Throughout history, a tragically large fund of human ingenuity has been squandered on the age-old challenge of how best to inflict the longest, cruellest, most lingering death imaginable on those unfortunates deemed enemies. Whether that death might be brought about by fire, torture, evisceration, dismemberment or a dozen other grisly and barbaric methods, the zeal and enthusiasm of those inflicting the pain has generally known no bounds.
One particularly gruesome option available to Chinese practitioners back in the day was Lingchi – graphically described as “death by a thousand cuts”. This consists of a process whereby small portions of the victim’s anatomy are lopped off over an extended period of time, the art being to keep the subject alive and suffering for as long as possible before what would end up as a gratefully welcomed demise for whichever part remained of him.
With this in mind, and true to their historically malevolent attitude where Yorkshire’s finest is concerned, the Football League have typically creative plans for Leeds United. It is indeed a modern take on the long, drawn-out horror story of Lingchi that these benevolent gentlemen have opted to visit upon the most prominent member of their “football family”.
The League, you see, are on United’s case, and they’re not going to go away. Having temporarily got their man by imposing a ban on Massimo Cellino that will keep him away from Leeds United until his so-called Italian conviction is deemed “spent” under English law, the not-so-honest burghers of the game in this country now have an eye on impending legal cases. What they must now hope for will be more convictions for the Corn King, wide boy, fraudster or saviour, however you wish to term Cellino. And then, they’ll pounce again – not because they must. But because they can.
All of this is quite apart from the question of whether or not Cellino is a positive for Leeds, which really is currently a moot point. On the one hand, you have to ask yourself where United might be had the Italian not breezed in just over a year ago. Up a certain creek without benefit of paddle, quite possibly. On the other hand, it’s been a chaotic twelve months, full of craziness and questionable decisions. Cellino cannot be said to have emerged smelling of roses, not quite. But the argument as to his suitability for the ownership of Leeds United has been obscured by outside events. He simply hasn’t had the chance to prove himself one way or the other.
Wherever you might stand on Cellino’s effect on the club, good, bad or indifferent – the instability and uncertainty imposed by forces from without cannot be underestimated. And it is this uncertainty and instability that the League seem determined to maintain, by constantly pulling the Leeds owner up, banning him when they can, harassing and hunting him. Meanwhile, elsewhere in the Championship, money-launderers and rapists carry on regardless, unmolested by Harvey and his cronies. This point is made often, addressed – never. The League complacently cock a deaf’un to any questions about the criminals at various of their clubs, and concentrate on the priority of getting Cellino, destabilising Leeds.
Instability at the top has a trickle-down effect on any organisation. At a professional football club, staff and players have to deal in the very fine margins that exist between success and failure. If a team is just a few percentage points below par, they have very little chance against well-prepared, highly motivated opposition. To ask a professional football club to conduct a league campaign in such a highly competitive environment, blighted by uncertainty and the lack of any continuity or stability, is like asking a marathon runner to complete the twenty-six miles in lead boots. The Football League will be well aware of this. What, then, can we deduce about their “duty of care” towards Leeds United? What does that mean to them? I know what I think.
If Leeds United do survive this season, retaining their Championship status, they will have done extraordinarily well, given the constraints applied from several quarters. But then, it all starts again – and we’ll be at the mercy of what happens in foreign courtrooms with the League determined to apply the letter of their Fit & Proper Test in Cellino’s case if not in any other. Wisdom, common sense even, if properly applied to the situation, would suggest that this test is for the vetting of prospective owners, not the harassment of those in situ. What could Cellino achieve if left to get on with the job, and no outside distractions other than some sort of hands-off monitoring? Isn’t that worth a try? What would Karl Oyston, Football League “Fit and Proper” arbiter and son of rapist and Blackpool FC stakeholder Owen, think of that? You’d have to ask him, and take your chances on which of his two faces might respond to the question.
There would seem to be no calm or peace ahead for Leeds, no period of grace, no chance to sit down and assess where they are with the job in hand. There is just the prospect of more chaos, more insecurity – more of the same, in fact. The Football League are not finished with Leeds yet, not by a long chalk. They have their knife in, deep between the club’s shoulder blades right now and they’re ready to twist it. And if they’re forced to withdraw that blade, they’ll be looking for the next opportunity to stab, and stab again. As often as they need to, for as long as it takes.
Lingchi. Death by a thousand cuts. That’s what Harvey and the Football League have planned for Leeds United. And right now, the smart money must be on those pallid gentlemen in suits finishing off our club for the foreseeable future.
For all the constant moaning about the FL….it is not going away. I actually think Mr Cellino has done us a good turn. Stability out of a degree of madness. However. Whilst I realise that the FL are a typical bunch of hypocrits they hold the whip hand. We need to work with them, not against. Unpalatable I know but I think M Cellino gets it?
But do you think the FL get it?? How do you work with someone who has a gun in your ribs?
No I dont think they get it at all Rob. A set of power p….ed autocrats with personal agendas that manifest themselves in decidedly dodgy decisions. E.g. the decision to remove M Cellino for a couple of months. But, we need to be cute. Political awareness. You can’t have an argument in an empty room. This neans that El President needs to be whiter than white.
Sadly, it’s not really tongue-in-cheek because there is an arguable case that a good deal of truth lies behind this article!
From reports on the FL’s introduction of the test, back in June 2004:
” Anyone who has been a Director of a club that has been in administration twice during a five-year period or a Director of two different clubs that have each gone into administration in a five-year period.”
Well, well… Since Shaun Harvey began his less-than-illustrious Leeds career in (you couldn’t make this up) June 2004 (!), after steering Bradford city into TWO administrations in May 2002 and Feb 2004.
Truth is, Mr Harvey would have clearly FAILED the Test, and should never have been allowed to be Director at Leeds United in 2007. Indeed, his previous business career in football probably qualified him for a cleaning job or maybe even matchday steward, but not the Chief Exec’s office and Boardroom. So logically, the Test was never applied to Shaun Harvey, whose THREE administrations clearly disqualified him from running the souvenir shop, let alone being CEO and Director.
Please note that the “SPENT” thing only applies to convictions for fraud or dishonesty, and NOT to administrations.
So how come Harvey escaped the Test from 2007 onwards, and thumbed his nose at it until he left us, only to apply it relentlessly and vigorously against the next LUFC majority owner?
Something about natural justice being denied, methinks M’Lud.
Point taken and well made.
It seams easy enough for the FL to get so called proof on European owners but what about owners from the Far East Middle east ect I don’t think they can. The countries they come from are all corrupt so to do a proper check to be a so called fit and proper owner flawed.
A frightening prophesy. You are spot on with your comments re the fit and proper persons test – if Big Mass did slip under the radar then that should be it. Leave him alone now and in the future. It is a test to see if they would grant him permission to buy the club. Permission was granted on appeal subject to the ruling from the Italian judge. Any further cases should have nothing to do with his ownership and having read your excellent piece I don’t think they will. The FL will probably charge Massimoses for withholding the information he will have had from the judges’ ruling – the leaked article in the press – but we will be left alone in future once this is cleared up. The bastards might give him another 12 month ban for withholding that information but then it will be clear sailing for the good ship Massimo!
Hope you’re right, but honestly doubt it.
The fit and proper test isn’t fit for purpose.
It doesn’t protect clubs from predatory asset stripping owners, as we can with what is currently happening at several clubs, including Blackpool, who’s chairman happens to be on the FL board.
What is needed is twice yearly checks on the books of clubs to make sure owners aren’t loading debt on the club to then use it as their personal piggy bank. What’s needed are rules around loan capital, consultancy fees to parent companies, agency kickbacks and a cap on excess profits.
Of course that would have ruled out our prior 3 administrations all of which smithers Harvey worked for.