Tag Archives: Fit and proper test

Football League in “Cellino Not Crooked Enough” Admission – by Rob Atkinson

Image

Sh**n H*rv*y

In an uncharacteristic burst of frankness and honesty, a highly-placed source at the Football League has freely admitted that the problem they have with Massimo Cellino, shortly due to have an appeal heard against his banning as Leeds United owner, is that he’s “just that bit too honest and successful” for what the League see as ideal Leeds United ownership material. Sh**n H*rv*y (name disguised to protect the guilty) told a Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything reporter last night, “Signor Cellino isn’t really what we’re looking for in the case of Leeds United. He’s had a couple of convictions, but they’re really not all that promising – one quashed and the other soon to be “spent” under English law. There’s talk of an embezzlement rap, but – you know – we had the ideal man in there for a decade, he was set fair to ruin Leeds as who knows better than me? And now they’re looking at someone with real money?  No, it’s not what the League are looking for, it’s not what the Football Family are looking for.”

Pressed on the FL requirements for approval, Mr. H*rv*y revealed, “We’re looking for the kind of man who would get in there and start upsetting people. The League feel that they have a responsibility to the memory of the late, great Alan Hardaker here.  He set the standard for hating Leeds, a standard which, as an institution, we hold dear – one we’re very proud of. What we’re really after is someone like Mr Tan down at Cardiff – imagine if he had gone up to Leeds and had them playing in red!  Even dear old Ken never dared try that.”  Our reporter asked about other owners who had received approval without too much fuss and bother, citing the porn barons who control West Ham, people with Russian mafia connections who are doing very well in West London and various other members of what is known as the “Well Dodgy Geezers Club” including rapists and money-launderers.  Again, our League spokesman was very clear about this:

“It’s a matter of choosing the best man for a particular job.  You’re quite right in saying that Cellino is squeaky clean compared to certain other football owners – but we have to do something to stretch this out.  Cellino is seriously rich, and there’s a very real fear out there that Leeds United could enter an extremely successful period unless we’re very, very careful.  That’s happened before, on more than one occasion, and it’s not something our members like, it’s not something 99.9% of the fans out there want to see happening.  Because don’t forget – once they’re up, there’s nothing much we of the Football League can do, with dodgy refs and the like, to prevent them being successful. Mr Tinkler has been retired a long time, after all! As a responsible governing body, we just have to get this right for the many – and not just look at the selfish interests of one deeply unpopular club.”

So, what’s actually going to happen?  Mr H*rv*y smiled, winked, tapped his nose conspiratorially and told us that the League are happy to play a long game here. “We know that Leeds are financially stretched again just now, and our utterly brilliant transfer embargo will put the bite on their squad plans – not to mention this pesky £20 million capital injection.  Let’s just spin it out and see what happens. Our back-room staff have dug out all of the legal documentation surrounding that whole minus fifteen points thing, and we’re ready to go again at the drop of a hat.” He chuckled, ever so slightly maliciously. “I’m really hopeful that, if Leeds do get out of the Championship, it’ll be in the ‘down’ direction – not ‘up’. And then – well, it’s game on, isn’t it!!”

Our reporter gently pointed out that Mr Cellino appeared perfectly willing to keep guiding the club through any short-term difficulties even while his appeal was pending, and that there was even talk of high-profile loan signings with a view to securing Championship survival and pushing on next year. “You bloody what!?” bellowed an exasperated Chief Executive. “Well, that’s bloody torn it, hasn’t it? So what about poor old Millwall and Blackpool, eh?? Back to the drawing board, then.  Christ all bloody mighty….!!”

The League later contacted us by phone, asking us not to take Mr H*rv*y’s statement to us, as above, too literally.  “He’s been working hard on this, and things had been going extremely well, or so we’d thought.  Sh**n had put away a couple of shandies when he spoke to you, and this has possibly led to him – ahem – quoting himself out of context.  The Football League do not hate Leeds United, who are a very valuable part of the Football Family. We will continue to do everything possible to expedite this ownership appeal situation, and we hope to have a further, definitive statement sometime before the end of next season.”

Brian Mawhinney is 94.

Advertisements

Cover Your Goolies, Lads! Lash Lorimer is Back on the Ball – by Rob Atkinson

90 miles an hour

90 miles an hour

One of the most distressing things about being a Leeds United fan over the past decade or so has been to witness former heroes not exactly covering themselves in glory as, one after another, they’ve been wheeled out by local and national media to give their opinions or reactions to the ups and downs of the roller-coaster Elland Road soap opera. Even erstwhile midfield maestro Johnny Giles was at it recently, venturing into print to savage the man many see as Leeds United’s saviour, Massimo Cellino.

But perhaps the biggest let-down was the apparent disintegration of the legend that was Peter Lorimer as he seemed to be reduced from his godlike status as Mr Ninety Miles per Hour into a yes man for the then chairman and despot Ken Bates. However angry the fans got over Bates and his loathsome little tricks, Lorimer always seemed to be there, trying to pour oil on troubled waters, seeking to portray Bates as a positive factor around LS11. We weren’t fooled, and Lorimer’s pedestal crumbled into dust as he was perceived more and more as Papa Smurf’s creature.

And yet today, we have had the clearest sign to date that maybe Lash is back to something like his old form, blasting howitzer-like missiles at our enemies rather than attempting to persuade folk of Ken’s essential cuddliness. Lorimer’s article in Thursday’s Yorkshire Evening Post showed an appreciation of the fears so many Leeds fans feel at this latest crass decision by the Football League buffoons against il Presidente Cellino. The piece is full of good sense and, in a very welcome return to the old-style Leeds United siege complex, Lorimer also reflects on the historical fact that the League have taken every opportunity over the past half-century to berate, impede and generally get in the way of the Elland Road club. Peter certainly doesn’t pull his punches whatever the target, and more than one rocket shot is directed at the very vitals of those bastions of the Press who seem to have it in for the Whites.

Lorimer makes it clear that he has no time for any part of the Fourth Estate with its knife into Leeds. “For many years now,” says Lash, “I’ve refused to buy certain newspapers because in my opinion, they push an anti-Leeds agenda. They seem to take great joy for having a go at us. I’m not naming names but I think they know who they are.” I think we all do, Lash.

The former Leeds hero is clear in his own mind that Big Mass will not be taking the League’s machinations lying down. “Knowing what I do about the man, I expect Massimo to fight this move. I don’t see him walking away – not least because whatever happens, he’s allowed to regain control of the club in March. I think it’s safe to say that he’s finding out that Leeds aren’t the most popular club in the world (away from their own supporters, of course) and he must be pretty bemused by the negative attention we get.” This is classic stuff, the sort of opinionated stance you might expect from any committed Leeds fan, but all the more punchy and effective coming as it does from one of Revie’s Super Leeds Supermen. It’s the sort of thing, this blog would venture to suggest, that might well see an old hero’s reputation and status restored to him, and not before time. Lorimer is speaking for many, many United fans in this latest article; at long last he appears to be on the right side of the argument.

The Evening Post piece ends with our former Number 7 striking an ominous note for United. Reflecting on the decades-long struggle and war of attrition between Leeds and the game’s authorities, he concludes: “It was like this when I was a player and it never seems to change – when the opportunity to stick the boot in comes, there’s always someone waiting to take it. This time it’s the Football League’s turn.”

That’s a forbidding final phrase. But Lorimer may just have struck the first blow on behalf of our old heroes towards fighting back against those in the corridors of power who so devoutly wish to “stick the boot in”. The importance of a legend saying what the fanbase is thinking can hardly be over-stated. People listen; the fans feel vindicated; resistance and protest could thus be galvanised. A protest is planned for January 6th between 10 am and 12 noon outside the Football League offices in Preston. Several hundred Leeds fans are already promising to attend, Lancashire police are aware and media interest is growing. Who’s to say there won’t be a banner advertising the metaphorical shooting prowess of Peter “Lash” Lorimer at such an event?

After all, if the Cannonball Man himself really is back onside, then his could be a powerful voice raised against the pallid mandarins of the League who seem so arrogantly convinced of their own case, in defiance of all evidence to the contrary. Maybe it really is the Football League’s turn now; to suffer as Leeds United have suffered for a half a century. Cellino can be counted upon to put up firm resistance in his own style, the fans can be counted upon to stand behind him in numbers. Maybe now, at last, we can also rely upon the old guard, the old Leeds United heroes – and Peter Lorimer might just have lit the blue touchpaper on that particular rocket. It could with undeniable justice be aimed right up the self-satisfied backsides of those clueless gentlemen of the League.

Are you listening, Johnny Giles?

NB: Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything would like to make it clear to female readers and lady supporters of Leeds United everywhere that this article does not imply either disrespect or disregard for the proportion of the Leeds fanbase who lack the physical attribute of goolies. Goolies in this context should be taken in an entirely symbolic sense; please be assured that this blogger is 100% respectful of the women in the Leeds United family – and he certainly does not wish to get on your tits.

“Fit & Proper Test” Should NOT Apply to Leeds Chief Cellino – by Rob Atkinson

Cellino - here to stay

Cellino – here to stay

There are still rumblings of thwarted frustration emanating from the lair of the Football League’s assorted mandarins, buffoons and early-onset Alzheimer’s cases. The discontent surrounding this misbegotten cabal of power-mad crumblies dates from their humiliating reverse at the hands of Massimo Cellino’s legal team, as he successfully fought their original decision to bar him from owning Leeds United. The League, represented by ex-Leeds CEO and serial football disaster Shaun Harvey, as well as the son of convicted rapist Owen Oyston among other unsavoury characters, was forced to back down and rubber-stamp Cellino’s acquisition of Leeds, amid much grumbling and ill grace. It was always likely that, given the opportunity, they would return to stalk their quarry once again.

The persistent niggle which may yet afford that opportunity is the mention by the appeal judge of a possible imputation of dishonesty against Cellino when the full decision of the Italian court became available. This, he remarked, could once again leave Cellino open to disqualification under what is loosely known as the “Fit and Proper Test”. Rumours now abound that Sandra Lepore, the Italian judge in the Nélie tax avoidance case, has indeed found that our Massimo was more than merely naughty and misguided in his import duty dealings. Massimo’s legal men have been mobilised once more, declaring that the judgement is full of holes and that an appeal is inevitable. Meanwhile, the hapless oafs at the League have been unable to get a look at the alleged full judgement and have even had to resort to asking Cellino’s own lawyer for a copy. As if this mess were not messy enough, another court case is pending against Big Mass, so a further sullying of his reputation is not impossible – probably not even unlikely.

So, where does all this leave Massimo Cellino and his future as absolute ruler at Elland Road? Bang to rights, some would say. He’s been called dishonest, and the fit and proper test exists to exclude dishonest types (though not, apparently, convicted rapists). So, technically at least, Cellino could be held to account once again and ultimately forced to sell Leeds United, with all the enormously toxic fallout that situation would carry along with it. In reality, of course, things are unlikely to be so straightforward.

The most important consideration here and now is that Cellino is installed in LS11, that he is making all the decisions, for good or ill – and that he has already wrought enormous changes at Yorkshire’s premier club, with much, much more change in the pipeline. That much is indisputable fact. The ongoing revolution promises, but is not limited to, the repurchase of the Elland Road stadium, and its subsequent redevelopment, the building of a new training complex much closer to the club, the continuing reorganisation of the football side of things including transfer policy and, for all we know, the ongoing hiring and firing of several more coaches before Christmas (although plainly we’re not one of those awful Watford-type clubs that have already had half-a-dozen managers since August…)

It is the undeniable fact of Massimo being the man in possession that is crucial here. The “Fit and Proper Test”, by its own exacting conditions, is clearly intended to be a fail-safe tool whereby prospective owners and directors may be assessed ahead of assuming control, in the absence of any opportunity to see how they shape up in action. By that reckoning, Cellino should already be beyond the scope of such a precautionary measure. He has been in situ and extremely active – with a high degree of success, it must be said – for a good few months now. The financial state of the Football League’s most illustrious member club has been improved beyond all recognition; the squad has been revamped courtesy of some rather effective recruitment and at least one thieves’ bargain of a sale. In short, Cellino has dispensed with the need for any pre-emptive, anticipatory “Fit and Proper Test”, by the simple expedient of getting in and doing a fantastic job; he has shown that he is a fit and proper owner of Leeds United by dragging the club up by its bootstraps and improving things enormously, in a relatively short space of time. The future now looks bright for the Whites.

Whatever the technical ins and outs of the law, and of the poorly-drafted and incompetently-applied Football League test, it is this reality of the situation that is surely important now. Cellino has moved well beyond any need for “vetting”, an assessment before the fact of his suitability to own and run a Football League club. He has shown his competence and his enthusiasm – his passion for the job in hand. Leeds United today is a very different entity to the moribund hulk Cellino first walked into just a few months back, a club left half-dead by the year on year depredations of unscrupulous and self-serving men – not excluding the current League CEO. Cellino has almost single-handedly brought about that difference, by the force of his personality as much as by the not inconsiderable investment he has made in the club. There can be no more relevant and accurate assessment of fitness and propriety than this; the League’s pettifogging regulations have been transcended by fact and reality.

Should there now be a further attempt to oust Cellino, simply because a collection of prosaic paragraphs and sub-clauses says that there should be, then the interests of Leeds United and football in general would be extremely ill-served. The consequences would be as undesirable as they would be immense; a club of history and distinction could swiftly be reduced from its current state of rapidly recovering health, back onto the critical list, haemorrhaging money left, right and centre, tumbling down the league, with the Official Receiver once again licking his lips with relish. Is this what the Football League, with its implied duty of care, would wish for one of its member clubs? I ask you.

The answer to that last question could well be yes, as many a Leeds fan, pointing to the lessons of history and the various injustices heaped upon their beloved Whites, might gloomily agree. We will have to wait and see what the League, in their extremely finite wisdom, decide to do. But they need to tread carefully, lest they be open to charges of malice, bringing down disaster upon a national institution – just because they technically, possibly, can.

The situation at Leeds today is crystal clear. Massimo Cellino is in charge and he’s doing a good job. Massimo Cellino is proven to be a fit and proper Football League club owner, not least in the context of certain gentlemen who quite clearly aren’t, but who – bizarrely – are not being held to account.

Look at the real-life situation, Harvey & Co, and have a care. You can’t afford to look any more ridiculous than you already do, in the light of recent rather unwise public statements. Exercise a little discretion and leave well alone. Leave United alone. Cellino and Leeds are on the up. Let them get on with it.