The Football League has blocked the proposed takeover of Leeds United by Massimo Cellino following his court conviction last week over unpaid tax.
Cellino had agreed to purchase a 75% stake in the club from current owners Gulf Finance House, however the Cagliari Calcio owner’s bid was halted as his court trial was pending in Italy.
On March 18, Cellino was found guilty of tax evasion having avoided paying duty on a luxury yacht imported from the USA. Although the Italian will appeal against the decision, the conviction meant that Cellino was restricted by Football League rules on ownership.
A statement from the Football League released today (March 24) reads: “At its meeting yesterday evening, the Board of The Football League considered the eligibility of Massimo Cellino under its Owners’ and Directors’ Test.
“The Board considered detailed legal advice with regard to the application of its regulations within the context of a decision made under Italian law.
“Mr. Cellino was recently found guilty beyond reasonable doubt by a Court in Sardinia of an offence under Italian tax legislation relating to the non-payment of import duties on a boat. This resulted in a fine of €600,000, an order for the payment of trial costs and the confiscation of the boat in question.
“Having fully considered the matter, the Board agreed unanimously that the decision of the Italian Court does constitute a disqualifying condition under its Owners’ and Directors’ Test.
“The relevant disqualifying condition being that Massimo Cellino has been convicted of an offence involving acts that would reasonably be considered to be dishonest.
“In line with Football League regulations, Massimo Cellino is entitled to appeal against the Board’s decision within 14 days. In such circumstances, The League would seek to expedite the process to deliver certainty to all parties in the shortest possible timeframe.”
The decision now leaves Leeds in financial uncertainty following other financial difficulties under the current owners, and fans are hoping there will not be a repeat of the club’s collapse under Peter Ridsdale in the early 2000s.
Image courtesy of The Scratching Shed