Cellino postpones his return to Leeds United

Massimo Cellino.
Massimo Cellino.

Leeds United owner Massimo Cellino has announced he will not be returning to the club as expected in April when his current 79-day suspension ends.

In a statement on the club’s website the Italian said he would delay his return as president as he intended to focus on clearing his name and bring independent action against a Football League ruling barring him from running the club.

Cellino, who was disqualified by the Football League after a failed appeal last month, is attempting to challenge that order through the Football Association’s arbitration process and aims to do so independently in order to help the club avoid any sanctions.

He also revealed he had sold a “minority stake” in the club since his ban was enforced, but did not say who the shares had been sold to.

Cellino’s open letter to United fans, published on the club’s website, said: “I have considered in the best interests of the club to postpone any release of my true thoughts and conclusion in relation to the 79 days disqualification verdict of the Football League and it was for not unsettling the harmony of the team in a period of key league tournament matches that I have measured to reveal my decision only today, because the qualification for the 2016 Championship is by now achieved.

“For the reason above said, at first I suggested that my intention was to resume in April the office of President of Leeds United Football Club after expiration of the disqualification term.

“I will not do so and I had actually decided not to do so in January already, soon after the confirmation by the Football League of its verdict.

“I wish to point out that I have immediately complied with all the requests of the Football League and, for such purposes, I instructed my consultants to arrange for all required actions in order to ensure my prompt exit from any management responsibility in the club.

“After a due process, I have also sold – with a clear harm to my interests – a minority stake in the club, so that in no way I could be prevented from freely acting as an independent citizen and individual before any authority.

“My decision has developed because I have realised that about one year ago I had been admitted as president of the club when the latter was very close to insolvency. Only after my restructuring activities and the material funding by the new corporate member I found myself expelled from the club on the basis of interpretation and immediate application of an Italian measure that, although in Italy is ineffective and subject to reasonable cancellation, the Football League has elected to enforce under its own rules.

“Moreover, while I am already ousted, the Football League is now pursuing a new claim against me based on circumstances that do not belong to me and have already been clarified and heavily stigmatized by my lawyers.

“All of the above leads me to reconfirm the decision already reached in January so that I may be free of defending myself as any normal citizen, and I will not hesitate to do so before any authority because of my honesty, my commitment and due care to the club for which I have already invested one year of hard work. “This is what I am called for also honouring a team that I have loved and for all the support and attachment I have received from fans, players, employees, contractors and professionals who have been close to me and I wish to thank once again.”