On Monday, the Football League took a decisive step towards killing its biggest, most celebrated and famous member club by refusing to ratify the takeover of Leeds United by Massimo Cellino. That day I posted a rant, explaining lucidly exactly what I thought of the League – 125 years old last year and exactly as senile as that might lead you to expect.
On Tuesday I wrote a more measured piece, arguing that, even if the League might have been technically, legally within their rights on the evidence before them, any workable set of regulations should incorporate an element of discretion – so that foolish and damaging outcomes would not necessarily be reached in the blinkered cause of absolute rectitude.
Today, Peter Lorimer, one-time United hero and man of many faces, has written in the Evening Post, making precisely that last point. Lorimer is a Leeds Legend and, as such, it’s to be hoped that people will listen to him. I’m just relieved that I’m not the only one arguing for common-sense over slavish adherence to regulations.
Of course there is now an appeal pending, led by Cellino’s lawyers and – one presumes – arguing that the League’s decision was not even technically correct. The grounds for such an argument will be couched in legal terms and will deal with esoteric points of law; that’s the way these cookies crumble. But I would hope that, on the appeal panel, there might be one person of such wisdom as to look above and beyond what is legally right and proper – and examine the pragmatic face of this sorry saga. In other words, maybe they’ll look at the real-life import of whatever technical irregularity Cellino or his people have permitted to happen.
Maybe they’ll ask themselves why somebody, with over a billion Euros of capital and over two hundred million in annual income, would seek to avoid an amount of duty that represents the merest of small change to a man of such fabulous wealth. Perhaps they will look at the state of Leeds United, with odious creatures from dank and forgotten swamps now slithering around it, helpless without an injection of lifeblood to avoid being consumed by the mire. Could they even consider the interests of thousands upon thousands of lifetime supporters, for whom Leeds United means almost literally everything outside of family, home and hearth?
You would hope so, you would very much hope so – after all, any appeal panel would be more independently constituted than the League’s own set of self-important, self-interested buffoons, and would even include a legally-qualified member, maybe a QC.
Any pragmatic common-sense approach to this issue could have only one outcome. Cellino – about whom it has never been shown he has any malign intent towards football clubs he owns – should be welcomed with open arms and just the merest whisper of caution: “We’ll be keeping our eye on you, old son. Don’t screw up.” This would at least have the effect of dragging Leeds United away from the precipice edge at which they now perilously teeter. It would shine a light into the lives of thousands who are, right now, in actual, genuine despair at the state of the club they love. It would protect the income streams of many of Leeds’ fellow clubs, who rely to a large degree upon the annual invasion of the best support in the country and the money those fabulous fans spend in following their team.
The alternative route – the League’s own solution of identifying a technical, legal sticking-point, and going blindly with that – would only result in the farcical, self-defeating situation that applies right now. A suitable parable might be that of a priest, walking beside a lake in which a man is floundering, unable to swim. There is a lifebelt just out of reach – but instead of throwing it to the doomed man, the priest examines it, and finds it to be of manufacture in a country of a different religion. “Throw me the lifebelt, Father!” yells the struggling man. The priest considers him sadly. “I’m sorry, my son,” he says, “this lifebelt has not been blessed and is therefore sinful. I would be endangering your immortal soul – I’m sorry, but I have to throw it away.” “But Father, I’ll die!” cries the sinking man, not waving but drowning. “I regret, my son, I regret – but this is how it has to be,” says the priest, throwing the lifebelt away behind him and moving on. The poor man duly drowns, but the priest is able to reassure himself he did the right thing, by his own lights – and he is sure the dead man’s family will understand.
Will common-sense eventually prevail? It must rest on a knife-edge. But, now that a louder voice has taken up the call, perhaps the message will spread more widely and perhaps it will find a sympathetic ear or two, connected to a brain that can actually reason and think for itself – instead of simply seeing things in bald, legally-based black and white. On this faint hope will depend the question of whether Leeds United might be thrown a lifebelt, or instead be left to drown.
Get ’em told, Lash. You have a chance to redeem yourself after a few less-than-glorious episodes during the Bates years. Get out there and spread the message, make us proud of you once again as we were in those ninety miles an hour days of yore. The way things are now, we need you even more now than we did back in that glory, glory time.
I believe that the appeal will be looked at properly, I read that it’s going to be judged by a non-biased team from the FL? If it’s true they may be able to see the pros that outweigh the cons to cellinio. If he pays the fine for the tax problem with the boat then what else is wrong about him? He’s been truthful and seems incredibly keen to work with the club (where have we heard that before) but out of GFH, Bates and Cellinio… I’d take cellinio, without a shadow of a doubt.
have to agree and have said myself, why would a man with so much money think he could avoid paying tax on Nelie the white elephant, does not make sense he is worth millions, why would we not paying a parking fine for £30.00 for it only to double monthly. either his accountant as over looked this or he (il Duce) had thought that the Da Boot licenced in the States and he was merely floating his boat back home, hence it still flying the stars and stripes. Their kangaroo court has still not applied a sentence or told him why he faces conviction, its guilty!!!!!!!! shoot first ask questions later totally barmy, how can the FL therefore pass judgment without these facts …. is this right have I missed something???
I don’t think you have. Common sense is screaming out that this is a travesty.
It’s a travesty alright,their fpp rules were supposedly brought in to prevent and protect clubs from ending up in the precise situation we find ourselves in now. SO the only way out of this precise situation is…………..
I agree Rob, as soon as I started reading Lorimer’s article I wondered if he was just doing a copy and paste number on your earlier post. Your fan club is clearly, and deservedly, growing and now at least one of your boyhood footballing legend heroes is now acknowledging your talent (or making a fast buck out of tail-boarding your talent?) I bet you could write an article every hour with all the material coming out of all thing Leeds United at the moment?
You’re most kind, but it’s long odds-on that Lash hasn’t even seen my article. As for writing about Leeds – I could indeed, but that’d be way too depressing. My light relief is to take the piss out of the scum 🙂
Everyone with an ounce of sense wants this to happen. The problem is how can the FL find a way to backtrack without losing face. There must be a way forward to get it sorted but why in the first place did the FL assemble of bunch of fools to vote on it who have only their own interests at heart. Are they going to decide the appeal with another bunch of in house crass individuals or bring in some reasoned and sensible outsiders who can see the bigger picture and give the FL a way out of this mess.
I am a huge fan of your posts but with this one I believe you are not right.
Cellino MAY well bring huge investment, but he comes at a price.
He tried to buy both West Ham and Crystal Palace but was quite rightly rejected.
Look at the fiasco at Birmingham City where the owner Carson Yeung has been jailed for 6 years. The game us full of dicey owners with their own agendas and ways of running their clubs.
Most clubs outside the Premiership are losing money on a regular basis and need to cut their cloth accordingly.
We have not had a proper owner since Leslie Silver 20 years ago, look at the disgusting mess we are in now.
Do we really want a proven fraudster running our club? NO
Do we need another Great Dictator leaving us in a mess? NO
Sadly GHF have destroyed us, as they were always going to do.
For this club to have any chance of escaping the abyss it needs to go into Administation, whatever the cosequences. This will clear the debts, will remove GHF and ensure that Kenneth William Bates can bring no court action against us.
Maybe then a White Knight will arrive, but at the moment what a total shambles.
Spoken like a true Madman 🙂
Better the devil you dont know in this case.
It’s looking like cellino or the return of ken bates
If I was Mr cellino I would be making a great deal of fuss about ken bates connections to shaun Harvey and Andrew flowers
Madman…are you a Leeds fan? You couldn’t be…If we go into bankruptcy we risk being relegated and there is no guarantee that we make it out of Div 3 immediately. If governments can be run by shady politicians with their own agendas, why do we have to be so vanilla? What did he do that was so egregious that a huge part of English football lore should be punished? We have so much corruption in this world…yet we are punished because a guy fails to pay a tax bill…on a material item no less!
This is nonsense Madman. We need ONE owner with lots of cash who is a football man. Cellino is that option and he has demonstrated his willingness to support the club financially before he owns it.
If you want Bates et al back then vote for administration because that is what you will get. To our understanding ‘fraud’ doesn’t exist in Italy and also most EEC countries.
The FL took legal advice :
“The League’s Italian lawyers have also advised”
On the basis that Article 27 of the Italian Constitution provides that ‘[a] defendant shall be considered not guilty until a final sentence has been passed’, they contend that the Judgment is therefore not a conviction (‘if he is innocent, he does not have a conviction’) for purposes of the OAD Test.
The FL then decide that they understand Italian Law better than their advisors. Shame on them!
A leading Sports Law Specialist has wrote something very similar back in February :- http://www.out-law.com/en/articles/2014/february/element-of-subjectivity-should-be-built-into-football-club-owners-test-says-expert/
I have read that the appeal will not be heard by the Football league. But an independent lawyer, who will listen to both parties as they put forward their case, and then make his judgement
I think the FL desperately looked to find a way to match the media narrative, which is that saying yes would be a Bad Thing For Football, and It Is Time To Take a Stand (I don’t buy that this exceptionalism was specifically directed towards Leeds, at least not in the FL case, though the media narrative around Leeds is self-defining). This was in turn fed by the events of deadline day. Had Cellino/GFH gone through due process, the narrative wouldn’t have had time to build, the FL would not have been able to delay, and they’d now be in the same position as they are with anyone else who is a current owner but who is technically in breach – trying to find a spin on the fact they have no workable sanctions.
One part interested me – the Guardian article here – http://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2014/mar/24/football-league-leeds-united-ownership-massimo-cellino, specifically “The worst problems now manifest themselves not in the top flight but at Championship level”. Oh really? Yeung was originally approved by the PL. Money from the Chinese triads went to buy Birmingham, and the porn empire owners then in turn used that money to buy West Ham, a team previously owned by an Icelandic bank which went bust owing £17bn (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Icesave_dispute), a large chunk of which is still owed to British and Dutch institutional savers and government authorities (puts Bates’ £7m default to HMRC in the shade, doesn’t it?).
Ah, but they might be in the past. No. The entire footballing system in England (and arguably Scotland, whose narrative is intermingled in the press coverage) is driven by the teams at the top, who can effectively buy, firstly competitive success and secondly, through competitive success, disproportionate income from European competition (which is then effectively withheld from other teams). The biggest spenders are Chelsea and Man City.
In his 2008 court case with his former partner Berezovsky (whose recent alleged suicide is currently the subject of an inquest), Roman Abramovich “admitted [ under oath ] that he paid huge bribes (in billions) to government officials and obtained protection from gangsters to acquire these and other assets (including aluminium assets during the aluminium wars)” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_Abramovich#cite_note-12). Admittedly, I’m sure he has paid VAT on any subsequent yacht purchases. Note, when the other day a Russian opposition politician called for him to be included in EU/US sanctions over the Ukraine, it was not reported in the Guardian (but it’s here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/russia/10713040/Roman-Abramovich-should-face-sanctions-says-Vladimir-Putin-critic.html).
As for Man City, owned by the ruling Royal Family of the UAE: https://www.hrw.org/news/2014/01/23/uae-assaults-dissent-free-expression
I’ll save you going there: “The United Arab Emirates (UAE) in 2013 stifled free expression, and subjected dissidents to manifestly unfair trials marred by credible allegations of torture, Human Rights Watch said today in its World Report 2014.” But, again, I’m sure that VAT on boats was paid and in good time. To themselves, of course.
The problem is that the underlying issues of football are linked to issues well outside the remit of sports correspondents, but the sports correspondents of the national press drive a tone which in turn has a significant influence on the debate. Each narrative may make sense in its own right (do I want an Italian tax evader owning my club?) but because of selective reporting the wider narrative is skewed (Cellino probably wouldn’t make a top 20 of rogues who currently own professional British football clubs, and any sins of which he can be reasonably accused are exponentially less bad than the worst you can find).
I’d rather have some secular saint own the club. In the absence of one, who can bring enough to the table, why can’t we play to the same rules as quite a few of the others?
Oh, and by the way, regarding Bournemouth: “So what has changed? The club appear to have had an influx of money from a mysterious Russian businessman called Maxim Demin. Little is known about the multimillionaire petrochemicals trader, who owns a £5m mansion in Dorset’s exclusive Sandbanks district, and he has said nothing publicly since buying a 50 per cent stake in Bournemouth last October.” (http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/football-league/demin-funds-redesign-to-make-lowly-bournemouth-fashionable-6710400.html). I’m sure his credentials are absolutely impeccable but the fact that the Independent is owned by Alexander Lebedev, a Russian oligarch (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Lebedev), and they call the guy “mysterious”, is a little disconcerting, don’t you think?
Wow, there’s rather a lot of useful stuff there, Max! I will draw upon it if I may, giving due credit as usual. More than a little disconcerting, yes.
Lebedev is a putin critic / democracy campaigner. You would expect him to be critical of these various Russian oligarchs
My comment was more that it’s surprising that the Independent in particular can’t get information on a Russian businessman.
Totally agree Rob. What I find hard to swallow, well it’s actually choking me, is that some misguided fools out there want Bates to come back rather than enter administration. We would have been so much better off if we HAD entered administration rather than be bought by him in the first place, but amazingly people can’t see that. He took us into administration anyway, but then effectively blocked all other potential buyers. Why can some people not see the truth when it is biting them in the proverbials? MOT
Maddening, isn’t it?? MOT
Very interesting points from Max which begs the question why such rigorous and thorough examination of Cellino and a cecision based on a contested civil case ?
How impartial is any decison through a process overseen by a man who was effectively ousted by LUFC’s current owners and who’s previous ‘business associates include convicted faudsters Geoffrey Richmond and Simon Morris ? Also how impartail is a decision made by a committee comprising chairmen of relegation threatened clubs who stand to benefit from any points deduction to LUFC through administration this season or who will benefit from any points deduction carried over to next season.
Putting aside the pluses and minuses attached to Cellino, the whole thing stinks.
It’s to do with press narrative. The narrative for Chelsea/ManCity is about Hazard/Negredo/Aguerro etc., i.e. it’s star-struck. They haven’t gone with “the club ended up in the hands of one of the survivors of the kleptocratic cage fight that was Russia in the 90s”; in fact, it’s more like “any now-legitimate businessman had to behave that way during that period”. For Man City, they own a country, therefore they’re rich, so what. In Man U’s case, the narrative is about Moyes and (if you’re the Guardian), the use of leveraged debt by the Glazers. And so on.
In Leeds’ case, it was initially “we don’t want that type here”, “he’s been through 36 managers in 20 years” (which btw is not that different to the rate at which Cagliari went through managers in the preceding 10 years before he owned them), “surely someone with two convictions can’t pass” (it emerges he technically has one, though it is usually reported as two), and “he may be technically in the clear due to the ‘spent’ rule, but there is other stuff coming down the line and the FL is going to end up in deep sh*t if they pass this”. So the FL framed a decision and timetable to fit the narrative. But they didn’t pick the narrative in the first place (and it could have been – “that’s the way things work in Italian business, both the tax code and the legal system are labyrinthine and mistakes happen, the Latin/Napoleonic legal system is far more geared towards an initial presumption of guilt, etc.”; but it wasn’t).
BTW interesting side story. When Abramovich bought Chelsea, he wanted Zola back at Chelsea. But Zola was under contract at Cagliari, and both Cellino and Zola regarded themselves as honour bound to see it through. Abramovich offered Cellino a transfer fee of $2m, and offered Zola to double his salary. Both turned him down. So Abramovich offered to buy Cagliari. Cellino “respectfully declined” – http://www.utsandiego.com/sports/soccer/20031015-9999_mz1s15socpg.html
Good read rob, and thanks max loads of info in that one for me to research if it dont make me to mad all these other sketchy owners are getting away with allsorts of dodgy things so a little bit of tax on a yacht he bought in the usa [and supposedly registered in the usa] and he is refused by self centred ars…s who want to keep there biggest gate earners in fl or would rather see us slide into admin abyss with no way back for another 10 years if we survive it. oh well keep MOT always
With the cellino takeover isn’t all the risk with the club.the FL I realise. Are supposed to protecting us from charlatans,I just find that it is strange that they apply the letter of the law when dealing with leeds United. This takeover needs to happen.surely they must realise that the club is totally reliant on the cellino money. MOT
Seems to me rob that we have a case of double trouble here for the FL , cellino has failed twice before to get a foot in the door of English football with palace and west ham , given our history of dealing with them It must be a marriage made in hell as far as they are concerned , as for lash , I think his heart is in the right place but he often talks out of the wrong end of his anatomy , oh and I know you have a beef with brendon ormsby but would like to wish him well recovering from his recent stroke
No beef with Brendan, Mr O – I absolutely wish him all the best. Will never forget him on the Kop fence after scoring THAT goal against QPR.
wrong term of phrase on my part , but i know you still have a blog to write about a certain cup semi in 87 but can’t yet bring yourself to do it , i think you should exorcise that ghost rob lol
Oh THAT – yes sorry Mr O now I remember the exchange we had about the Coventry semi! I still blame Brendan for arsing about on the dead ball line, you’re quite right – but it’s nowt personal. He should have put it into orbit, but we’d probably have lost anyway – Cov’s name was on the Cup that year 🙂
Another good article and Max thanks for the great research, to me Cellino has been vilified by the press from the day he expressed an interest and it’s surprising but refreshing he seems to retain an interest. Still don’t feel morally he is any worse (or better) than most other wealthy people but I do wonder at the calibre of person he employs as his tax accountant (an assumption he has one) and his solicitor do not appear to have advised him very well. Just wonder if things might have gone more smoothly had there not been that night of madness when McDermott was sacked etc.
Great piece by Max .Can you make a submission to the FL appeal panel or just forward it to Cellino’s lawyers Mishcon de Reya?
I did wonder why Cellino didn’t just do what others have by appointing his family members directors of the company purchasing our great club and then simply argue he is neither owner[usual family trust ownership and not Cellino] nor director.
Perhaps he is just being too honest and transparent unlike a certain previous owner who Shaun Harvey couldn’t identify for a long time even though he was sat next to him.
Even our loveable rogue Peter Ridsdale is still running PNE having been banned from holding directorships for 7 years I recall.
As they say, rules are there to be broken or bend them like Beckhams.
Check this bullshit out:
“Manchester United troubles ‘affect Premier League brand'”
Haha, for real?
“It’s a double-edged sword,” said Scudamore. “When your most popular club isn’t doing as well, that costs you interest and audience in some places.”
Rob. You and I can argue on a few things , but one thing is certain, we both love our club. I think it´s time tho to stop this legend worshiping, lorimer is a parasite running out of freebies and scraps thrown to him from an even bigger parasite.The real legends at ths club pay through the nose to watch them, can´t imagine King Billy being an apologist for the people ruining our club over the years can you ?
Nope but he’s far beyond helping us now, sadly. Probably busy 24/7 spinning in his grave, bless him. We have to take our support where we can find it these days.
Rob, in response to your last entry, this is what I asked you a few days ago. You were getting a lot of responses to the post, and maybe you just didn’t have an answer at the time…but your quote above: “We have to take our support where we can find it these days.” That was the crux of my question before. It is obvious that this situation is dripping with conflicted interests and serious hypocrisy…so why is there nobody out there, who is a Leeds fan, or is just proud of their city, that has a powerful voice, that can put pressure on these guys? Don’t we have someone who can stand up in Parliament to highlight what these guys are doing? How about just a Leeds institution that has the ears of others that people will quote in the press? My government has hearings on the stupidest things…this strikes me as something that is a little more legitimate.
Seems that the FA is allowed to do whatever they want with no legal repercussions to worry about. Are we really hated that much where there is nobody that can step forward and tell these guys what to go do with themselves?
It was coming thick and fast at the time Brad, you’re spot on. I was simply moderating them on the fly as I was doing other stuff too. But I remember the point you made and I’m in full agreement. We need a powerful person with a loud voice and a big stick – but there’s a lot of collective effort from the likes of us mere fans, and maybe that will count for something in the final reckoning. MOT
Hello fellow Leeds fans: I was just curious what you all thought about my question? I am on the other side of the pond…you guys are there. You’re in it…you’re in and around Leeds and Yorkshire…who better to be able to explain this. How come the Yorkshire papers don’t at least support us with editorials?
Leeds is a big place with a lot of wealthy people…what I am I missing here?
Well guys? Pitch in here.