Fear and Loathing in Monaco and Dubai as Cellino Goes Forensic? – by Rob Atkinson


Leeds United finances under intense scrutiny

Leeds United finances under intense scrutiny

The first thing you think when somebody reputed to be a billionaire – with annual income well into seven figures – takes over your beloved football club, is: brilliant; now we shall have the best of everything. No more poverty, no more crushingly-disappointing transfer windows.  We are back.

This being Leeds United, of course, it looks like it might not actually work out that way – at least, not at first.  The first order of business for Massimo Cellino is evidently to sort out the mess off the field.  And, from all accounts, what a hell of a mess it looks like it is.  Apparently, Massimo’s advisers have described the financial situation at Leeds United as ‘the worst mess they’ve ever seen at a football club’.  So, who says we’re not still the leaders in at least one field??

Still, that’s some going for a club that, over the past few years, has enjoyed some of the biggest commercial revenues of any outfit at this level, charged the highest ticket prices and still attracted among the highest attendances, appearing with monotonous regularity on TV. Yet this same club has paid out wages at somewhat under the top rate for the Championship, as well as displaying very little ambition in the transfer market – whilst selling some of its top talent on a depressingly regular basis.

So how has a club run along these lines managed to embroil itself in such utter fiscal chaos?  Where, exactly, is the gaping hole through which so much money every month is haemorrhaging away? You can point to certain peccadilloes of past regimes – the lavish re-upholstery of the East Stand, for instance, improving part of a stadium that the club doesn’t even own. There may be a certain reckless foolhardiness detectable there, especially if, as is rumoured, future season ticket revenues were mortgaged against the cost of what seems to have been a vanity project, to titivate a ground costing megabucks in annual rent.  The ultimate beneficiary of that has never been satisfactorily identified – but may not be entirely unrelated to certain craftily-advantageous financial arrangements centred around the Cayman Islands part of the world.

Even so, it’s difficult to see how the sums add up to such a distressingly appalling bottom line as has been hinted at by Cellino’s horror-struck people.  Small wonder, then, that the King of Corn is taking the step of recruiting “forensic accountants” to conduct a root and branch investigation.  The image thus conjured up of intense and focused, pale and determined men, poring over every scrap of paper and every byte of data remotely connected to Leeds United over the past decade or so, is actually rather a pleasing one.  Let’s face it, we all want answers – and they’ve been conspicuous by their absence at Elland Road this century.  Excuses we’ve had aplenty, together with some hollow boasts about how things are moving forward.  And yet here we are, in this parlous mess.  Something needs to be done, and Cellino is taking the forensic approach to doing it.

‘Forensic’ might loosely and unscientifically be interpreted as “leaving no stone unturned – and no rat untrapped”.  There are a few rats that immediately spring to mind who may very well be quivering in their lairs right now.  One such lair might better be described as a tax lair – the bolt-hole of a venerable old gentleman whose financial affairs mean that he must perforce spend the better part of every year – better for us, that is – in the sunny climes of southern France.  Does Master Bates have skeletons concealed in his closet?  Are they about to be yanked out and made to perform a Danse Macabre?  These ‘forensic’ types tend to wind up knowing exactly where the bodies are buried, and with a fair old clue as to how they got into that sadly moribund state. What revelations might they have to make concerning Uncle Ken and his Monaco closet?

Those “ten percent parasites” GFH might also be wriggling uneasily, wondering just what salient facts, which they would prefer to remain concealed, are about to be brought, glistening nastily, out into the cold and pitiless light of day.  What will be the story concerning the GFH input into Leeds United during their term as majority owners – as opposed to any financial benefit they may have extracted during that period?  As that excellent investigative organ Private Eye is always saying, we think we should be told – and it seems to be on the agenda that we might be.  And there is a lot of fascination, on the part of the fan in the street, regarding the nitty-gritty of just exactly how these preceding two sets of owners have conducted themselves – and at what cost to the football club and the football fans whose interests they supposedly had in safe-keeping.

Whatever the controversy of some of the measures currently being implemented by Cellino – and whatever the likelihood in the short term of more hard times ahead – it does appear that he is set on cleansing and re-inventing a club that, from all appearances, has been rotten from the top downwards for far too long now.  The Italian seems to have availed himself of pretty much the best legal team Euros can buy in his ultimately successful fight with the Football League to gain control of Leeds United.

Now, it appears that no expense will be spared in securing the services of the most effective accountants to wade through the murk of the financial situation at Elland Road.  Perhaps one day, this “only the best will do” approach might yet be applied to the recruitment of playing staff.  That’s the dream, after all, when you get a billionaire owner.

First things first, though.  From the revelations accumulating day on day, it would appear that the Leeds United edifice is not so much crumbling as dissolving away before our very eyes.  Cellino looks to be dealing with a structure that is on the edge of total collapse – and it’s understandable that this situation has to be addressed before any on-field luxuries can be contemplated – so it may well be a ticking-over season next time around.

That, of course, would be down to the competence and application of whatever players we end up with in the squad, as well as the motivational and coaching abilities of whatever manager is in charge next time around. Comparisons are usually invidious – but look what Sean Dyche and an unheralded Burnley squad did last season.  They had been tipped for relegation.

Things at Elland Road are looking so very unhealthy though, that the on-field issues might well take second place in the minds of United fans, to the even more burning issue of who has done this to us.  Who, when and how – not to mention why.  There are some glaringly-obvious suspects.  Maybe – just maybe – Massimo’s Meticulous Money Men will have them bang to rights before too long?

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38 responses to “Fear and Loathing in Monaco and Dubai as Cellino Goes Forensic? – by Rob Atkinson

  1. peacock273

    Yes, Rob, there could be a few incisive questions being asked like, ‘Who owns Teak Holdings, the owners of ER?’ and ‘Why was so much spent on the East Stand of a ground we don’t own?’.
    Would you build an extension or a conservatory on the back of the house you rent?

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  2. scottywhites

    really good read again rob,this could go on for some time and i think that cellino is doing the right thing i hope he digs some serious dirt on papa smurf would love to see him in court for fraud or something alike,as for gfh i hope they rot in hell, there has to be some serious probs with the finances hope things sorted before start of next season but in cellino i trust lets just hope some of the less patient fans give him the time he needs.
    Its been over ten years since i have seen decent football played on that piece of beautiful grass so a few more months wont matter if he get the club earning money again[thought you were on hols rob have a gooden]
    …………………………MOT

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  3. A very interesting read once again Rob. It does pose the question of when ( no longer if ) will we find out who has done exactly what to our club….then will we be able to bring them to justice??

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  4. One thing that has had me thinking over the past few days is whether this may also be a veiled threat pointed towards Haigh following the winding up order – a sort of you mess with us and we will pull your skeletons out

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  5. JOHN INGHAM

    NICE ONE ROB,I THINK WE ALL HAVE OUR THOUGHTS ON MR.BATES’ HOPES AND ASPIRATIONS FOR OUR CLUBTHE FAMOUS ‘I WON’T REST UNTIL THEY GO OUT OF FOOTBALL’ QUOTE.THEN GFH AND MR.HAIGH AND THEIR HOLLOW PROMISES.WE HAVE BEEN USED AND ABUSED FOR FAR FAR TOO LONG ,SO CARRY ON MASSIMO AND LET’S HOPE WE CAN EXPOSE THE CULPRITS.IT WON’T MAKE UP FOR THE MISERY OF THE LAST 10-12 YEARS,BUT IT WOULD BE FANTASTIC TO SEE PEOPLE BROUGHT TO BOOK.I MAKE NO APOLOGIES, I HATE KEN BATES!!!!.OH, GOOD HOLIDAY ROB,ANYWHERE NICE?

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  6. Well it might go back a stage further than Bates to the Krasner era!! Is your pen poised Rob as what comes out of this could run to 400 pages of revelations. Irrespective of this I am confident the on field stuff will be well sorted to by the start of the new season.
    Here we have a well heeded canny business man who actually understands football! This is a rare commodity indeed.

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  7. Who are Massimo’s advisors and how many other football clubs have they investigated, to come up with the statement ‘the worst mess they’ve ever seen at a football club’.

    Massimo has been quoted that running costs are in the order of £100,000 a day. No surprise there, a quick look at the 2013 annual accounts show this to be the case.

    Where does it all go, of course to my knowledge an impetuous Massimo didn’t do any due diligence before laying out £25m.

    Is there a smoking gun or do we already know some of the reasons; over £20m going on wages ( just add up all the wasted wages paid to Grayson’s Warnock’s and McDermott’s old has beens) rent on Elland Road and T.A., Interest payments etc etc etc

    I am not judging one way or another and I applaud any attempts to get the club in order, but we do appear to be moving from Revie’s or Wilkinson’s family clubs to an its my ball I will do what I like and you will too regime. For example what mood will the players be in coming back weeks earlier than any other club in the country? Whilst it might be right what will be the effect?

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    • As rob stated

      our wages are slightly below average for a championship side.

      its not wages, its “other expenses”. e.g. stuff like the half a million quid “performance” bonus that twat Harvey gave himself just before gfh kicked him out.

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  8. People are probably going to hate me for saying this but I think MC’s best play in this situation would be to put us into administration. I know it sounds crazy but a 15 point deficit could be well worth it just to get rid of GFH and all the other scumbags and would leave cellino as the sole owner, he could also make sure that beeston dave doesn’t get back the loan he so graciously filed a winding up petition for. I know -15 points can make a real difference but Cellino would hopefully be more willing to put money in to buy back ER, TA and invest in the players if he knows he isnt giving 25% away free to the hangers on. I would hate to see it myself but would it be worth it to see the back of GFH for good? He already said he’s not targeting promotion next year but with the right squad and right attitude with a fresh start we could overcome docked points for administration and still maybe have a chance of promotion next year and if not we would be in a much better position for 2016…. Like I said hate if you want its just a thought…

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  9. ‘Where’s all our money gone?’ We used to sing. Maybe, we are about to find out.
    Methinks the F L might also have a few pertinent questions to answer about how they saw individuals & organisations whose only interest in our club was to financially rape it as ‘fit & proper’.

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  10. sniffersshorts

    All makes perfect business sense, to many before have just rolled in and rolled us. This man is no clown, his investment in our club came at the right time, we knew already that he was going to sell Calgiari, we all hoped that some of that sale may be invested in our club. He not only wants to be successful in his own right, in building his reputation in this country, but to create Leeds United football club into a successful club. We know the history, so does he, we know we are massive,so does he, we know we will be successful so does he, we are passionate so is he, he wants to be the best, so do we. But by just rolling along with dead wood is not the way, the cull has started, many will lose jobs, and players have been moved on. we are not big enough at the moment to spend 5/6 million on one player, I agree with Cellinos stand on starting with virtually unknowns at a million or so, build on the next two seasons. I have said it before we have seen it with Dorris, Leicester, Burnley, building quality takes time, assessment has to be considered when buying, get back to the dossier system of the Don, get the family spirit back. As and when he can see any success coming our way, he will then build with bigger investment on better players, he is learning our game our way, but I like the belligerent I am a trouble maker and nothing will get past me attitude, after all that is us LEEDS UNITED our way we have to build on strength, the fear and loathing of others visiting the fortress again, our spirit on the terraces, transponding to the field, the wall of noise to strike fear in the opposition….. maybe that will only come when we are ruddy playing football again the Leeds united way, flair, passion and tenacity….. it will all come to pass….. time and patience …… time and patience. MOT

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  11. Pattaya White

    Nice Blog again Rob .
    At last we might all get what we have wished for years . “THE TRUTH ”
    I cant believe that some of the other Leeds Blogs are still not 100% behind Massimo . You know the ones ?? Lee Chapman’s Sofa for one . They cant bring themselves to get over the fact that Massimo bought the club when they were canvasing against him and are now running campaigns trying to prove they were right . ( Massino watch ect) I suspect they would even like to see Leeds in administration to prove their point .
    Keep up the best Blog on the net Rob .
    Only thing against it is your curious backing for Arsenal ?? Personally I tar all the Cockney teams in the same bracket except for Millwall as they are in a gutter class of their own Haha
    Keep em coming Rob .

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    • You can’t blame Leeds fans for being suspicious of owners

      Gfh
      Haigh
      Bates
      Harvey
      Richmond
      Morris
      Krasner
      Ridsdale
      Fotherby

      When you’ve had nearly 20 years of greed, lies, incompetence and in some cases outright theivery you’re bound to be somewhat suspicious of the new bloke.

      That said, glad he’s taken over, gfh would have sent us down to division 1.

      Whether MC can get us up where we belong remains to be seen. It’s a hard task when the 3 clubs dropping down pocketed over 60 million quid each from the premiership tv deal and have the parachute payment to come.

      I reserve judgment until I see action not words. E.g. ground bought back, keeping the better players, signing some decent players with promise.

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  12. Forensic accounting will involve tracing money and assets belonging to the club. Where have they gone, who are they. Now going to? They will be drilling a long way down in recent history. The financial mess has to be through all the shirt term fixes, rental agreements and debentures. Then on the playing and managerial side, again, short termism bringing managers, making promises but no rebuilding of the team. Kits of overheads and taking money out! But how, the accountants will find out. There are probably people who have taken things in different ways. May be just loop holes. Let’s swat and see

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  13. Another excellent article! I have often found myself wondering if I would be happier with promotion, or proof that Bates, Harvey, GFH et al are guilty of some criminal offence.I’m still undecided!!
    By the way, what is it with some of the people on other forums who constantly issue bile against Cellino – are they just wums?

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  14. wetherby white

    Good article. Like all leeds fans there are some things that make you burn with anger. For me its Paris 75 (probarly time to move on on that one) the East Stand building project and Sean Harveys face.
    As you rightly say in paras 3 and 4, just how and why are we in such a financial shambles. For all your good points, it doesn’t add up and hopefully Cellinos “forensic” team will shed light and finally the truth on the matter. Ideally the culprits will then be dealt with though somehow I suspect that will never happen. One thing I hope your not right about is seeing next season slip away again as other matters are sorted.
    Totally off the point, some internet chat about Tim Sherwood as next manager. For me hed be great. He has spade fulls of something McD has zero of – PASSION!

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  15. This should cheer you up rob

    http://www.theguardian.com/football/2013/apr/18/premier-league-finances-club-by-club

    Scroll down to you know who. THREE HUNDRED AND SIXTY SIX MILLION quid in debt, and they’re going to gamble another 150 mil on rebuilding this summer.

    What happens if they don’t get in Europe again and miss out in them tv deals?

    Reminds me of us in the ridsdale era.

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  16. Who ? BATES

    Why ? Cos he hates Leeds.

    He’s made millions by charging us the Earth to watch shite and all the while taking rent money from the club that he bought for a quid. Can’t wait for the old sod to pop his cloggs.

    BUT…All is not lost..Cellino sounds like he knows what he’s doing, systematically cleaning up the mess, I’m looking forward to a leaner, meaner Leeds next season, BMcD got us into the top 6 before. Christmas, he should do that again with a modest investment. Byram should be fit, Mowatt will be better, Murphy and Smith too. Just need to drop Austin and get a decent winger in, play Charlie Taylor and Chris Dawson a bit and we will be all right. MOT forever.

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  17. You know how the tabloids have been chasing after scudamore lately.

    Perhaps they could be poked into having a good old investigation into shaun Harvey. Surely someone who’s football mates include convicted criminals like Geoffrey Richmond (who gave him his first job in football) and Simon morris shouldn’t be in charge of the football league.

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  18. allan stirk.

    My congratulations to the author, excellent thought provoking articles, stuck away here in portugal, any daily news on my club is welcome ,but the insight provided by the author is first class , for me a MUST read, please keep up the good work, excellent …!

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  19. Aussie Dave

    Rob, there could be some real juicy stuff come out of all this that will demand a chapter or two in your book. Can’t wait to read it. I wonder if you’ll have Hollywood sniffing around to buy the movie rights? I wonder which actor would be picked to play Master Bates? Shame Telle Savalas couldn’t play BMcD……..

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  20. I find it funny that the man that the FL says is not fit to run a football club is the one who has gone for the deep clean of leeds United finances. He must smell a rat or rats from previous financial dealings. To get forensic accounts in to dig deep and help sort out chaos that previous owners have hidden. We just need a decent season 14/15. Not over stretching but good football to watch.
    .

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    • Find it even funnier that the man heading the football league is one of the rats thats brought yhe club to Its knees In the first place.

      The football league Is not fit & proper.

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  21. This club was taken over by a parasite, he then attracted other parasites to latch on to the body , From what I’ve heard today( re various companies I have no idea of), it will not be sorted out unless an undoubtable link of implication can be determined, that points the finger at the main parasite, his retinue , and the organisation (FL) that allowed this to happen in their charge . I won’t hold my breath .

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  22. king sniffer

    Here here Rob. I have had news today of yet another ignorant sap who told the raconteur of said story that Uncle K saved Leeds United from extinction. There are few exclamations in life that make my blood boil more, but took great pleasure in relaying the truth of the situation, and will not rest until this foul myth has been exposed as such! MOT

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  23. By the way Rob if you return from Filey along the A64 I will give you a wave I live between York and Tadcaster, hope the weather holds.,MOT

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    • I stopped off in York to a review a show mate, but next time we’re nipping up the A64, we’ll definitely flash the lights – what’s Morse Code for MOT?? 🙂

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  24. There have been large amounts of money going missing from Elland Road for a long time.
    I suspect that HMRC will be taking great interest in what is uncovered.
    At best, charges will be laid and the scumbags we have suspected all along will pay for their crimes.
    At worst, our previous owners and their offsiders will be shown up for the grasping parasites they are.

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  25. David Smith

    — / — / – or dash dash; dash dash,dash; dash
    Hope that helps Rob. Enjoy your holiday and consider two more books about Leeds.
    1) Financial Impropriety
    2) MC’s Roller Coaster journey to the Premier… because I think this is going to be one hell of a ride!

    Keep the Blog (faith).

    Great read

    regards

    doc

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  26. And now we learn that David Haigh is enjoying the hospitality of law enforcement in Dubai, apparently as a result of financial irregularities….

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  27. No comments about Carbone’s announcement that we’re now a selling club, and Cellino saying that he might get rid of Thorp Arch?

    Shame about Haigh! Couldn’t happen to a nicer bloke!

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