DCSIMG

Administration fears ruled out by Leeds chief

Leeds United director David Haigh.

Leeds United director David Haigh.

  • by Richard Sutcliffe
 

LEEDS UNITED managing director David Haigh last night rubbished suggestions that the club is heading for administration.

The Football League board will meet today to discuss Massimo Cellino’s attempts to buy a 75 per cent stake in the Championship side through his company, Eleonora Sport Ltd.

Contracts were exchanged early last month with Gulf Finance House, the Bahrain-based investment bank that bought United from Ken Bates towards the end of 2012.

But the £25m deal cannot be finalised until the Italian, who also owns Serie A side Cagliari, passes the governing body’s new owners and directors’ test.

The League’s decision is unlikely to come today and with the board not due to meet again until mid-April, fears have been growing in Leeds that a further substantial delay could lead to Cellino – who has loaned United a substantial seven figure sum – walking away and the club sliding into administration.

Speaking publicly for the first time in several weeks, however, managing director Haigh exclusively told The Yorkshire Post: “The club is in good hands. It has money and there is no chance of the club going into administration. None whatsoever.

“I keep hearing these whispers, where people have put two and two together to make 550. We had a winding-up order recently, which caused fans to panic.

“But the club is not in any kind of precarious financial position. Either now or in the future. It is not true and never has been.

“As a director of a company, there is a test of solvency that you have to go through. Can the company meet its debts, as and when they fall? And yes, Leeds United can.”

United’s accounts for the financial year to June 30, 2013, are yet to be filed. But it is an open secret that the club is losing £1m plus every month.

Last month, a winding-up order was served on Leeds by shirt sponsor, Enterprise Insurance, whose managing director Andrew Flowers recently failed with an attempt to buy the club in conjunction with Haigh.

The petition was withdrawn after a seven-figure loan was repaid. However, with bills having gone unpaid last month – most notably to the constructors of a new 3G pitch at Thorp Arch – and the fact both Cellino and Haigh have had to pump money into the club in recent months, fears have grown that United could go under for a second time.

Haigh said: “The 3G pitch has become a big issue to some. Well, first of all, we invested a lot of money in it, which if we were penniless we wouldn’t have done.

“And the reason it got stopped was because of the winding-up petition, which meant we weren’t allowed to make certain payments.

“The money was sitting in the bank account but we weren’t allowed to pay it. We suffered for a week or two because of that unjust petition.

“But once the legal process was over, we paid the rest and the pitch is now finished. It was the same with the suppliers.”

Haigh, who this week severed links with GFH to commit fully to United, has loaned just under £2m to the club.

He added: “We are going forward as a club. I have tremendous faith in Leeds United, which is why I put my own money into the club.

“I am not a multi-millionaire. I have worked all my life, right from being a paperboy at 14 and then 16 at McDonalds as a manager.

“I may have come from a bit of a wealthy family but I have always earned my money. I had saved up to get a good nest egg that I invested wisely.

“And I felt that, in my duty as managing director, I should support this club as much as I possibly could. The money has been in there a while. Most of it is still there and I am not charging interest.

“I know this club has a big future and I am not worried about the money, even though to me it is a huge amount. Originally, that money was to allow me to buy a house here. Instead, I am renting.

“If I was worried (about the club’s financial health), I would be getting it out. I could do that. But I won’t and am not going to. And that is because I know this club is in good shape, even though at the moment we are losing money.

“That is not a secret. Most clubs in the country do the same. Look at the Championship, Leicester lost packets more than us. Masses, in fact.”

As for Cellino, Haigh, who is part of the Italian’s planned management team, believes the sale will be good news for United.

He added: “Massimo first came on the scene when Andrew (Flowers) and I were looking at buying the club. He was going to join with us. But Massimo wanted the largest share so we went our separate ways. As managing director, though, I spent a lot of time with Massimo and his kids. And I realised he was someone I could work with. And someone I think has many of the right attributes to take the club forward. I haven’t seen all of those attributes in anyone else while I have been here.

“In terms of a tick box list, Massimo has ticked more than anyone else.

“It is the League’s job, not mine. But, for everyone’s sake, the process needs to be resolved.”

 

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