Leeds United: Confusion as League fails to ask for Cellino court document

Leeds United owner and 'president' Massimo Cellino Picture: Tony Johnson.
Leeds United owner and 'president' Massimo Cellino Picture: Tony Johnson.
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Confusion surrounds the legal judgement threatening Massimo Cellino’s ownership of Leeds United after it emerged that the Football League has made no formal request for a court in Cagliari to release the document.

It is understood the governing body is yet to ask for details of the verdict from Cellino’s tax conviction in March, despite Football League chief executive Shaun Harvey describing a delay in publishing it as “exceptionally disappointing” and a “cloud hanging over” Leeds.

Cellino’s 75 per cent takeover of United - completed on April 7 - was initially blocked by the Football League after a judge in Sardinia, Dr Sandra Lepore, found him guilty of failing to pay import duty on a private yacht.

The Italian appealed against his failure of the League’s Owners and Directors Test and won on the grounds that his offence could not be classed as dishonest and in breach of Football League rules without Lepore’s written judgement.

Lepore convicted Cellino on March 17 and was due to give her considered reasoning within 90 days, a date which fell midway through June. The judgement has not been forthcoming and Harvey said: “We have Italian lawyers monitoring it for us and we’ve been told it will come out when it comes out.”

Speaking at the Soccerex convention in Manchester on Tuesday, Harvey confirmed that the League would look to disqualify Cellino from owning Leeds and sitting as a club director if Lepore classed his failure to pay tax as deliberate and dishonest. His comments angered United and cast fresh doubt over Cellino’s future at the club.

Italian legal sources say that at this stage of the process, only parties directly involved in the Sardinian case are entitled to a copy of Lepore’s document but that the court would consider requests from third parties. It has not received any request from the Football League.

The League has made no comment but it is understood that the rules of its test place the onus on owners and directors to inform the League of changes to their status as fit and proper, rather than leaving the League to investigate itself.

Sources close to Cellino say he is unaware of the judgement’s whereabouts and would fight a second attempt by the League to ban him from owning Leeds.