly what enabled GFH to pass the fit and proper test. We need to know what substance there is behind this body called GFH. The FL must possess this information and need to divulge or leak it.

    Right now the fans are at least owed the the courtesy of knowing how the club stands, no matter how dire. Currently all we here is a lot of masquerading going on, telling us how we will not go into administration and Leeds are safe, but I’m sure everyone like myself is very uneasy.

    Wake up! GFH were relying on Cellino – they still are. No other bids have come close. We will be selling what is left – asset stripping – how can it be otherwise? The problem is, there is little left – just debts.

    On the field players are going to care even less with no certainty about the future and wages. How do you think Peltier will feel having been sold to Forest only to return? We cannot separate what is going on on and off the pitch. How can one concentrate on the football alone? It’s pretty difficult in any job to fully concentrate with the continuous knowledge that you might be getting the sack any day.

    We’ve not had any transparency for the last ten years, but we need it more than ever today. What will it take? A riot? The selling / loaning of McCormack?

    If Leeds fans vociferate the unity at home matches and refused to grace the stands of away games – this might send a message to FL. Other clubs like our money. It probably won’t happen, but something radical needs to happen to bring the mess to the surface – this can of worms.

    Currently I just cannot conceive a positive outcome which ever way I look – on or off the field of play. We’re being played with and it’s utterly humiliating. If the FL can’t support us, they can at least let us know if we are able to support ourselves.

    Keep up the excellent articles Rob. We can’t continue brushing things under the carpet, though some continue to do so.


    • Thanks Sniffer. It’s good to see real people out there giving this matter such thought. The League have simply applied regulations without consideration for what all of this is actually about. It’s time for some common sense.


  32. Steve Emsley from Australia

    i have sent emails from every computer that i have sat at to to the following address bombard them show them how much we care


  33. Great article, spot on again.
    I fail to see how tax on a boat, in an Italian harbor, is any of the business of the FL. The FL aren’t the police, or HMRC. Does Cellino owe tax in this country? No. Therefore this has nothing to do with an English Football organisation. Or are we led to believe the FL scour the world for tax stories on all their prospective club owners? I don’t think so. They are acting outside their remit. All that should concern them is Cellino has owned a football club for 22 years, in one of Europe’s top leagues.
    All those on the FL committee, including the head, have a vested, bias take on LUFC. Harvey should have excused himself because he was sacked by the sellers 6 months ago.
    The whole episode stinks. Anyone care to predict when the FL will take 2 months to make a decision, and refuse a prospective owner again?
    Anyone want to predict how many times Abramovitch, or Man City owners, or their companies, get taken to court in a year? How many times has Shaun Harvey been involved in clubs in administration?
    Yet these ‘squeaky clean’ mandarins decide now is the time to make a stand……with LUFC of course.
    We should all do what we can to highlight this. Be it banners, e-petitions, or letters to relevant people. Dont let the twitter or facebook hipsters put you off [its easy to sit and do nothing], lets fight, and in the words of our greatest captain, ‘never stop fighting’.


  34. snifferclarkesboots

    My letter to: for what it’s worth

    To whom it may concern.

    In the wake of the Cellino decision, could we please have some clarity regard the position of GFH’s position? Having passed them fit and proper to acquire Leeds, they have in the interim been attempting to sell the club to any serious bid that comes along, while making a right cock up of it.

    Surely the unanimous vote the FL gave against Cellino only suggests it was a pretty much non-starter from the outset. Any proper lawyer could have indicated that instead of the deceptively affirmative messages that kept emerging prior to the refusal. All the while the whole sage dragged on for months jeopardising the club even more.

    But with Cellino in the background we really do need to know the current situation of the club – financially. So far GFH in very reticent to step to the plate and come clean about such matters. So we are relying on the FL to do what they are here to do. i.e. operate in the interests of club and fans.

    There have been times in the past when, as a Leeds fan, I have felt the FL have dealt particularly harshly with our club. However, if I am to understand you are using Cellino’s case to set a new standard for future scrutiny of club ownership, I am hoping you might apply this new benchmark by focusing your attention on the immediate facts which really matter to the future of this club i.e. GFH

    Leeds are in a mighty mess, just as it has been over the last ten years, and there is a genuine fear among fans of returning to the doldrums from which we have never truly emerged.

    You have taken with one hand, so please do the right thing and give with the other.

    Thank you.


  35. ross anderson

    Rob just where are the fl offices, are they still in lytham?


  36. Pingback: Two Days On, Lorimer Backs This Blog in Leeds’ Need for Cellino – by Rob Atkinson | La Vita, Leeds United, l'Universo e Tutto

  37. I feel I must protest against the comparisons being made between the panel as shown above and the FL.. Fozzie Bear and the rest of the infamous Muppets are as Im sure you are aware touring with their magnificent latest release of Muppets Most Wanted and feel I needed to defend these Muppets. Having watched this magnificent display of the whole muppet team last Saturday, and witnessing the sheer brilliance and co ordination of these furry little Muppets (more co ordination that our team are showing atm but that,s another story) I feel it is unfair to label the Muppets into the same category as the useless shysters that the FL are…..Many Thanks Jx


  38. Reblogged this on Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything and commented:

    This was published last March, and the vast majority of it holds true ten months later. Too many with an anti-Cellino agenda are over-simplifying the matter, arguing that MC failed to pay the duty and therefore he’s not fit or proper. It was more complex than that last March and it remains so now. There are now, as there were then, matters of consistency, duty of care and conflicts of interest which have not been addressed or explained. Until someone can tell me how a convicted rapist remains “a significant person” at Blackpool FC, while the League have so vigorously pursued a man who has pumped millions into Leeds, then I shall rant on, unsatisfied. The title of the original piece requires neither modification nor explanation.


  39. Great read Rob as always. If I may be so bold as to re-jig your adjectival headline:


    Ken Bates is 94


  40. Yet another excellent piece Rob and yet again i am left wondering why your enlightenment is not finding its way into the highest halls of this land. Could the answer be best described in the words Sep Blatter? If football governing is corrupt at its very pinacle then what can you find below? I rest your case my friend.
    Regards T


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