Tag Archives: Eleonora Sport Ltd

Whatsamatter You, Haigh? Gotta No Respect? – by Rob Atkinson

Massimo Cellino

Massimo Cellino

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).

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Haigh – a deeply dodgy past?

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.

Leeds United's chief executive, David HaighFirst 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.

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Leeds United Dream Ticket Talks “Very Productive” – by Rob Atkinson

Leeds United's only current asset

Leeds United’s only current asset

An unfamiliar word threatens to gain some currency in the English language: “supersortium“.  As words go, it’s a bit of an ugly duckling.  There are a few too many syllables for the liking of certain football supporters, particularly those of a Barnsley or Millwall persuasion – and it doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue.  But, for Leeds United fans, the one remaining tangible asset of a failing football club – this strange word may just herald the dawn of a whole new era at Elland Road.  And boy, oh boy – do we ever need one of those.

The supersortium is, of course, really just a common or garden consortium – only bigger.  In the case of Leeds United, it’s what you get when you take one hopeful bunch of guys with some nice ideas but a charming vagueness as to how much hard cash they have, and add a likeable lunatic of an Italian with family wealth of well into ten figures and a comfortable annual income not unadjacent to €200m.  The revelation that Mike Farnan’s Together Leeds Group have been enjoying “very positive” talks with Massimo Cellino has taken some of the attention away from the fact that the Italian’s appeal verdict is set to be revealed very shortly.

Cellino has been trying, via Eleonora Sport Ltd, to acquire a 75% stake in Leeds – but the Football League has decided that Massimo wouldn’t fit in too well with their collection of virtuous paragons, including rapists, money launderers, porn barons and other such innocent characters.  A barrister (a Chelsea fan, incidentally) has been considering the legalities of the matter – and his verdict is due any time now.

If the appeal is successful, then Cellino is presumably able to go ahead with Plan A and sort Leeds United out in his own unique fashion.  If he fails, though, he will surely be considering all options.  It may even be that a joint venture, with co-operation between Cellino and Together Leeds, is now the preferred option going forward.  From everything that we know – which is doubtless but a small fraction of the true facts – such a combined operation could be a very solid foundation for the re-launch of a healthier and happier United.

Events over the past few days – notably a highly irregular interview with an extremely tired and emotional Massimo – have caused a radical shift in opinion among the Leeds United support.  Where before there had been some guarded support for the Italian, now we appear to be entering the territory of mass adulation – the kind of thing that spawns tribute t-shirts and causes quotes to be circulated with approval from the gems of wisdom uttered by Cellino and relayed without his knowledge to an admiring world. It’s been a sea-change in the climate of support out there,  and now those who wish for him to fail and begone are distinctly in the minority.

The wisdom of Cellino

The wisdom of Cellino

This is understandable to anyone who has listened to Massimo’s tablets of wisdom, and his uninhibited style of self-expression. From that evidence, we appear to have on our hands a nutter in the best traditions of Leeds United; somebody who is a perfect fit for the club.  The fact is that, should it now turn out that we have to move on without Cellino, there will be many regrets among the Whites’ support.  And the feeling is unmistakably out there that, if this nutter, this profane retailer of fluent critique and homespun wisdom, were actually to end up approved – then a new United legend would be born from whom many memorable sound-bites would be forthcoming over what promises to be one hell of a ride ahead of us.

It may well be best all round if some sort of deal can be done between two parties that looked certain, until this latest remarkable development, to be engaged in a winner takes all tussle.  Co-operation between two parties, each with distinct and different benefits to bring to the table, looks likely to promise a brighter future for the football club we all love.  The presence of a maverick like Cellino could perhaps be tempered by the more considered approach of Farnon & Co.  Equally, the kind of institutional caution that characterises a group of sober-sides businessmen might well need the occasional spicing-up that an individual like the King of Corn could provide – not to mention the considerable factor of his immense wealth.

Thursday promises to be a landmark day, with the QC due to hand down his decision.  But, whichever way that goes, the whole matter is likely to take a few more twists and turns yet, before the future of Leeds United becomes at all clear.  The question still remains right now as to whether or not Leeds United actually has a feasible future.  For the time being, it is extremely encouraging to hear that there is dialogue between two supposedly competing parties, and that their agenda consists of the establishment of some security and future for Leeds, with the avoidance of administration an absolute priority. Surely, nobody with the interests of United at heart could possibly argue with the common sense and essential rightness of that.

Marching On Together.  It has a certain ring to it, don’t you think?

Football League Attitude to Leeds Still Tainted by Hardaker’s Hatred of Revie – by Rob Atkinson

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Shaun Harvey and his fellow Leeds-haters at the FL

Here we are, then. The deal is all but done.  Save only for what should really be the formality of Football League approval, Massimo Cellino is the new owner of Leeds United, having purchased a 75% stake in the club, the remaining 25% remaining in the hands of GFH and their various investors. A fairly complex management structure will be in place, seeing Haigh and Nooruddin retain executive positions, something that Cellino himself has at least initially set aside in favour of the non-executive President’s role.  But there is absolutely no doubt at all wherein resides the power behind the throne; Cellino has promised to re-purchase the Elland Road stadium and move to Yorkshire – he also intends to take the same hands-on approach to player recruitment as he took at Cagliari. How all this will pan out in practice remains to be seen.  The proof of the Yorkshire Pudding will be in the eating.

So, what of this Football League “formality”?  Well, guess what.  It now seems likely to be spun out for as long as those men in suits can feasibly manage.  On the face of it, neither Cellino’s existing convictions, regarded as “spent” under English law, nor his pending prosecution for embezzlement (innocent until proven otherwise) can currently be counted against him.  In the absence of any other apparent issues, the Football League (under their own tightly-defined rules) would seem to have little option other than to rubber-stamp this takeover.  But when this august body finally commented on the matter earlier on the Friday before the weekend of the Yeovil game, it was only to say that they required further information from Cellino and from GFH.  Until this information was forthcoming, it concluded tersely, the matter would not be progressed.  Oh, and you can’t have that Italian lad Tabanelli on loan either – it was all done against the rules. Oh dear, how sad, tough.

So, what should be a simple matter will drag on, it seems, for at least another week.  Meanwhile, the financial situation at Leeds United is becoming steadily clearer and the picture being painted is not a pretty one. It would seem that, until the eventual approval of our Italian saviour, we do not have the proverbial pot in which to do the proverbial.  It’s so hard to dismiss the image of pasty little men in grey suits rubbing their hands in glee over the way in which they have been able to prolong the discomfort of a club they have long treated as a pariah compared to the rest of the “football family”.  In this, they are acting very much in line with what the late unlamented Alan Hardaker, Football League Secretary back in the day, would have wanted and approved.

Alan Hardaker was a failed footballer turned successful bureaucrat, exhibiting the kind of pettifogging regard for rules and regulations, to the exclusion of common sense, observed in many such grey and rigid little men.  Once he had taken a dislike to United manager Don Revie – and admittedly, it was mutual – he seemed to allow this emotion to colour all of his dealings with Yorkshire’s premier club.  Decisions were made which seem utterly extraordinary now – the requirement to play a title decider 48 hours after the Cup Final win in 1972 stands out, but that frankly bizarre decision was no isolated example of official intransigence.  Hardaker was usually outspoken in defence of his position, leaning over backwards to justify himself whilst, in the same breath, explaining how the disputes were all Revie’s fault anyway.  He described the United boss as ” totally ruthless, selfish, devious and prepared to cut corners to get his own way”, stating also that “As secretary of the Football League I often found Don Revie, as the manager of Leeds United, to be a pain in the neck”.  In the light of such comments, it is no surprise that Leeds were usually lacking for friends in high places.  Their pursuit of every honour in the game left them in need of some breathing-space and consideration now and again – but none was to be had under Hardaker and this played a large part in United’s fate of being seen as always the bridesmaids, never the brides.

The late Alan Hardaker

The late Alan Hardaker

Alan Hardaker has been dead for almost 34 years now, but his memory is honoured in the eyes of Leeds-haters everywhere, every time an official decision is taken to the detriment of that much-maligned club.  Brian Mawhinney, loathsome Tory and willing tormentor of Leeds over the “Minus 15” debacle, was a worthy successor to the Hardaker legacy.  Now we have Shaun Harvey in the box seat, former Bates poodle and hardly free of prejudice where the interests of Leeds United are concerned.  Hardaker would be proud of them both; nobody standing at his graveside would be able to detect the sound of any spinning going on down there. Hull-born, Hardaker openly hated Don Revie’s Leeds United – and that rancid sentiment tainted all of his dealings with the club whilst he was in office. The current incumbents are rather less vocal than the late Alan, it must be said.  Brian Mawhinney, for instance, was much given to weasel words about Leeds being a valued member of the football family – but the underlying attitudes haven’t changed noticeably, as was demonstrated in the saga which developed around the 15 point deduction which – only just – managed to keep United back in League One after that first season, to the undeserved benefit of Nottingham Forest who copped fur a promotion they’d failed by some distance to merit on the field.  To this day, apparently, the Football League will still do Leeds United a bad turn if they possibly can.

It will be very interesting to see which way the League do eventually jump. Any decision to reject Cellino would seem hard to justify under the rules as they exist – but you get the feeling that, the more Leeds fans have realised they have a possible new era of financial muscle and security in prospect, the less keen those little grey men have been to give the deal that final seal of approval.  A week earlier, it all looked different; angry Leeds fanatics were horrified at the prospect of Cellino, barricading him inside Elland Road and seeing off all attempts at rescue. At that point, the Hardaker thing to do would have been to approve the Italian immediately.  Now, the Football League quite possibly perceive a dilemma.  How best to serve the worst interests of Leeds United??

It may be that I’m just being paranoid – but remember, that’s the natural psychological state of any Leeds fan of long service.  If you know yer history, you’ll be able to point to many instances where the game has dealt United a disgustingly scurvy hand.  So really, it’s no wonder we’re bleedin’ paranoid.  But for me at least, the suspicion won’t go away that somebody, somewhere is looking to see what spanners they can throw in the works of a deal that looks more and more likely to be Leeds United’s best hope of progress onwards and upwards. Indeed, given the parlous nature of matters as they stand, with the club living hand-to-mouth and surviving on ad hoc loans, Cellino may even be the only chance of the club surviving in a form recognisable to its legions of fans worldwide.  It could just be that serious. We’ll simply have to keep our fingers crossed that the next week can finally see things confirmed, letting us get on at long last with daring to dream and celebrating the purchase of our beloved Elland Road.

So come on, you Football League suits, get your finger out and do the right thing – if only to prove to me that all my dark suspicions have been groundless and that you really are an impartial and benevolent ruling authority with the best interests of ALL its members at heart.  Stand up, Shaun Harvey, and prove you’re a better man than you appeared when you were yapping obedience to Ken Bates. Let us start dreaming our dreams and debating whether or not we really want del Piero.  Can you actually show us, Shaun, that you have some atom of integrity after all?

I really, really hope so.  The sooner old Hardaker is angrily spinning away in his grave, the happier I and many thousands more Leeds United fans shall be.