Cuts to Leeds United’s day-to-day operations deepened last night as owner Massimo Cellino launched a formal process of redundancies at Elland Road.
United’s staff were warned of imminent sackings during 5pm meetings at the club’s stadium yesterday, the latest move by Cellino to reduce heavy monthly losses.
Lawyers from Mishcon de Reya – the legal firm responsible for mounting Cellino’s successful appeal against an attempt by the Football League to stop him buying Leeds – spent much of the past 48 hours at Elland Road, reviewing the club’s finances and setting in motion a redundancy scheme.
There is no indication of the numbers of staff facing the sack but Cellino was reported last week to be planning for around 70 redundancies from a workforce of around 200. A source told The Yorkshire Post that the figure of 70 “might not be excessive.”
Speaking on Monday, Cellino appeared to play down the possibility of sweeping job losses, saying: “I don’t sack staff who want to work with me and who do what they’re paid to do.”
The move to dismiss employees came as it emerged that Leeds have missed payment of wages owed to casual staff as a result of a winding-up petition served on the club by Sport Capital three weeks ago.
The Yorkshire Post has been told that the petition – issued by Sport Capital on April 25 – led the club’s bank to freeze their main account, preventing payment of scheduled bills.
Sport Capital, a Guernsey-based company with strong links to former Leeds managing director David Haigh, is attempting to reclaim a £950,000 loan given to United in November of last year.
The firm requested repayment at the start of last month but United failed to meet the demand before a deadline of April 24.
The winding-up petition was served on the club the following day and publicly advertised last week, and a judge at the Royal Courts of Justice in London is due to rule on Sport Capital’s claim on June 9.
Sources close to United say Cellino intends to contest the petition at that hearing but the club face a problem paying bills before then with their bank account frozen. Monthly wages for United’s playing squad are owed on May 30.