Tag Archives: QC

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?

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Football League “In A Huff” As Cellino Finally Owns Leeds United – by Rob Atkinson

Massimo Cellino: from vincerò to "I win"

Massimo Cellino: from vincerò to “I win”

The Football League has said it is “disappointed” with QC Tim Kerr’s Massimo Cellino decision and will now “consider the findings”. The reality of the matter, however, is that the League are surely out of options for the time being, and will have to swallow the bitter pill of defeat.  From their point of view, this will involve the grudging acceptance of Cellino as Leeds United owner, something they clearly feel will lower the tone of their closed shop of club owners.  This comprises, as previously detailed, a convicted rapist, a jailed money-launderer and sundry other less-than-saintly characters.

The incongruity of those facts against the League’s determined and intransigent stance on Cellino – who, by comparison, is something of an angelic choirboy – does not appear to have occurred to the buffoons in the corridors of power.  Are they really that stupid, or is the apparent contradiction indicative of some Machiavellian policy of thwarting Leeds United?  There is much evidence to suggest that this is not mere paranoia; the League have inflicted harm on the Elland Road club at every possible opportunity over the last half century – a continuation of the policy pursued by the late and unlamented Alan Hardaker, confirmed Leeds and Revie hater. Mr Hardaker is presumably spinning in his grave right now; bad cess to him.

The news of Cellino’s stunning success, a tribute to the outstanding advocacy of his legal team, came hard on the heels of what will surely now be seen – in retrospect – as the most meaningless and painless defeat ever, at Wigan.  The performance of the team was better, with more effort and pride on display, as we had all wished on this anniversary of the despicable murders in Istanbul.  The only real downside was the paucity of attacking effect – but shortly after the game ended, it all ceased to matter.  Cellino is in, we have a fabulously wealthy owner of the kind of maverick personality which goes with Leeds and its fans like vino rosso goes with pasta. Monday is Day One of a new era for Leeds United and it seems certain that a very interesting ride is ahead of us all – to say the very least.

What we now have to beware of is the backlash of the Football League who, in their rage and grief, are hardly likely to look upon our beloved Whites with any less hatred and contempt than they have in the past.  We can expect no justice from the imbeciles who run the League; it must be a priority to climb out of it under our own steam at the earliest opportunity – and fall upon the tender mercies of the FA.

Meanwhile, defeat at Wigan behind us and irrelevant, we can afford ourselves some celebration and look forward to better times ahead.  No more grinding poverty, the energy-sapping affliction that seeps into the very soul over a period of time.  It’s a whole new mentality from here on in – no longer the tenants in hock to some faceless suits who control Elland Road stadium, no longer wondering if we can afford the latest dubious talent from League One.  For Leeds United and its devoted, deserving, unrivalled and amazing fans – it’s a whole new ball game from here on in.

For once in a very long while, we have taken on rigid authority and won. The Football League mandarins have been made to look the inept fools that they are – and I have no hesitation at all in saying to Shaun Harvey and his cronies: Up yours, get stuffed and sod off.

I mean that, of course, in the nicest possible way.

New Atomic Clock Will Signal QC Leeds Decision; But NOT Today – by Rob Atkinson

In science news, it has been announced today that a revolutionary, super-accurate atomic clock has been designed by the Public Institute of Standards & Technology (PIST).  The clock is so accurate that it could run continuously for 300 million years without ever straying from the precisely correct time.  As it is definitely envisaged that, sometime within this 300,000 millennia time-scale, a decision will be notified on the outcome of the Massimo Cellino appeal, Leeds United have decided to utilise the PIST clock for the timing of any such announcement.

A decision had been expected by 6pm on Friday evening, 4th April – but Twitter carried the news this morning that the deadline had been put back. No new decision time has been predicted, but Leeds officials are confident that news of Cellino’s appeal will be available at some point within the 300 million year operational period of the new clock.  A GFH spokesman commented “We are certain that this time window is reliable.  We’re a go-ahead club, and an atomic clock sends appropriate messages about accuracy and honesty.  So we’re going for PIST.  It just feels right.”

The barrister responsible for the decision, QC Tim “Juan” Kerr, is described as a thoughtful man who likes to get things right, no matter how long it takes to negotiate the legal complexities before him.  “It’s better to get it spot on than do a fast, but possibly shoddy job,” said the pedantic silk, slowly. “I’m prepared to cogitate for as long as it takes and, if necessary, my descendants will be willing and able to complete the job for me.”

The man at the centre of the whole saga, Massimo Cellino, would say only: “Sono disposto ad aspettare – almeno fino a quando il mondo smette di girare. Spero che i tifosi sono, anche. Siamo tutti Leeds, non siamo?”  Mike Farnan, of erstwhile competitors in the Leeds takeover, Together Leeds, indicated – after a brief interval on Google Translate – that he was in full agreement with this.

David Haigh is a son of a b***h, dangerous, a f***ing devil.  Allegedly.

Being Leeds: It’s Hoping for the Best but Always Expecting the Worst – by Rob Atkinson

Leeds United - up against loaded dice

Leeds United – up against loaded dice

As the calendar tips over onto Friday, April the 4th – the day a QC is due to hand down his decision on the appeal of Massimo Cellino against his disbarring as Leeds United owner – it’s hard not to reflect on the track record of Leeds as a club, whenever these crucial days come around.  By and large, it’s been a tale of frustrated hope and seemingly inevitable disappointment, whether you’re talking about Cup replays, Cup Finals, points deductions or the attempted over-turning of massive miscarriages of justice.

Justice always seems to frown on my club.  It even did so when it was most urgently sought: in the matter of two lads who travelled abroad to watch their team play in a UEFA Cup semi-final, and who never returned home. On Saturday it’s the fourteenth anniversary of the senseless murder in Istanbul of Chris Loftus and Kevin Speight – and justice has never really been served for that despicable act.  RIP lads – you’d be as disgusted as the rest of us with what’s been going on at the club you loved.

Beside such human tragedy and wanton waste of life, lesser matters of course pale into virtual insignificance.  Nevertheless, Leeds United have faced another confrontation with the arbiters of justice this week – and it may well be that yet another slap in the face is about to be administered, after an agonisingly long and drawn-out process which has been dragging on now, through various twists and turns, since well before Christmas.

It’s a saga that has dragged down what had seemed a reasonably promising season with it.  The Leeds of pre-Christmas had been doing alright, without pulling up too many trees; they seemed well-placed to kick on in the new year and maybe challenge for a long-awaited return to the top flight.  Wind forward a few short months, and the picture is radically different. Distracted – apparently – by off-field issues and worries over ownership and payment, the team has performed dismally against a backdrop of cowardly betrayal by GFH, United’s current, spineless owners.  Now we look over our shoulders fearfully at the relegation dogfight, rather than upwards in aspiration towards the play-off zone.  The pattern is remarkably similar to last year; the fans do their bit, pay through the nose – only to see their club’s campaign implode and peter out into embarrassing failure.

Historically, we should be used to having our hopes raised in expectations of glory, only to see those hopes turn to dust as bitter disappointment invariably claims us yet again.  Without going over the dreadful list of all those near-misses – just think of two European Finals ruined for us by bent referees, of domestic ambitions in the early seventies thwarted by intransigent and vindictive League officials (thanks, Mr Hardaker), of an official FA dinner breaking out into spontaneous applause as Leeds were beaten in the 1987 play-off final, of a Premier League referee raising his arms in triumph as the opposition scored against us in a match he was controlling.  And so on and so forth.  We really should know better, by now, than to expect anything more than bad news, the cold flash of shock and bitter let-downs time and time again.

As we await the Cellino verdict, we are again hoping for better times – and we yet again find our mood turning towards pessimism as we realise that – as ever – this one will probably go against us.  In the last day or so, a senior politician has been given a gentle rebuke for another expenses swindle, and Sunderland FC have escaped severe disciplinary action for fielding an ineligible player in five matches this season.  Yet it’s more than likely that Leeds will finally be denied their saviour over a matter of import duty on a yacht which amounts to a measly few hundred grand against Cellino’s wealth of over a billion – and yet this has been gleefully accepted as dishonesty rather than the oversight it quite possibly was.

More happily, it turns out, Massimo Cellino may well be far down the road of  perfecting a Plan B, in anticipation of a stolid refusal to accept him as Leeds owner.  It is now being suggested that he could join forces with erstwhile rivals Together Leeds and their front-man Mike Farnan, to remain in the picture as Leeds move into a new era.  By the time Friday finishes, it’s quite probable that we will have all of our hopes invested in this Plan B if – as history teaches us is almost certain – United get their hopes dashed in Court yet again.  Perhaps the powers that be are even now figuring out a way to nip this idea in the bud.  Paranoia?  Maybe, maybe not.

It does sound, after all, like the old story of a hard-done-by sports team shouting resentfully, “We wuz robbed!”  But when you look at the history of Leeds United – and at what tends to happen every time one of these crunch times comes around – it’s hard to escape the conclusion that we’re rolling with the dice loaded against us.  Inevitably, we end up disappointed, hopelessly crying foul to wilfully deaf ears. There’s no real reason to suppose that things will be any different this time around.  Disappointment and injustice.  It just goes with the Leeds United territory.

Could it really be different today?  By the time our demoralised team takes the field at Wigan on Saturday, we’ll most probably know.  Meanwhile, it’s fingers crossed for Cellino and Plan A.  Surely, one of these days, Leeds United will cop for an even break?  It might be today – stranger things have happened.

Just – you know – don’t hold your breath. 

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?

Twitter in “Happy Ending for Leeds” Rumours: Cellino IN?? – by Rob Atkinson

Shaun Harvey: rumoured to be bearer of glad tidings

Shaun Harvey: rumoured to be bearer of glad tidings

When you’re drowning, you clutch at straws.  So when a Facebook friend mentioned that she’d seen a hopeful-looking tweet from someone who is (apparently) a neighbour of Shaun Harvey and claims to have received his reassurance that all will be well for the takeover – well, I had to see more.

What I saw could be the usual Twitter rubbish, but it could (just) be true as well.  Harvey is reputed to have stated that the Football League has no interest in seeing Leeds United go into administration, and that Cellino’s takeover was always going to be approved as the best way forward for the club.  The Italian court case seems to have muddied the waters rather, and it was felt that a straightforward approval would detract from the credibility of the League’s Owners & Directors test.  So – the rumour runs – the League felt it advisable not simply to approve Cellino, but to wait for the appeal stage in the knowledge that approval would be forthcoming then.

Obviously, the question arises: what is Shaun Harvey doing shooting his mouth off to a neighbour, when the whole matter is effectively sub judice? That’s a good point, and I tend to agree with it.  However, this morsel of rumour seems to me to have enough going for it for me to at least pass on to the Leeds fans out there – who are doubtless chewing their nails down to the elbows worrying over what’s going to happen to our club. Any hint of good news is something I’d certainly want to hear – so I’m going out on a limb to do my bit to share it.

Don’t shoot the messenger, eh?

Happy Monday? It’s a Pivotal Day in Leeds United’s History – by Rob Atkinson

 

"Historic and Iconic" - Leeds United AFC

“Historic and Iconic” – Leeds United AFC

Forget March 2nd 1968, the day Leeds United won its first ever silverware, beating Arsenal at Wembley to lift the League Cup. Forget May 6th 1972 when, at the same venue, against the same opponents and by the same 1-0 score, United won their sole FA Cup. Forget, even, those three incredible days which saw the Whites hailed as the best in the land as our three Football League Championships were confirmed in 1969, 1974 and 1992.  All of those dates pale in comparison with the epochal significance of the legal fixture being played out in London tomorrow, March 31st 2014.  For tomorrow, it’s likely to be decided which of two well-defined paths Leeds United will be treading into the future.

On the one hand we have a signpost pointing upwards which says: possible fame and success, with a minted owner to put us on a par with those we should be emulating. On the other, there’s the signpost pointing downhill, with the equally unmistakable message: more of the same at best, with a distinct possibility of crisis and dissolution in the near future.  It’s not a choice Leeds United or their amazingly loyal and long-suffering fans are able to make for themselves.  We are all in the hands of the legal eagles as they fight it out over the technicality of whether or not the Football League were correct in saying that Massimo Cellino’s peccadilloes rule him out of fitness and propriety under their own test. Upon this technicality hangs the immediate, or short term – or even the whole future of a famous old club that has never been far from the headlines, for good reasons and bad.

A match-day commentator at Elland Road yesterday summed it up in one well-chosen phrase prior to kick-off against Doncaster Rovers.  Leeds, he said, should be mentioned in the same breath as the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool, Man U and Chelsea.  And so, of course, we should.  None of these clubs has more of a right than Leeds – and its magnificent support – to be fighting it out at the top table for the big prizes.  It’s ironic that such telling words should be spoken ahead of a league fixture – and a defeat – against little Donny Rovers.  That sums up the dire straits Leeds have been consigned to by bad leadership, self-interested owners and relentless ill-fortune.  Whatever may have been done wrong, whatever rules may have been broken in the name of Leeds United – it’s no fault of the fans.  And yet, time and again, it’s been the fans who have suffered – whilst the principals in the ongoing pantomime of LS11 have generally waxed fat and walked away happy when their particular final curtain has fallen.  A prime example of this is, of course, Shaun Harvey, CEO of the Football League and a man with a face in each camp, so to speak.  I wonder how he sleeps at night? Blissfully, I expect.

There are two constants in any football club, which transcend players, directors, administrators, League officials and even solicitors, barristers and judges.  One is the entity of the club itself, which in our case is now just five years shy of her 100th birthday.  Where will she be, what state of health will she be in, when that Centenary rolls around in 2019?

The other constant is, needless to say, the supporters.  Come rain, come hail, come snow, the supporters are always there. They were there to cheer on the Greatest Footballer in the World when John Charles plied his mighty trade at Elland Road.  They were there to support Don Revie’s nonpareil team of the sixties and seventies as they witnessed some of the finest football ever seen on the planet. They were there too when Wilko’s Warriors rose, like a Phoenix from the ashes, to swagger back into the big time as if they owned the place and end up, once again, on top of the pile.  And they’re here now, today, watching the dross currently being served up by a team weighed down with larger worries that what happens on the pitch – a team who, with a very few apparent exceptions, are preoccupied with where the next wage packet is coming from, and just how heavy or light will it be?

The supporters will be here in the future as well, whatever happens tomorrow. That is beyond doubt, save only for that nagging worry over the club’s very existence. Only the numbers of that indomitable band will remain open to any variation, depending upon which path we tread.  Any Leeds United fan will tell you what the club deserves – and it’s not more of the same grinding, morale-sapping poverty that we’ve been putting up with now for twelve long and dreary years. Leeds United and their supporters – especially their supporters – deserve some time in the sun.

It’s not United – club or fans – on trial tomorrow.  If anything is on trial, it’s the duty of care owed by the Football League to all of its member clubs – even Leeds. The questions before the appeal panel must include that consideration in the scope of its examination of this whole issue.  The Football League have sat by and they’ve shown every willingness to let their biggest club, their most tangible asset, wither and possibly die for want of sufficient funding to operate on a big club level and compete with their true peers.  And this is the kernel of the matter.

Because, with rapists, con men and porn barons among the current and recent number of their owners and directors, the League has elected to make a stand over an obscure tax question surrounding a yacht.  One little boat, which might be American, and in respect of which some duty allegedly had to be paid in Italy, but was not.  The League have chosen to accept that Cellino, a man of staggering wealth, would court trouble over a matter of what is, to him, small change.  They have leant over backwards to interpret the law and their own regulations such that United are to be denied a saviour and their fans are to continue suffering.  Where is the duty of care amid all of that?

Tomorrow will, in all probability, be the start of a new era at Leeds United. Whether it is an era of further degradation, more doubt, more humiliation, remains to be seen.  There has to be a possibility that things might – for once in a very long while – go in Leeds United’s favour.  And then what? Would we know quite what to do with ourselves in the absence of this millstone of penury and reduced status?  Poverty is not just a matter of not being able to meet the bills, or afford a tank of tropical fish to brighten the place up.  Poverty is much more than that.  It seeps into the very fabric of a place and it poisons the soul.  If we were suddenly to become “Dirty Leeds, Filthy Rich” – how would we cope?

I can tell you this much, especially you lot who occupy the anti-Cellino bandwagon.  I’m heartily sick to death of a penniless existence.  So if the “Filthy Rich” option is there, ripe for the sampling – let me at it.  I’d simply love to try it out.  We lived the dream in the nineties – but there was always that worm of doubt; where’s it all coming from?  With Cellino –  well, it looks as though we’d at last have a man of immense material wealth who is keen to invest it in reviving a fallen giant.  Fingers crossed that he finally gets that chance.

Two Days On, Lorimer Backs This Blog in Leeds’ Need for Cellino – by Rob Atkinson

Justice, or a gun to the head?

Justice, or a gun to the head?

On Monday, the Football League took a decisive step towards killing its biggest, most celebrated and famous member club by refusing to ratify the takeover of Leeds United by Massimo Cellino.  That day I posted a rant, explaining lucidly exactly what I thought of the League – 125 years old last year and exactly as senile as that might lead you to expect.

On Tuesday I wrote a more measured piece, arguing that, even if the League might have been technically, legally within their rights on the evidence before them, any workable set of regulations should incorporate an element of discretion – so that foolish and damaging outcomes would not necessarily be reached in the blinkered cause of absolute rectitude.

Lash

Lorimer – hero?

Today, Peter Lorimer, one-time United hero and man of many faces, has written in the Evening Post, making precisely that last point.  Lorimer is a Leeds Legend and, as such, it’s to be hoped that people will listen to him.  I’m just relieved that I’m not the only one arguing for common-sense over slavish adherence to regulations.

Of course there is now an appeal pending, led by Cellino’s lawyers and – one presumes – arguing that the League’s decision was not even technically correct.  The grounds for such an argument will be couched in legal terms and will deal with esoteric points of law; that’s the way these cookies crumble.  But I would hope that, on the appeal panel, there might be one person of such wisdom as to look above and beyond what is legally right and proper – and examine the pragmatic face of this sorry saga.  In other words, maybe they’ll look at the real-life import of whatever technical irregularity Cellino or his people have permitted to happen.

Maybe they’ll ask themselves why somebody, with over a billion Euros of capital and over two hundred million in annual income, would seek to avoid an amount of duty that represents the merest of small change to a man of such fabulous wealth. Perhaps they will look at the state of Leeds United, with odious creatures from dank and forgotten swamps now slithering around it, helpless without an injection of lifeblood to avoid being consumed by the mire.  Could they even consider the interests of thousands upon thousands of lifetime supporters, for whom Leeds United means almost literally everything outside of family, home and hearth?

You would hope so, you would very much hope so – after all, any appeal panel would be more independently constituted than the League’s own set of self-important, self-interested buffoons, and would even include a legally-qualified member, maybe a QC.

Any pragmatic common-sense approach to this issue could have only one outcome.  Cellino – about whom it has never been shown he has any malign intent towards football clubs he owns – should be welcomed with open arms and just the merest whisper of caution: “We’ll be keeping our eye on you, old son. Don’t screw up.”  This would at least have the effect of dragging Leeds United away from the precipice edge at which they now perilously teeter. It would shine a light into the lives of thousands who are, right now, in actual, genuine despair at the state of the club they love.  It would protect the income streams of many of Leeds’ fellow clubs, who rely to a large degree upon the annual invasion of the best support in the country and the money those fabulous fans spend in following their team.

The alternative route – the League’s own solution of identifying a technical, legal sticking-point, and going blindly with that – would only result in the farcical, self-defeating situation that applies right now.  A suitable parable might be that of a priest, walking beside a lake in which a man is floundering, unable to swim.  There is a lifebelt just out of reach – but instead of throwing it to the doomed man, the priest examines it, and finds it to be of manufacture in a country of a different religion.  “Throw me the lifebelt, Father!” yells the struggling man.  The priest considers him sadly. “I’m sorry, my son,” he says, “this lifebelt has not been blessed and is therefore sinful.  I would be endangering your immortal soul – I’m sorry, but I have to throw it away.” “But Father, I’ll die!” cries the sinking man, not waving but drowning.  “I regret, my son, I regret – but this is how it has to be,” says the priest, throwing the lifebelt away behind him and moving on.  The poor man duly drowns, but the priest is able to reassure himself he did the right thing, by his own lights – and he is sure the dead man’s family will understand.

Will common-sense eventually prevail?  It must rest on a knife-edge.  But, now that a louder voice has taken up the call, perhaps the message will spread more widely and perhaps it will find a sympathetic ear or two, connected to a brain that can actually reason and think for itself – instead of simply seeing things in bald, legally-based black and white.  On this faint hope will depend the question of whether Leeds United might be thrown a lifebelt, or instead be left to drown.

Get ’em told, Lash.  You have a chance to redeem yourself after a few less-than-glorious episodes during the Bates years.  Get out there and spread the message, make us proud of you once again as we were in those ninety miles an hour days of yore.  The way things are now, we need you even more now than we did back in that glory, glory time.