Massimo Cellino’s long-term future as Leeds owner has been cast into doubt despite the Italian businessman insisting he will accept disqualification by the Football League and then return in April.
A Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) chaired by Tim Kerr QC rejected Cellino’s appeal against disqualification, deciding a tax evasion conviction in Italy last year was an offence of dishonesty.
Although the disqualification period expires on April 10, Cellino is now facing a misconduct charge over failing to provide the findings of the Italian judge to the league, who believe he was being “deliberately obstructive”.
He also faces further tax evasion cases in Italy later this year which could also affect his long-term future with Leeds.
Cellino told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “This changes nothing. I’ll abide by the rules, I’ll resign but then in April, finito, I’ll come back.
“I was signing the cheques before. Now someone else will sign them for me. The club has been looked after.
“The League say I must go but where do they want me to go? Miami or Cagliari? I’ll go where I like and I’m going nowhere. If I want to live in Leeds, I’ll live in Leeds. I’ll follow the rules but I’ll stay in Leeds.”
The club are now seeking further legal advice, but it remains unclear whether Cellino can take the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Cellino will now have until Wednesday to step down as a director, cut ties with Leeds and undertake not to have any significant influence over the club until April 10 when his conviction becomes spent under UK law.
Cellino has a 75 per cent stake in Leeds via by his company Eleonora Sport Limited, which took over the club nine months ago.
One Leeds board member, Andrew Umbers, had told the PCC there was “a real likelihood of insolvency” if Cellino was disqualified. This was disputed by the Football League’s lawyer Jonathan Taylor, who said Umbers’ claims were “exaggerated, speculative and unsupported by any external evidence or, tellingly, by any evidence from Mr Cellino himself”, according to the written judgement.
The PCC’s findings say about Cellino’s failure to provide the Italian judge’s written reasons: “The League took the view that Mr Cellino was being obstructive by deliberately withholding the judge’s reasons to cause delay. That issue may be the subject of disciplinary proceedings.”