League has second thoughts as Cellino Leeds ban set to be delayed

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The Football League is set to delay Massimo Cellino’s disqualification as Leeds United owner until after his appeal against the ban, it was reported today.

The governing body will allow Cellino to remain as a director at Elland Road while his appeal is being considered, despite initially ordering him to resign before the end of this month.

Cellino was disqualified from owning Leeds on December 1 due to a tax conviction imposed on him by a court in Cagliari.

The 58-year-old is challenging the decision but the Football League informed him at the outset that he was required to quit United’s board within 28 days, a deadline which falls on Monday.

The League said the decision “is not stayed pending resolution of the appeal” but it has agreed to postpone his ban following talks between their legal teams.

A date for Cellino’s appeal has yet to be finalised but the hearing is likely to take place during the middle of next month.

It is believed the dates of January 15 and January 19 are both being considered.

Cellino’s representatives argued that forcing his resignation as a director so soon before an appeal was unreasonable and unnecessary.

The League was asked to confirm whether his disqualification would be stayed but a spokesman said it had “no update at this time” and would “provide more details when we can.”

Cellino, who is in Miami, admitted a fortnight ago that he was prepared to quit on December 29, telling the club’s board that we would stand down to prevent Leeds from facing further sanctions from the League.

“I don’t want to bring any problems on the club so if I have to resign in 28 days and then wait to finish my appeal, I will,” said Cellino. “I’m fighting this and we think we will win so after the appeal I will be back.”

A delay in banning Cellino will allow him to actively control Leeds throughout the transfer window, with a verdict from his appeal expected to arrive up to three weeks after his hearing.

However, the delay is also likely to see his disqualification extended by a short period of time if the League’s attempt to ban him is upheld. Cellino was due to regain control of Leeds on March 18, 2015, the date on which his conviction for tax evasion is spent under UK law.

Neither Cellino nor Leeds have outlined a contingency plan for managing the club if he is forced to step away. The League has not said whether it expects Cellino to attempt to sell his and Eleonora Sport Ltd’s 75 per cent stake in United should his disqualification stand.

Cellino’s appeal will be heard by the League’s Professional Conduct Committee (PCC), a three-man panel comprising two Football League directors and a barrister. Tim Kerr, the QC who overturned a bid by the League to block Cellino’s takeover of Leeds in March, is in line to chair proceedings again.