Is the end nigh for Leeds United’s ‘grain king’?
Chaos is fast becoming the norm at Leeds United. From one failed regime to another, fans have been subjected to some of the most patent cases of footballing mismanagement that the game has ever seen. From Peter Ridsdale’s chairmanship, to the disastrous attempts by Ken Bates to try and buy the club, Leeds’ recent footballing past has been dominated by the controversial.
So perhaps it doesn’t come as such a surprise when news broke today of a ruling against the clubs current incumbent.
Massimo Cellino’s short tenure at the club has been marred by controversy from the outset. Indicted in Italy for tax evasion, the decision by the Football League to again move to block his ownership hardly came as a surprise to most.
The Italian was initially successful in defending his right to own the club, winning his appeal against a Football League decision on his takeover back in April of this year. But having considered more detailed evidence surrounding Cellino’s activities back in his native Italy, the League’s governing body have moved again to prevent the Italian from having ultimate control at Leeds United. Having now been deemed to fail the League’s Owners’ and Directors’ test, Cellino must soon relinquish control of what has quickly become his most prized asset.
Cellino though was defiant in his response, suggesting to Sky Sports today that this was anything but goodbye:
“I will respect everything but I am going to appeal and show them that they are wrong,”
“If I am not allowed to run the club I will buy a ticket and sit with the fans but I am not going to run away. The fans deserve something very nice: they are very clever because they trust me. I will do everything I can, by the law, to protect this club and I promise them that.”
“I’m surprised so much energy and so much money has been wasted to run after something that is not just. In Italy you don’t have a conviction until the third grade and I have been found guilty in the first degree. That’s nothing in Italy, it’s not a conviction but we keep throwing money from the windows to the lawyers.”
It is perhaps worth being thankful that our legal system is quite as pliable as the one enjoyed by our cousins in Italy, but the point still stands; why has so much effort been made to oust Cellino?
Lauded and loathed in equal measure; Cellino has set about a process of resurrecting the fortunes of a once great club. His apparently genuine affection towards Leeds United has been refreshing for those that remember the carefree way that his predecessors muddied the reputation of this internationally renowned club. The jury may well be out on the so-called ‘grain king’ but for many he has offered a welcome sense of hope when previously there just wasn’t any.
Whether Cellino has backed up his passions with genuine investment is a totally different matter. Fans have seen a host of unproven foreign talents arrive to replace some of their more established stars, a move that has led many to question the footballing policies that Cellino is looking to employ.
Cellino is hardly perfect, but at the same time does there genuinely exist an ideal football owner? Leeds have spent so many years seeking financial backing, that to suddenly lose some with the ability to turn the club around seems something of a crying shame. Cellino was quick to play on the fact that the only part that sought to lose out from this situation was the club itself:
“Everyone is against Leeds, we have to fight against everything.”
“Who’s looking after Leeds? People from Bahrain and people from Italy. Why don’t English people look after the club, they should be ashamed. I come from Italy and I love this club more than someone from Britain.”
His desire to fight for control of Leeds is likely to be divisive, some will see it as a show of commitment, others an attempt to continue his toxic hold on the club. Given that his sanction is only set to last till March 18th 2015, we could well see the controversial figure continue his stay at Leeds for some time yet.