The Football League say they cannot make progress with Massimo Cellino’s bid to purchase Leeds as they have yet to receive “all of the information requested for the relevant parties”.
In another twist to what has become a farcical saga at the Championship club, the League added that the transfer of one of Cellino’s players, Andrea Tabanelli, could not be approved because it did not comply with their regulations.
The League’s statement came a week on from the outbreak of bedlam at Elland Road, after Cagliari owner Cellino flew into Yorkshire and agreed a 75 per cent purchase of Leeds from current owners Gulf Finance House Capital.
The 57-year-old agricultural entrepreneur then oversaw a number of unbelievable events, including the unauthorised sacking and reinstating of manager Brian McDermott, while also triggering a boardroom row over the club’s future.
Cellino, twice convicted of fraud and awaiting trial for allegations of embezzlement – a charge he denies – needs to pass the League’s ‘owners and directors test’ before any transaction can be authorised, essentially a judgement of whether he is a ‘fit and proper’ person to own and run a football club.
But today’s statement from the League suggests he has yet to reach that stage.
“At its meeting on Thursday, the board of directors of the Football League were appraised of the current situation regarding the ownership of Leeds United,” read the statement, on the day that Cellino was reported as saying he would meet with the League next Wednesday and buy back Leeds’ ground, currently in third-party ownership, on Thursday.
“The board were informed that the League is yet to receive all of the information it has requested from the relevant parties. The matter cannot be progressed further until the required information is forthcoming.
“Separately, Leeds United have been informed that the Football League has refused the registration of Andrea Tabanelli as the transfer did not comply with League regulations.”
The latest development further muddies the waters in an increasingly confusing situation.
Cellino became the frontrunner to buy Leeds when a consortium made up of club managing director and GFH Capital executive David Haigh and principle sponsor Andrew Flowers collapsed on January 30.
Having already installed long-term friend Gianluca Festa, the former Middlesbrough defender, at the club’s training ground with a view to him replacing McDermott, Cellino then sacked the former Reading manager via a lawyer.
Flowers then said his company, Enterprise Insurance, would be joining Flamingo Land in reviewing their sponsorship of the club in protest, before McDermott was reinstated after missing last Saturday’s 5-1 win over Huddersfield, with his sacking deemed as invalid.
McDermott’s assistant Nigel Gibbs led the team for that match along with academy coach Neil Redfearn, having initially been told that Festa would be in charge.
It was then understood that Flowers had combined with another consortium – Together Leeds, which is headed up by former Manchester United director Mike Farnan – in a bid to topple Cellino’s bid.
He threw in the towel on Tuesday though and has served the club with a winding-up petition relating to alleged debts from money he loaned the club in 2012. That is due to be heard in March.
Farnan insists that his consortium remain keen on purchasing the club but has said contact with GFH has been hard to come by.
In amongst it all, Tabanelli’s presence at the club’s Thorp Arch training ground has summed up the often slapstick nature of the chain of events. The 23-year-old midfielder arrived at Leeds on deadline day after McDermott and captain Ross McCormack were told to expect a number of other Italian signings.
The Cagliari player would be the only arrival though, with Cellino unable to find anyone at the club who could authorise any more arrivals. But now the League’s statement has made it clear that Tabanelli’s signing was not a proper one.
Cellino’s takeover of Leeds is being played out against a backdrop of reported attempts to sell Cagliari, which so far have failed to come to fruition. GFH bought Leeds from Ken Bates in December 2012.