Leeds United president Massimo Cellino arrived back in the United Kingdom in defiant mood yesterday and told the Football League it had “made a big mistake” in disqualifying him from owning the club.
Cellino was holding talks in Bahrain with the club’s former owner Gulf Finance House – the investment bank still control 25 per cent of the club’s shares – when the Football League announced on Monday the Italian had failed its ‘owners and directors’ test’. The league told Cellino he must stand down after finally receiving further evidence of dishonesty from the Italian judge who convicted him for tax evasion in March.
The 58-year-old will be entitled to return to his position at the club on March 18 next year when the conviction is spent under UK law.
The league has said Cellino had 14 days to lodge an appeal.
Cellino said: “I have to appeal. My lawyers are going to appeal because this is all a big mistake from the start.
“The lawyers that are advising the League made a mistake in the beginning. And to cover their first mistake, they keep making the same mistake.
“I don’t want to show myself to be impolite. I don’t want to be arrogant.
“I want to follow the rules. I respect the rules but if we’re talking about the law, I like to be submitted to a true charge where we talk about the law.
“The rules are controlled by the League. The law is controlled by judges.
“I’m honest and I can show every day how I run my club, how I pay my bills, how I fix the club. I’m not here because I’m making money but because I took the challenge to run this club in the proper way. And I’m doing that. So I hope the League is going to stop.”
Cellino took control of Leeds in April when his family company, Eleanora Sport Limited, bought 75 per cent of the club’s shares from GFH.
The league initially attempted to block Cellino’s takeover of Leeds after his tax conviction in April, but the Italian successfully appealed.
But the judge who over-ruled the league’s decision, Tim Kerr QC, said if it was later concluded that Cellino had acted dishonestly when failing to pay import duty on his yacht, he would fail the ‘owners’ and directors’ test’.