Chambers have advised on a number of leading football cases involving Southampton re Markus Liebherr, Charlton Athletic, Newcastle United and Swindon Town. We have not acted for Leeds United in its continuing difficulty since the days of Peter Ridsdale & David O’Leary,
It’s President - Mr Massimo Cellino has been found to have acted dishonestly in previous business dealings and accordingly he is now disqualified from acting as a relevant person pursuant to the Football League regulations until 10 April 2015. Mr Cellino had been convicted in criminal proceedings in Cagliari, Sardinia but his lawyers argued that this was not a conviction for a “an offence involving a Dishonest Act” under the Football Leagues rules due to insufficient information as to the nature of the conviction.
The Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) was chaired by Tim Kerr QC sitting with an agreed panel of Greg Clarke and Richard Bowker CBE. The PCC was examining on appeal whether Mr Cellino was a proper and fit person to be an owner and director of a football club under its own regulations. Mr Cellino acquired Leeds United Football Club last year amid some controversy and the team has plunged to 20 place in the Championship with a series relegation battle on their hands; A distinct turnaround from their former glories being at one time the first UK club to be in the Champions League semi-final, albeit failing in the second leg at Valencia.
The appeal had been waiting for a “reasoned judgment” to become available from the Italian Court which heard the dishonesty allegation against Mr Cellino. The PCC received the same which provided:-
“… the real owner of the vessel … is actually Massimo Cellino and … the
company “Freetime Miami, LLC” is nothing other than a fictitious shell company
(schermo societario fittizio) established purposely to allow the defendant, as the
actual user of the asset, to introduce in the territory of E.U. a means of transport
under the temporary admission regime, in this way evading (eludendo) the
payment of the amount due as customs duties.
In light of the considerations above, therefore no doubt exists as to the existence
of an evading intention (intento elusivo) of the defendant, it being deemed that
the evasion of the V.A.T. on imports was the result of a deceptive
(macchiavellica) simulation (simulazione) executed by the defendant to disguise
a definitive admission as temporary admission.
In its judgment, dismissing Mr Cellino’s appeal against the decision, the PCC states: “We consider that the judge’s findings of fact and her description of Mr. Cellino’s state of mind based on them, is of conduct which would reasonably be considered to be dishonest. We therefore conclude that Mr.Cellino has been convicted of an offence involving a ‘Dishonest Act’ within the meaning of the rules, and that he is accordingly subject to a ‘Disqualifying Condition’.”
Mr Cellino must serve the period of disqualification starting forthwith but this does little to address the decisions he made whilst running Leeds United and at the same time failing to deliver to the PCC the copy of the “reasoned judgment” of the Italian Court which became available on 28 July 2014. The PCC has decided that it will look into that matter next and will seek an explanation from Mr Cellino and his lawyers why this judgment was not made available to the board as soon as it became available. As yet no official reason has been given.