Leeds owner Cellino barred after losing appeal
19 January 2015, 21:43
London - Massimo Cellino, Leeds United's controversial owner, has lost his appeal against the English Football League's decision to temporarily disqualify him from owning the club, the governing body said Monday.
Italian businessman Cellino was banned from holding office and ordered to step down from the second-tier Championship club's board on December 29, after failing the League's owners and directors' test earlier in the month.
The initial decision to ban Cellino came after the Football League obtained documents from an Italian court which found him guilty of tax evasion.
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But he was allowed to continue in his role as a club director while his appeal was heard and Monday's announcement only amounts to a temporary suspension as Cellino is entitled to resume control of Leeds on April 10 when his Italian conviction becomes spent under English law.
A Professional Conduct Committee chaired by lawyer Tim Kerr rejected Cellino's appeal, saying the judgment of the Italian court meant the Leeds supremo had broken Football League rules.
"We therefore conclude that Mr Cellino has been convicted of an offence involving a 'Dishonest Act' within the meaning of the rules, and that he is accordingly subject to a 'Disqualifying Condition'," a statement issued by the PCC said Monday.
"As a result of this decision, Massimo Cellino is disqualified from acting as a 'Relevant Person', as defined by Football League regulations until 10th April 2015."
Cellino and Leeds now face an additional misconduct charge for failing to notify the Football League of the Italian court judgment when it first became available.
"This will be heard by a Football Disciplinary Commission in line with League regulations in due course," said the Football League, who added they would assist Leeds in the Yorkshire club's efforts to lessen the impact of Cellino's absence from Elland Road.
"The Football League's sole objective throughout this process has been to ensure that our regulations, as democratically approved by our member clubs, are complied with," said a spokesman.
Leeds, who in the late 1960s and early 1970s were one of England's leading clubs, are currently struggling towards the bottom of the Championship.