MASSIMO Cellino was awaiting the outcome of the appeal against his ban as Leeds United owner today with the club aiming to move on a number of transfer targets before the end of the week.
The Italian’s position should become clearer in the next 24 hours with sources at Elland Road expecting to discover the outcome of Cellino’s appeal later today. Cellino, who was disqualified from owning Leeds or sitting as a club director on December 1, challenged the Football League’s attempt to ban him at a hearing in London on Thursday.
The three-man Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) who heard his case considered their judgement over the weekend with a view to announcing their verdict early this week.
Cellino is hoping to overturn a penalty imposed on him following his conviction for tax evasion by an Italian court last March but a decision to uphold his ban would force him to step away from Elland Road until April, by which stage his tax conviction will be spent under UK law.
It is not clear who overall control of Leeds would pass to in his absence or whether the Football League will attempt to force Cellino to sell Eleonora Sport Limited’s 75 per cent stake in the club if the PCC finds in its favour, but the YEP understand that United intend to add to their first-team squad in the days ahead.
Leeds, who claimed a precious point from a 1-1 draw with Birmingham City on Saturday, are thought to be close to a deal for Palermo centre-back Sol Bamba – formerly of Leicester City – and have also been considering signing Catania’s Albanian striker, Edgar Cani.
Sassuolo forward Leonardo Pavoletti, meanwhile, is believed to have re-emerged as an option once more, despite his wage demands complicating recent discussions. Speaking after Saturday’s match at Elland Road, head coach Neil Redfearn said he had been promised that new players would be arriving shortly to join a squad who are three points and two places above the Championship’s relegation zone.
“I’ve been told that signings are imminent,” Redfearn said. “‘When?’ is the big question I suppose.”
The committee considering Cellino’s appeal is chaired by QC Tim Kerr and includes Football League board members Greg Clarke and Richard Bowker.
Cellino’s legal team attempted to argue that his tax offence in Italy is not yet considered a formal conviction under Italian law, with Cellino currently appealing the guilty verdict, and is not in breach of the Football League’s Owners and Directors Test.
Kerr previously rejected that submission when Cellino successfully challenged an attempt by the League to bar his original takeover of United in April.
In the midst of the ownership saga, Leeds fought back from an early Paul Caddis penalty on Saturday to earn a deserved draw through Luke Murphy’s 86th-minute equaliser.
United remain without a win in eight games but Redfearn was enthused by his side’s performance against a City team who had won four of their previous five league fixtures.
“The lads are playing with spirit,” Redfearn said. “That’s the biggest thing. They’re playing with desire.
“It wasn’t the outcome we wanted but it was a good point against a side who are playing well. They’ve got themselves going but I don’t think they’ll have had that done to them for a while.”
United dominated the second half and saw strong penalty claims turned down either side of Murphy’s equaliser.
Midfielder Lewis Cook, who was used on the left wing, said: “We know we deserved better. We played well and we deserved a better scoreline.
“We just needed luck. Every team gets it but we didn’t. But you have to take positives out of the games rather than negatives.”