The Football League, by their decision this week to disqualify Massimo Cellino as owner/director of Leeds United, have demonstrated their utter inability to appreciate the factors at play in this situation. The arguments have been laid before them; the fact that Cellino’s “dishonesty” is as water unto wine beside the wrongdoings of certain other Football League club shareholders and owners (there are rapists, money-launderers, porn barons and other such unsavoury chaps out there. None of these bad boys attract the attention that Cellino does from the League as they pig-headedly pursue their vendetta).
It’s also true to say that Cellino can point to a highly productive track record as Leeds owner since he first appeared on the scene. Various whimsical coaching appointment decisions aside, he’s got the club on a sounder financial footing than at any time this millennium, he’s assembled a fine and talented squad – at last being gelled by the right coach – and he’s pursuing capital investment with a view to making all our dreams we dare to dream come true. The Football League, by contrast, continue to betray themselves as corrupt, purblind fools who are clearly not fit for purpose in their brief of running the game below elite level.
The text of a current petition at Change.org is reproduced below. I would ask anyone who hasn’t signed it yet to read the arguments advanced by the petition organiser, and to sign it without further delay. If you have signed it, I would urge you to share it as broadly as possible, to ensure the maximum possible support. The grounds laid out below make good sense; this petition deserves universal support from anyone with the interests of Leeds United truly at heart. Since the latest crass League decision, support for the petition has raced up to over 9,000. We need 10,000 at least to have a good chance of generating some media interest and gaining a wider platform for the argument that Massimo Cellino has been good for Leeds United, and that – in the interests of the club and the game in a wider sense – he should be allowed to get on with the job he’s doing.
“Dear The Football League,
The Owners’ and Directors’ test (previously called Fit & Proper Persons test) was brought into effect in 2005. The purpose of the test is to better protect clubs and the reputation and image of the game, thus to protect Football League member clubs from Owners and Directors who might mismanage or ultimately guide a club into administration. With this in mind, rules and guidelines were written to protect member clubs. The fundamental intention of the test – to protect member clubs and act in their best interests – should not be forgotten.
Since purchasing the club six months ago, Massimo Cellino has turned around Leeds United’s precarious financial position. Under his control, the club’s debt and operating expense have reduced. Leeds United have signed 15 players – many of whom seem to be extremely talented and don’t demand the high salaries that can often force clubs into administration. For the first time since the turn of the century, Leeds United’s finances seem to be under control.
The dire financial situation which Cellino inherited was caused by the mismanagement of the two previous owners who both passed your Fit & Proper test – namely Ken Bates and GFH Capital.
Massimo Cellino has invested a lot of money in Leeds United – initially through his purchase and then through subsequent investment. In all probability, if you force him out now, Leeds United would, again, be facing administration. Forcing Cellino out of Leeds United is not in the best interests of one of your member football clubs and would in fact, be very damaging indeed.
The Owner’s & Director’s test is particularly valid prior to an owner taking over a club. However, the same critera should not apply after ownership has begun. In many circumstances, removing the owner could cause harm and instability to a member football club. A new set of guidelines which monitor how the club is actually being run would offer much more insight into determining if the owner or director is fit and proper to run the football club.
Cellino is now a major part of Leeds United. He has owned the club for six months. He has made large contributions, both on and off the field, and many of the fans are in support of the direction he is now attempting to take the club. Cellino would not be prevented from becoming an owner or director of any other business in the UK. Considering Cellino has owned Leeds United for six months already, an examination of the financial statements in the periods before and after his takeover would enable you to better judge his ability to control the football club. Forming an opinion based on his non-payment of import duty on a boat in Italy in 2012 is now inappropriate.
Please remember that your responsibility is to act in the best interests of Leeds United and to protect the club from being controlled by someone who might mismanage it. This needs to be the most important factor in your consideration of this matter. Do you now genuinely believe that Cellino will not manage Leeds United in its best interests? Are you just desperately seeking to find him dishonest so you can block him for some other reason? We sincerely hope that Shaun Harvey’s relationship with Ken Bates along with Ken Bates apparent desire to regain control of the club is not a factor in your decision.
Everyone signing this petition is requesting that you allow common sense to prevail and that you drop your pursuit of Cellino, attempting to force him out of Leeds United. Please also take some responsibility for allowing GFH and Ken Bates to purchase Leeds United and control the club for too many years. The club and its fans have suffered greatly under the control of previous owners and directors.
We would like to bring your attention to your charter which states that ‘The Football League is committed to providing excellent service to its stakeholders and club supporters. The League is a listening organisation, which aims to be open and fair in its dealings with all persons representing the interests of the game.’
With the above in mind we strongly request that you act in the best interests of Leeds United Football Club and release a statement confirming that you agree that forcing Massimo Cellino out of Leeds United would not be acting in the club’s best interests; and that you will continue to monitor the situation with respect to any future foul play, as you would any other member club.”
Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything is happy to support this petition – and to campaign for an end for the interference by the Football League in the internal affairs of their premier member club. I hope that anybody who reads this article will be prepared to support this as well – and also to help spread the word by sharing this as widely as possible.
Please get involved – please help. Leeds United is your club, so do your bit to make sure the idiots and buffoons of the League aren’t allowed to destroy it.