Massimo Cellino has been disqualified from owning Leeds United after failing the Football League’s owners’ and directors’ test.
In April this year Cellino successfully appealed against the League’s decision to block his takeover of Leeds, but since then he was convicted by an Italian court of tax evasion and now the League’s board of directors has unanimously decided to disqualify Cellino from owning the club.
The League made the decision after receiving the Italian judge’s report on Cellino’s conviction for failing to pay that on his yacht. The 58-year-old could be forced to sell Leeds, though he is entitled to appeal the League’s decision within a fortnight.
Football League chief executive Shaun Harvey abstained from both the debate and the vote, recognising his conflict of interest.
"At its meeting last week, the board considered the reasoned judgment of the Italian court against Mr Cellino, having successfully applied to the Italian courts for its full disclosure," read the
"The board considered detailed legal advice and agreed unanimously [with the exception of its chief executive, Shaun Harvey, who did not take part in the debate or vote having declared an interest] that Mr Cellino is subject to a disqualifying condition under the terms of the test.
"Mr Cellino is entitled to appeal the board’s decision to the PCC within 14 days. As the judgment of the Italian court has not been published in Italy, The Football League will not make any of its contents public.
"Additionally, the board concluded it was appropriate to ask an independent football disciplinary commission to consider whether Mr Cellino and/or Leeds United breached League regulations relating to the timely disclosure of relevant information. The matter will be heard by an FDC in due course."
Cellino’s conviction will be considered ‘spent’ by March next year, and Leeds holds that his disqualification will be "destabilising," either due to the legal battle or to the alternative plan of removing Cellino and reappointing him once his conviction is 'spent'.
"The club is in the process of taking legal advice on the reasoning of the decision," read Leeds’s statement. "In the interim, the club notes that nothing has changed since the decision of the Football League’s professional conduct committee in April 2014.
"The steps the League wishes the club to take – to remove Mr Cellino only to re-appoint him in three months’ time – will be destabilising for the club, its supporters and sponsors and cannot be in the best interests of any party."