McCormack rescues Leeds but takeover at Elland Road hit by further confusion

Ross McCormack.
Ross McCormack.
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The future of Leeds United was cloaked in confusion once more last night as potential buyers Sports Capital revealed their frustrations over the ongoing saga at Elland Road.

As United were held 1-1 by Ipswich Town in the Championship, the off-field future looks uncertain.

Before kick-off, Andrew Flowers, a member of the group bidding to buy the club, hit out at Gulf Finance House and revealed that United’s owner was refusing to accept a revised offer for a majority stake.

Flowers – the managing director of Enterprise Insurance, United’s shirt sponsor – criticised GFH for engaging with another would-be buyer, Massimo Cellino, and said the Bahraini bank had “breached their covenant with us but much more importantly have breached their covenant with the fans.”

Sport Capital, of which Flowers and United managing director David Haigh are both members, agreed the terms of a 75 per cent buy-out of Leeds on November 30 but have struggled to force the deal through amid growing signs of disagreements between the consortium and GFH.

Cellino, who owns Italian Serie A club Cagliari, has emerged as a rival bidder in the past week and associates of his have been shown around Elland Road and United’s Thorp Arch training ground.

The 57-year-old has two previous convictions for fraud and is awaiting a trial on charges of embezzlement.

Commenting on the prospect of Cellino buying Leeds, a statement from Flowers said: “We are convinced this will not be in the interests of the club, the manager, the players or the fans.

“We must ask the question whether the prospective preferred bidder understands anything about the culture of Leeds United, its fans, its heritage or British football.”

Flowers confirmed that Sport Capital had reduced their offer to GFH for a 75 per cent stake, saying: “We were fully justified in revising our bid because a number of things have come to light which were not as originally described.

“However as lifelong fans we believe our offer and plans were in the best interests of the club and its loyal supporters.

“This boils down to much more than money but GFH have chosen to ignore that.

“We believe the owners have breached their covenant with us but much more importantly they have breached their covenant with the fans.”

McCormack ended Leeds’s five-match losing run with a perfectly-executed penalty for his 19th goal of the season but the Whites had to settle for a point.

David McGoldrick’s speculative shot had given Ipswich a 57th-minute lead, but McCormack replied just five minutes later to rescue a point in a game which saw both sides struggle to create any sustained quality.

With Luke Varney expected to complete a move to Blackburn, Leeds handed El-Hadji Diouf his first start since September alongside McCormack for whom West Ham had a substantial bid rejected last week.

Elsewhere in the Championship, Doncaster Rovers moved four points clear of the drop zone as Billy Sharp made a hero’s return in a vital 3-0 win over 10-man Charlton at the Keepmoat Stadium.

Goals from Abdoulaye Meite, Chris Brown (penalty) and man-of-the-match Mark Duffy saw Rovers run out easy winners over a poor Charlton side, whose spirit evaporated once Lawrie Wilson was sent off late in the first half.

Barnsley and Sheffield Wednesday picked up a point apiece, against Blackburn Rovers and Millwall respectively.

The Reds needed a Chris O’Grady penalty to rescue a point in a 2-2 draw at Oakwell.

Nick Proschwitz, making his debut after signing on loan from Hull, gave Barnsley the lead before goals from Tom Cairney and Rudy Gestede put the visitors in the driving seat at half-time.

DJ Campbell marked his Millwall debut with a goal to help his new side come from behind to earn a 1-1 draw with Wednesday. Giles Coke, who was later sent off along with Millwall’s Shane Lowry for fighting, had given the Owls the lead, but Campbell headed home.

Huddersfield Town lost 2-1 at Bournemouth, while Middlesbrough were held 0-0 at home by Wigan.

Reports: Pages 22-23.