Massimo Cellino’s attempt to buy a 75 per cent share in Leeds United has been blocked, as he fails the Football League’s Owners’ and Directors’ Test.
The Cagliari President has been waiting for League approval on his buyout of the English Championship side for the past few weeks, whilst paying the bills at Elland Road in the interim.
Whilst those in Cellino’s camp were described as confident that his bid would be approved, the Football League have today confirmed that he has failed their Owners’ and Directors’ Test, set to determine if the Italian is subject or not to any disqualifying condition that would prevent him from acting as a club director.
The League report in a statement released that Cellino has failed this test due to last week’s conviction in Italy for import tax evasion on a luxury yacht. The League’s test prohibits people with unspent convictions for ‘dishonesty offences’ from being directors, 30 per cent owners or exercising control over clubs.
The Football League state that whilst Cellino and his lawyer have indicated to them their intention to appeal the Sardinian court’s decision and that it is not yet considered a ‘final judgement’ in Italian law, the League disagree, considering the conviction as a defendant being found guilty of a crime, even if the judgement is not yet final.
They also cite CONI [Codice di Comportamento Sportivo]’s own regulations that state that: “In order to protect the integrity and authority of...agencies of the national sports federations, individuals associated with sports, sports promotion Bodies and Associations, including also the representative bodies of the company, are immediately suspended as a precautionary measure, in the manner prescribed in the third paragraph of this Article, where they have been convicted, even if the sentence is not final, for the crimes listed in Annex "A" or which have been subjected to interim preventative measures.
“The offence of which Mr Cellino has been convicted involves findings of conduct that a reasonable person would consider dishonest.”
Cellino will have 14 days to appeal the League’s decision.