MASSIMO CELLINO has backed down in the row over away allocations and ended Leeds United’s restriction on tickets after talks with supporters group Leeds Fans United.
The club announced tonight that Cellino’s decision to limit United’s away allocations to 2,000 tickets would be reversed immediately following intense criticism of his move to slash ticket numbers last week.
Cellino provoked anger among Leeds’ supporters on Friday by setting an upper limit for away tickets, justifying the restriction as a protest against the number of televised matches imposed on the club by Sky.
Leeds are in line to be shown in live broadcasts 10 times before the turn of the year and their fixture list this season has already seen 13 rearrangements, most of those a direct result of Sky’s involvement.
Cellino argued that televised games at home were costing the club money in lost commercial revenue and said the Football League and Sky had refused to respond to several complaints from him.
The 59-year-old said the limit on away allocations - resulting in a direct cut in the income of other clubs - would highlight the issue and force the Football League to act.
But Cellino, who on Monday was hit with another ownership ban by the Football League, has relented rapidly after discussing the issue with Leeds Fans United, the group which is working towards the purchase of shares in the club.
The drop to 2,000 away tickets was due to come into force for the trip to Huddersfield Town on November 7 but will not now be imposed.
Leeds took more than 6,000 fans to MK Dons last month and received allocations of over 3,500 for this week’s games at Fulham and Bolton Wanderers.
In a joint statement with Leeds Fans United, Cellino said: “We are frustrated by the fixture changes but we never intended to penalise our own supporters at away games. We have listened to their concerns and acted on them.
“We also considered their safety as we understand that many would attempt to buy tickets in home areas.
“We will now work with the fans to find a peaceful way that shows our disappointment without taking something away from them. That will be crucial if we are to achieve what we need to.”
Leeds Fans United chief executive Dylan Thwaites said: “We look forward to partnering with Massimo and the club to make this work for everyone.
“Our away support is second to none for their commitment to following the team all over the country. We hear the frustrations from supporters who have to miss games or pay extra money because of amended fixtures.
“We will all work together to come up with a solution that works for everyone.”
Cellino’s original decision provoke a furious response and the move was painted in a worse light after it emerged that the Italian took the step two days after being notified of the Football League’s decision to ban him from running the club.
Cellino has until October 28 to appeal against his disqualification but faces being barred until June of next year.
The joint partnership with Leeds Fans United, however, indicated a positive step forward in its relationship with Cellino.
Leeds Fans United has been raising money since the early part of this year with the intention of purchasing a minority stake in Leeds.
The group revealed during the summer that it had amassed close to £500,000.