Leeds United have denied that club president Massimo Cellino broke any Football Association rules after he was named in a report investigating corruption in British football.
Film footage taken by undercover reporters for The Daily Telegraph allegedly shows Cellino discussing the prospective sale of a 20 per cent share in the club to a fake Far East firm, in return for profits on player transfers.
Third-party ownership of players is banned under FA and FIFA regulations, but Leeds have nonetheless described the allegations against the 60-year-old as “a non-story”.
The statement read: “Leeds United and Mr Cellino were contacted yesterday (Wednesday September 28) by The Daily Telegraph in relation to their investigation in football, which has involved undercover reporters purporting to represent an investment and sports management company.
“The Daily Telegraph informed Leeds United and Mr Cellino that they were considering publishing an article and asked Leeds United and Mr Cellino to respond to a number of questions.
“Through the club’s solicitors, a request was made to The Daily Telegraph for a full copy of any transcript involving Mr Cellino and/or any related audio and visual recordings.
“The Daily Telegraph refused to provide such information and as such the club declined to respond further at the time.
“The club has reviewed the supposed ‘evidence’ that The Daily Telegraph have published. At no time in this video clip has Mr Cellino suggested getting around the FA’s rules on third-party ownership of players.
“In complete contrast to what has been suggested, Mr Cellino has made a perfectly proper suggestion which is entirely consistent with the FA’s regulations, as the only parties entitled to take benefit from ownership of a player is the club itself.”
The story emerged just 24 hours after Sam Allardyce and the FA mutually agreed that he would leave the England manager’s job following a similar report by the newspaper, in which the 61-year-old was filmed claiming he could offer guidance on how to “get round” transfer rules.
QPR boss Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink was also named as having asked for a £55,000 payment to act as an ambassador for a sports company that proposed selling players to the club, while Barnsley suspended assistant manager Tommy Wright, who was filmed apparently receiving a £5,000 ‘bung’ from the undercover reporters in exchange for allegedly helping to persuade his side to sign certain players.
Leeds, however, insist that Cellino’s actions did not constitute a breach of their own regulations.
“If a company commits money to a club by way of investment, taking on the potential for profit but also the risk for loss, then that is a normal, every-day corporate process,” their statement continued.
“This is plainly not a suggestion as to how to circumvent the rules, but rather, an accurate albeit concise explanation of how to operate within the confines of the rules and effectively become ‘the club’.
“The club intends to make no further comment on this non-story.”
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