Leeds United owner Cellino caught in storm as demands grow for football corruption probe

Leeds United owner, Massimo Cellino.
Leeds United owner, Massimo Cellino.
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LEEDS United owner Massimo Cellino was named by a senior politician today as demands grew for an investigation into allegations of corruption in English football, in the wake of Sam Allardyce’s sacking as England manager.

Tracey Crouch and her boss, Culture Secretary Karen Bradley, have already been in touch with the football authorities and officials are set to hold further talks with the FA, Premier League and Football League.

Ms Crouch called for all evidence given to the football authorities to be “investigated fully”.

Acting chairman of the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee Damian Collins said Allardyce’s conduct was “incredible”.

He called for wider action to be taken to resolve the “greater malaise” in which football authorities cannot enforce their own rules, citing the example of Mr Cellino being allowed to take ownership of Leeds United despite having fraud-related convictions.

Allardyce’s contract was terminated after a Daily Telegraph sting captured him negotiating lucrative speaking engagements in the Far East, as well as making damaging remarks about a range of issues including third-party ownership of players.

The investigation has also alleged that eight unnamed managers with Premier League experience took bribes for the transfers of players.

Ms Crouch said: “The integrity of sport is absolutely paramount and we have been clear that we expect the highest standards of governance and transparency from sports governing bodies, here in the UK and on the international stage.

“In this context, the recent allegations concerning English football are very concerning and we will be discussing the matter with the football authorities. All the evidence presented to them must be investigated fully and we stand ready to assist in any way we can.”

Writing in the Telegraph, Mr Collins said: “The Sam Allardyce affair underlines the weak governance of football. Once again, it is a private investigation that has exposed how easy it is for people interested in enriching themselves through sport to try to flout the rules.

“It is incredible that an England football manager would enter into negotiations with people he didn’t know, to provide insights and guidance over how they could get around regulations banning the third-party ownership of players. It would have been a clear conflict of interest for an England manager to have entered into such an agreement.

“Yet the Telegraph’s investigations reveal a greater malaise, one in which the football authorities seem powerless to enforce the rules. This malaise is by no means limited to the transfer market; it includes the ownership of clubs themselves.”