Leeds United president Massimo Cellino will comply with the Football League’s decision to disqualify him as owner of the club and will stand down while he appeals.
Cellino is still set to appeal against the League’s decision to disqualify him after he failed the owners’ and directors’ test after being found guilty of failing to pay import tax on his yacht, but in the meantime he announced he will stand down to avoid leaving Leeds vulnerable to further League sanctions.
In an interview with the Yorkshire Evening Post, Cellino said: “I’m prepared to resign if it’s what I have to do.
“I said to the other directors that I don’t want to bring any problems on the club so if I have to resign in 28 days and then wait to finish my appeal, I will.
“I’m fighting this and we think we will win so after the appeal I will be back. But I don’t want to give the League a reason to punish the club. So if I have to go then I’ll go.”
Cellino has until the 29th of December to fully remove himself from all club affairs, and has until 15th of December to officially lodge an appeal. If the appeal is unsuccessful, Cellino will still be able to resume his role as club owner and president on the 18th March next year once his conviction will be considered ‘spent.’
A range of sanctions could be imposed on Leeds if Cellino doesn’t abide the League’s decision, with the ultimate penalty being the revoking of the club’s Football League membership. Even though Cellino’s stepping down requires a new management structure to take his place and the 58-year-old Italian will not be able to exert any financial or executive influence on Leeds, it still remains unclear as to who will comprise this new management structure at Elland Road.
Tuesday’s board meeting was attended by GFH representatives and directors at Leeds Jinesh Patel and Salem Patel following the recent agreement reached between the bank and Cellino regarding a £23.5m cash injection and a restructuring of United’s debt. Neither GFH nor Cellino has confirmed whether the deal was ratified as planned, though the investment could be conditional on the outcome of Cellino’s appeal.