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Cellino Not Dishonest | Leeds United.

The Appeal has just been handed down by the Professional Conduct Committee in the appeal against the Football League finding dated 24 March 2014, that Mr Cellino is disqualified from acting as a director of a League club. This is a complex decision that deals with the problems that have arisen as the ‘conviction’ relied upon from Italy is a minor offence of dishonesty that would not have had a similar result in Italy.√جª¬ø

The conclusion of the Chairman is that the  the conviction was not for a “Dishonest Act” as defined in the FL regulations i.e. for “any act which would reasonably be considered to be dishonest” and so the appeal was allowed and Mr Cellio does not fail the Owners and Directors Test [The OAD test]. 

The full decision of the Chairman, Timothy Kerr QC considers a number of points in argument that were raised by both parties. The final conclusions are:

1. the decision of the Cagliari court dated 18 March 2014 is a “conviction” within sub-paragraph e) ix) of the definition of “Disqualifying Condition” in rule 1.1 of Appendix 3 to the rules; but √جª¬ø

2. The conviction was not for a “Dishonest Act” as there defined, i.e. for “any act which would reasonably be considered to be dishonest”√جª¬ø

3. Mr Cellino’s appeal accordingly succeeds. He is not, at present, subject to a Disqualifying Condition and is not disqualified from holding office or acting as a Club Director at a Club. √جª¬ø

The reasons in short form are as follows

  • the League’s attack on the impartiality of the expert witness Professor Maffei was considerably overstated. Although he did an inappropriate tweet about the case showing support for Cellino, he was impartial.
  • This was an offence of limited criminal intent – ‘dolo eventuale√جª¬ø’
  • Although described as a conviction in Italy, it would not have resulted in a similar sporting ban in that country.
  • The idea that we should wait until the appeal process has concluded in Italy ( because they dont lock people up until the final appeal) would not be a good reason to wait in the UK.

This case is apparently the first time where the OAD test has been relied upon in similar circumstances. Supporters of Leeds United have been wondering why the Football League waited until Mr Cellino appeared on the scene to clamp down on the character of those who have acted as directors of the club over the last 10 years. [It is interesting that Peter Ridsdale, the former Chairman who was famous for ‘living the dream’ whilst in charge at Leeds,  was disqualified in 2012 from being director following his involvement at Cardif City whereas no other director has been sanctioned, despite various calls for investigations from members of the Leeds public.

There is no doubt that the supporters of Leeds United and other football clubs that have been beset by financial difficuties over the years deserve protection from actions of dishonest or incompetant directors, but perhaps next time they take action, a full and comprehensive report should be prepared on the history and financial probity of their sporting business record, rather than a simple reliance on a ‘dodgy’ foreign court appearance.

Click here to download the full judgment. 

Originally posted 2014-04-05 00:00:00.

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