Tag Archives: Owen Oyston

Different Rules Apply for the Damned United and the Blessed Man U – by Rob Atkinson

Damned United

The title of this blog is, of course, an exercise in the bleedin’ obvious. We all know only too well that there is a Damned United and a Blessed United. The media in this country drew that distinction long ago – the Damned shall be portrayed at all times in the harshest possible light, whilst for the Blessed, it shall be all soft focus, moonlight and roses, to a background of sweet music. So mote it be.

That’s what the media do, of course. They need their standby heroes and their polar opposite reliable villains; shades of grey are a little too subtle for their target audience. The public they’re catering to is, for the most part, easily led and uncritical. Thinking is not the occupation of choice for most of that vast audience out there so, OK – the papers and the broadcast media will do the thinking, and they’ll tell the people what to think.  The pity of it is that the people who actually run the game in this country go along so easily, all unprotesting, with the clichéd template used by those making the editorial decisions.

The vast difference in the treatment by the authorities of their perennial villains and their cherished angels has been illustrated yet again, in sharp focus, over recent weeks. At nasty, naughty Leeds United, they are 101 days into the reign of Massimo Cellino – or “Convicted Fraudster Massimo Cellino” as the gutter Red Tops like to refer to him. It’s been an interesting time at Elland Road, to say the least. Cellino has gone through the place like a dose of salts, employing the kind of hands-on approach that would put even a full-contact masseur to shame. Dead wood has been cut out, there has been a detailed inventory of the club at all levels, malign influences have been neutralised – even the secret cameras in the bogs and the boardroom have been binned. Now, the new Don of Elland Road is embarking upon a player recruitment campaign in the wake of mugging Fulham FC out of £11 million for a flash-in-the-pan, disinterested and somewhat stroppy Scottish striker.

Many are now saying that Signor Cellino is the best thing to hit LS11 in several decades – yet this is the man the Football League were determined to bar from any involvement in Leeds United, preferring to leave our ailing club to the tender mercies of GFH Capital, whose erstwhile football CEO now languishes in a Dubai jail.  The League did their level best to hound Cellino from these shores, even as they turned a blind eye and cocked a deaf ear to some fairly horrendous wrongdoings elsewhere.  So Blackpool’s rapist director was left unmolested, and Birmingham’s jailed money-launderer was spared any undue attention – but Cellino was pursued with unseemly vigour by the spiteful old men of Preston, Lancashire. Fortunately, the Italian’s legal team knew far too much for the superannuated dolts of the League and he was able to take charge of a football club that sorely needed him, with results we are now beginning to see. But official resentment over that judicial defeat still simmers – and they’ll be out to get Big Mass, if they possibly can.

Meanwhile, over there on the wrong side of the Pennines, an even hotter resentment curdles still over the surprisingly stiff start to last season’s League programme for football’s darlings The Pride of Devon, the one and only Mighty Manchester United themselves.  As I wrote on October 6th last, Man U were positively seething about the relatively difficult early fixtures and – naturally – they complained loud and long, which is what they always do. My satirical spin on the matter was that the League would – equally naturally – lean over backwards to redress the balance for football’s most petulant club. Well, it turned out that I was actually a bit of a prophet, even though I thought I was merely poking fun.

This year’s opening fixtures for the Pride of Devon, you see, are a model of discreet gentleness, an opening six games designed to give Wapping’s Wondermen a maximum 18 out of 18 points fillip to get their season off to just the right start.  Man U face all three promoted teams in that initial phase of the season – Burnley, QPR and Leicester, together with Sunderland, West Ham, and Swansea – not one game against a team finishing in the top half last season. Now, what are the odds on that?? Is there a mathematician in the house??

Clearly, last season’s awkward start still rankles with somebody from the Theatre of Hollow Myths, and it has been made expressly clear that such a thing is not to happen again. True to form, the game’s so-called “ruling body” has rolled over onto its back, legs akimbo, and begged those nice people at Man U to have their way with it. There’s the standard stench of hypocrisy and favouritism about the whole thing, and absolutely no dignity, decency or integrity at all.  Plus ça change… 

The fact is, of course, that for all this breast-beating about how they get the kid-glove treatment, whilst we get the spiky knuckledusters – we probably wouldn’t want it any other way.  I mean – really – would we?  Do you fancy supporting a club that gets everything handed to them on a plate? A club that is open to accusations of crass ineptitude in any season where they don’t win absolutely everything? Not for me, thanks.

By the same token, there’s a kind of perverse satisfaction in supporting a team hated by the country’s media – swill-gobbling hacks to a man that they are – as well as by the supposed great and good in the corridors of power. For goodness sake, just look at these people – they quite literally do not have a clue. Would we even want the support and succour of such a bunch of muppets? I would respectfully submit: no, we most certainly would not. Leave that kind of patronage to Man U and their global throng of armchair supporters, their vast markets of tat-buying dunderheads from Torquay to Singapore. They know no better, they are not equipped to make judgements as to what is and what is not desirable in terms of who their “friends” are – however highly-placed.

No – this blog is quite clear in its own only slightly bitter and cynical mind; Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything would rather see our heroes in white tread the hard road than have everything smoothed over and made easy. It’s a question of self-respect and good taste, don’t you know. The only important thing is that these people should not think we’re sitting here all content, the wool pulled firmly over our eyes. We are not. We know exactly what is going on and, even if the Pride of Devon’s easy start and expected 18-point haul from their opening six games should gain them another unmerited title – we will know how it’s been accomplished. We’ll be watching the referees’ performances with our usual beady eye and, when we’re not fuming over the injustices perpetrated upon the Damned United, we’ll be pointing an accusing finger at every dodgy penalty and offside goal enjoyed by the despicable Chosen Ones.

So just think on. We’re onto you, and we know what you’re all about there, in your ivory towers. Watch it, that’s all. Just – watch it.

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Welcome to Elland Road, Blackpool AND Their ‘Fit & Proper’ Rapist Owner – by Rob Atkinson

Blackpool director Oyston - guilty after every appeal, but "fit & proper"

Blackpool director Oyston – guilty after every appeal, but “fit & proper”

Massimo Cellino’s first home game as Leeds United owner throws up an interesting comparison, as – despite the recent appeal decision in his favour – the Italian remains under the shadow of Football League action at some point in the next few months.  The visitors, Blackpool, have as majority shareholder (and still registered as a director and therefore “fit and proper” in the eyes of the powers that be) convicted rapist Owen Oyston.  In a further twist of irony, Oyston’s son Karl sat on the Football League panel that shook its collective head, tut-tutted in righteous disapproval and sighed in a faintly scandalised fashion – as it ruled Cellino disqualified under its Owners and Directors rules, for import duty unpaid in Italy on an American yacht called Nélie.

Let’s start by exploding some myths.  There are those who now feel that, since Thursday, when the FL announced it was ratifying Cellino as a Leeds United director, there is nothing further to worry about.  This is manifestly untrue, and readers of that brief statement from the Football League will note the presence of giveaway words like “currently”.  There is no stick to beat Cellino with at present – but the League are keeping their powder dry and believe me, they mean to get their man, as and when possible.  On Thursday, the League merely rubber-stamped Cellino’s current status as fit and proper, having no other choice.  He had been found not subject to the OaD disqualifications by a stage of the League’s own process and – for now – that’s it.  But if the Italian judge in the Nélie case, Dr Sandra Lepore, in her reasoned judgement, were to impute dishonesty against Cellino, then he had better watch out again.  Fortunately, he has some decent lawyers and what looks like a sound defence.

So, that’s the “Massimo is now safe from the League” myth dealt with.  Now – what about Oyston?  Here we have a convicted rapist who apparently causes the Football League no qualms at all.  Ah, but – I hear you say – that conviction was ages ago and it’s “spent” now – so it’s not fair to say that the Football League are being unfair in a comparative sense.  The problem with that argument is that it is factually incorrect.  Oyston was found guilty of rape – a foul and horrible crime against the person – and sentenced to 6 years in prison.  He actually served three years and six months,  The rules relating to how convictions become “spent” – i.e. when they do not have to be disclosed in most circumstances and so become less restrictive in terms of professional status etc – are made under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (ROA).  In Oyston’s case, it is entirely clear that his offence will never become spent, as he was sentenced to (and actually served) over two and a half years.  The other limb of the League’s Owners & Directors test relates to “dishonesty” – and it is this provision that threatens to snare our Massimo.  As for Oyston – if it is to be argued that rape is not a dishonest act, then surely what should really be on trial here is the set of regulations that permits such a grotesque result in the first place.  Can you really have an “honest” rapist??

Given that the League – which argued its case in front of Tim Kerr QC with unprecedented zeal and was not above the odd dodgy trick either – seem determined to “get” Cellino, then why, we are surely justified in asking, do they not display a similar determination to rid themselves of a character like Oyston?  And yet that question never arises, except in this and other blogs who seem to feel there’s a blatant contradiction here.

Is it because Oyston was convicted before the Owners and Directors rules were laid down?  That dog won’t bite, I’m afraid.  One of the salient points to emerge from the Cellino appeal was that the OaD rules are on-going in their application.  In other words, should any owner or director be found to rest within the scope of disqualification at any time, then the League can consider that person under OaD – and act accordingly.  So, after all that – why is there no action against Oyston?  And why, on the other hand, is there such a remorseless determination to exclude Cellino?

Some will point out that Oyston has always maintained his innocence and has persisted with all possible avenues of appeal.  As regards his protestations – well, to paraphrase Mandy Rice-Davies in the Profumo case, “he would say that, wouldn’t he?”  The appeal options have availed Oyston naught.  He lost in the Court of Appeal and he lost again at the European Court of Human Rights, which held that his appeal was “manifestly ill-founded”.  Given all of that, the Football League would appear on the face of it to have some explaining to do, as to why they continue blithely to ignore the fact that they are, in effect, nurturing a rapist viper in the bosom of their “football family”.

As Blackpool visit Leeds United on Saturday, the two contradictory sides of this whole issue are brought into close contact, whether both parties are actually present at the match or not.  The more that Leeds United fans get to know Massimo Cellino, the more warmly he is regarded.  His deeds in the short period of his control have more than matched the words he uttered beforehand.  He has cleared off at least two debts that could have led to Leeds United being wound-up and going to the wall (whether in their heart of hearts the League mandarins consider this to be A Good Thing will probably remain moot).  But Cellino is undeniably acting as a fit and proper owner should, in protecting the best interests of his club.  Our various owners in recent history have signally failed to do this; indeed the newly released financial results for the most recent period available cast severe doubt on the fitness of GFH to run a piss-up in a brewery, never mind a leading football club.  Which begs more questions: why were the Football League not more diligent in investigating GFH? Or Ken Bates?  Why pursue the one man who is ready, willing and able – through his own resources – to steer Leeds United away from crisis?

The Football League, instead of sulking about their appeal defeat, need to look at this whole picture – including some of the dubious characters currently infesting boardrooms up and down the land.  They need to be very sure that they are pursuing rectitude and not a vendetta.  The upshot should be that they act fairly – and are seen to be acting fairly.  It might seem, on the face of it, rather unfair to drag Oyston’s name into all of this, when he’s served his time and so on.  But it’s the League who have to carry the can for that as well, in allowing such seemingly blatant contradictions to persist.  They have hung Mr Oyston out to dry, simply by giving the appearance of leaving him – a convicted rapist and guilty under the law of a foul and disgusting crime – in undisturbed peace, whilst harassing Cellino at every turn as he tries to do thousands of people a good turn by saving their beloved football club.

It simply doesn’t add up, and the Football League would appear to be bang to rights on the most glaring double standards rap you could possibly imagine.  I hope that these arguments can eventually be put directly to a responsible person in the League – perhaps by a Leeds area MP willing to take up cudgels on the club’s behalf.  And I hope we get some answers because – again, on the face of it – Leeds United could very well lose their saviour in the next few months, under the least transparent and most unfair set of circumstances imaginable.

Do these arrogant, faceless people really imagine that we’re going to tolerate that?