Cellino to appeal against Leeds takeover snub

AFP| Updated: Mar 28, 2014, 00:46 AM IST

London: Massimo Cellino on Thursday launched an appeal against the Football League`s decision to block the Italian from buying a majority stake in Championship club Leeds United.

Cellino was disqualified under the Football League`s owners` and directors` test this week after being convicted of a tax offence by an Italian court.

The offence related to the non-payment of import duties on his yacht and resulted in a fine of 600,000 euros (£500,800) by a Sardinian court and the confiscation of the boat.

The appeal will be heard by an independent QC and is expected to take place within the next two weeks.

Cellino`s appeal is vital for the future of Leeds, with reports claiming the former English champions could struggle to pay staff wages and face the threat of administration if the Italian is unable to take over.

Eleonora Sports, the company headed by Cellino, had agreed to buy a 75 per cent stake in Leeds from Bahrain bank Gulf Finance House Capital in February.

Since then it is understood the Italian has been bankrolling Leeds, with some reports saying he has already invested £6 million in the club.

Cellino has been a controversial figure since the takeover was first mooted and when the deal seemed set to go through he sacked Leeds boss Brian McDermott, in a bid to install his friend Gianluca Festa as manager, before McDermott was reinstated days later.

The turmoil has affected Leeds` on-pitch performances, with the team slumping to 14th in the second tier after four defeats in their last five matches.

A League spokesman said: "The Football League can confirm that the legal representatives of Massimo Cellino have lodged an appeal against The League`s decision that he is subject to a disqualifying condition under its Owners` and Directors` Test.

"The appeal will be heard by an independent QC, who will have access to independent expert evidence relating to certain aspects of Italian law and will determine the matter following submissions from both parties.

"The appeal will be convened at the earliest opportunity, in line with The Football League`s previous commitment to expedite the appeal process to deliver much-needed certainty to all the relevant parties."