Massimo Cellino has appealed against the Football League’s decision to disqualify him as owner of Leeds United under the organisation’s owners’ and directors’ test.
Cellino, who took control of Leeds in April following a protracted appeal against the League’s initial attempt to block his purchase, was disqualified earlier in the month after a conviction for evading import duty on a yacht was deemed a “dishonest” offence.
The Italian, whose company Eleonora Sport owns a 75% shareholding in Leeds after buying a majority stake from the previous owners, Gulf Finance House Capital, had two weeks to appeal against the decision and formal representations were made to the League on Monday evening.
Cellino’s legal team have consistently argued that the tax evasion case, for which the former Cagliari owner was fined €600,000 (£477,000) for failing to pay €390,000 import duty on his boat the Nelie, is a first-grade conviction in Italy and should not be regarded as final while an appeal continues in Sardinia.
Cellino’s conviction is spent in the British legal system in March and he could potentially be removed as Leeds owner for a short period before returning, should the appeal prove unsuccessful.
Leeds are one of three Championship clubs who were on Monday hit with a transfer embargo for the upcoming January window after breaching the League’s financial fair play (FFP) regulations. Nottingham Forest and Blackburn Rovers have also been penalised with all three teams recording losses of more than £8m during the 2013-14 season.
It means none of the clubs are permitted to sign anyone permanently or on loan for the rest of the season, unless they have 24 or fewer players in their respective squads who are regarded as established – ie older than 21 and have made more than five starts for the club. In these circumstances clubs are allowed to make additional signings where the employee costs of a player being signed are less than £600,000 per annum.
A League statement read: “Blackburn, Leeds and Forest all exceeded the maximum permitted deviation of £8m – consisting of a maximum adjusted operating loss of £3m plus a further maximum of £5m of shareholder investment – during the 2013-14 playing season. Each club will have the opportunity to have its FFP embargo lifted at the end of the season by demonstrating that it has stayed within the maximum permitted deviation of £6m (£3m operating loss plus £3m shareholder investment) for the 2014-15 season.”
The League will now consider submissions and assess the three clubs promoted to the Premier League last season – Leicester, Burnley and Queens Park Rangers – and the three relegated to League One – Doncaster Rovers, Barnsley and Yeovil Town.