As if it isn’t bad enough having to cope with the tough financial demands of following your football team, the authorities who run the game, both nationwide and worldwide, couldn’t seem to run a bath without it over-flowing.
The Football League board have recently issued a statement concerning their disqualification of Leeds boss Massimo Cellino, after describing him as ‘unfit and proper’, and now the Italian has 14 days to appeal or face removal.
On the back of an impressive 2-0 victory over leaders Derby over the weekend, adding to a recent good run of form, the last thing both the Leeds squad and fans needed was their club showing up in the headlines for all the wrong reasons once again.
There’s been no shortage of controversy surrounding the Leeds owners over the last couple of years and although they are hardly the most appreciated club in the world, you’ve got to think ‘for crying out loud, picking on Leeds again?’.. So what’s new?
In April 2014, Cellino was convicted in a case concerning his yacht and £305,000 worth of unpaid import-tax, and it’s because of this conviction that he is near to losing his position at Leeds.
Don’t get me wrong, he’s 100% guilty of such an evasion and, like quite a few other football directors these days, he’s hardly got a polished history, but he’s a passionate man who, along with Neil Redfeam, is doing a terrific job so far. He has stabilised the club and organised a decent squad to say the least – more than can be said for others.
The Football League, Football Association, FIFA and the rest have proved to be less than trustworthy in the supporters’ eyes, and ties between authorities and fans are realistically non-existent.
The extent of the hypocrisy which surrounds Cellino’s situation is immeasurable. Up until recently, the Football League have been actively helping convicted sex offender Ched Evans to locate a club to re-invigorate his unsalvageable career, which has been nothing short of a disaster. It’s ironic that the Football League labelled Cellino as ‘unfit and proper’, yet they remain content on seeking a new club for a player who shouldn’t grace the green shoots of a football pitch ever again.
Don’t even get me started on Karl Oyston – one of the prominent members of the board who participated in an ‘impartial’ vote against Cellino concerning his court case, yet somehow passes as fit and proper – a conclusion that is impossible to wrap your mind around.
In less than two weeks time, I personally believe that the headlines will state that Cellino has been booted out of his position at the Yorkshire club, as it appears that the Football League are determined to have the Italian kicked out of English football, and I simply cannot see it being let go.
Cellino has responded to the case and covered all bases, including his intent of joining the Leeds fans in the stands if he is forced to leave his role – something he did at Brentford back in September, which certainly won over a large portion of Leeds’ fanbase.
The aspect of the situation which concerns me the most is that the Football League seem resolute in basing their case against Cellino on concrete guidelines, rather than common sense. Cellino was legally cleared of said charge in April, and fans can’t help but feel that there is a vendetta against Cellino to see him out of league football, when he’s currently viewed as an admirable Championship director by most.
You would like to think that the authorities would drop the case, with common decency in mind, as, if we were to hypothetically erase Cellino’s past convictions, he has no faults when it comes to passing this so-called ‘ fit and proper’ test, while many other members of the Football League clubs do, yet escape unscathed.
This is where any trust between governing bodies and supporters collapses. So, why is this happening again? Well, concrete facts and provocations for this remain only between the Football League and Cellino himself. None of us will truly know for a long time, but we can certainly take a stab in the dark…
Shaun Harvey, who was promoted to chief executive of the board last year, was once chief executive at Leeds until his departure seven years ago, much to the avid relief of the Leeds fans. He plunged the Yorkshire club in to administration, capping off his hat-trick after similar occurrences at Bradford City and Scarborough, so for Harvey to have been titled chief executive of the entire Football League – then celebrating its 125th year in 2013 – was baffling to say the least.
Harvey did abide by his own policy and has remained silent during the Cellino case, but you can bet your bottom dollar that he is at the centre of the entire situation. The former Leeds man has appeared a little conceited concerning Cellino’s tenure, playing down his impact.
He said, “Ultimately all he has done is brought some financial stability to a situation, and signed fifteen players.”
Will Cellino pose a risk to Leeds? Highly unlikely. Cellino has paid off some massive debts that had been circling Leeds like vultures and has brought some much needed stability to Elland Road. Thus far, he has proven that he genuinely wants the best for the Yorkshire side. Surely these well-natured actions earn him a pardon for his previous affairs in Italy? Not on the Football League’s watch they don’t.
If on the 14th of December Cellino is evicted from his role at Leeds, it could once again plunge the club in to a catastrophe that not even Manchester United fans would enjoy seeing. His shares at the club would be retracted and there would be little to no money to pay for player wages and fees.
Leeds have only recently put together a really impressive side, but the blow could hand the club another relegation battle, despite recently looking as if they could make a push for the play-offs.
If Shaun Harvey and the rest of the board truly believe that Cellino could have a negative effect on Leeds, then there truly is no hope for morality in league football, as they would be destroying what they claim they are sworn to protect. Football supporters aren’t daft. Rivalry aside, fans would unite against the board in protests at what could prove to be a potentially shambolic decision – so let’s hope Cellino’s appeal is successful once again.
As for this so-called ‘fit and proper’ policy that the board are so keen to sustain, why is a man who couldn’t care less about his own football club, and is happy to claim every last penny for himself, a member of this board? Karl Oyston is the definition of, as Graeme Le Saux bluntly put it, ‘how not to run a football club’, yet he is involved in an association that is relied on by millions to ensure that their clubs are in the best possible position.
Similarly, how is Shaun Harvey – a man who has overseen countless administrations, as if he does it for fun – managed to land himself a job at the head of the board? There’s one word that comes to mind – corruption.
Put football first.