Reports that a winding-up petition against Leeds United FC had been issued by Sport Capital (Sole director: former United CEO David Haigh) were initially dismissed, due to the fact that they had first appeared in notorious lie-rag the Daily Mirror. However, it now appears that – contrary to the best traditions of tabloid journalism in this country – there may have been an element of truth in the story.
It seems that the matter is to be considered by a judge in that there London on June 9th, according to documents seen by the altogether more reliable Yorkshire Evening Post. This follows a statutory demand which set a 21 day deadline for payment of £957,000. United failed to meet the deadline and were then served with the winding-up petition.
New owner Massimo Cellino, who purchased 75% of Leeds United through his company Eleonora Sport, has already seen off a £500,000 tax bill, paid arrears of wages deferred before the takeover and dealt with two other winding-up petitions in the short time since he was allowed to assume control of the club after a successful appeal against the initial refusal of the Football League to sanction his status as an owner or director. Now, Cellino appears to have less than five weeks to settle another substantial demand.
David Haigh may now be seen in an even more unpleasant light by United fans, although there was never any unanimity of opinion that he had the best interests of the club at heart. This blog has become rapidly disillusioned with the prospective Tory candidate, having once hailed him as a nice guy who might take us places. Well, we all make mistakes – as the Dalek said, climbing off the dustbin. Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything is now happy to make clear that it regards David Haigh as an unctuous and oily chancer who was only ever after the main chance, and was probably a scummer in the first place (see below).
Haigh will henceforth be identified in the minds of Leeds United fans with a period of ownership characterised by hollow and broken promises, facile attempts to manage supporter expectations, tacky publicity stunts and a solitary positive point of “Not Being Ken Bates”. Massimo Cellino, meanwhile stands for – we hope – a brighter future under more efficient and ambitious leadership. That being the case, we will look to see this latest financial threat being dealt with in short order, as Cellino has already managed more than once. The nagging question is: why was the statutory demand not met within the 21 day deadline? It remains to be seen whether or not United have any serious grounds for disputing that the money is owed.
For better or worse, Cellino is the foreseeable future of Leeds United, and the fan-base will wish to see decisive action on several fronts over the summer, leaving a leaner, fitter club to embark on a more successful campaign next season. The club’s captain, Ross McCormack, has quite reasonably pointed out that Leeds need to be challenging at the top end of the table next time around. This stance has quite a lot to do with his own age – not a million miles from thirty – as well as the undeniable necessity of firing the club’s support with enough enthusiasm for what the immediate future holds in terms of on-field ambition. Cellino’s pronouncements have been more cautious – he appears to envisage a season of recuperation for a financially ailing organisation, prior to a promotion charge the year after. One thing it would be good to see is the owner,the manager and the captain all singing from the same hymn-sheet. After all, there’s a telling clue in the word “United”, chaps.
So Massimo – if you get to read this, or if anybody brings it to your attention – let’s get a few preliminary things sorted. You have the reputation of a guy with a few quid behind him. Very well – let’s get the aforementioned oily creep Haigh paid off and sent packing, damn his eyes. Then let’s get the ownership of the stadium and training ground brought back wholly within the club – thousands of us seem to remember a very definite statement to this effect not too long back, but there have been no signs yet of you taking a trip down to the nearest ATM and withdrawing the necessary 15 or 20-odd million quid.
And lastly – for now – let’s get you, Brian, or whoever, and Ross around a table somewhere (Billy’s Bar is quite nice, I’ve heard) and let’s see if a unified statement of policy can be agreed upon, one that satisfies supporter thirst for success and ambition – as well as meeting the prudent fiscal constraints you might feel necessary in order to restore the club to a state of rude health, financially speaking. All that these current mixed messages are doing is muddying the waters and worrying the fans. And you need the fans on board, Massimo. As a wise man said quite recently, “You can buy a bitch for one night, but you can’t buy the love my friend.” You can, however, chuck a few quid at bringing about a situation where love may grow.
First things first though. I’m sure you’ve had enough of judges lately – so let’s send Haigh packing with his grubby money repaid to him, shall we? No need for any June 9th court date then, and we can get on with the other items on the agenda. We’re expecting you to be busy, you know, while we’re sat on our backsides watching Wimbledon and the World Cup. Attaboy, Massimo. Go get ’em.