New season preparations

12 Jun 2014 05:53 pm, by YorkshireSquare

There has been plenty of Leeds United news this week and yet we seem no further on in preparing for the new season. First up was the High Court of Sport Capital’s winding up petition against Leeds United. Sport Capital had loaned Leeds United £950,000 but Cellino, based on discoveries made by his financial accountants, was confident he did not have to repay the money. The main argument seems to be around the source of the money, that it had in fact not come from Sports Capital but David Haigh himself. Cellino’s lawyers also argued that the loan had been taken without full approval of the board and that David Haigh’s involvement with both Sport Capital and Leeds United represented a conflict of interest.

David Haigh was of course unable to provide evidence at the hearing, he is currently in a Dubai jail following allegations of fraud and financial irregularities by his former employer Gulf Finance House. Dubai’s public prosecutor is currently deciding whether to charge Haigh and authorities in the UK have also been making investigations. Haigh denies the allegations but Cellino also used his incarceration to suggest the money may have had a “fraudulent provenance”. The hearing also revealed that Leeds United had £1.6 million in their bank account, Cellino’s position very much not that they couldn’t pay Sport Capital but that they wouldn’t. The ruling however went against Cellino and Leeds now have until 23rd June to repay Sport Capital.

The petition has meant that Leeds United’s bank account has been frozen by Barclays. This has led to players not being paid, season tickets purchasable only through finance agreements and the feeling that a new coach cannot be appointed until we are able to pay for one. Once the money has been repaid to Sport Capital the clubs bank account can be unfrozen, that does however leave the clubs coffers at just over half a million with players wages for last month still to be paid. Admittedly season ticket money can come in from the finance company once the freeze is lifted and the club will be able to take payments directly again but do we need to be worried about the funds available for next season?

Anyone who saw the team play last year will know that we need to strengthen, we need several new players in, particularly to shore up the midfield and defence. But do we have the money to fund this rebuilding? Cellino has repaid several large debts since arriving at the club and has implemented a cost cutting plan which includes redundancies, closing the training ground over the summer and releasing the club ‘legends’ from their corporate hospitality roles. His plan is clear, cut costs, don’t just chuck money at the problem and get the club back on an even keel. The problem for us, as fans though, is until the club is back on an even keel can we expect any investment in the playing squad?

I’m not advocating throwing money around, we need to stop the rot, we need to get the books sorted and the club running well again. It is just a matter of expectation. When Cellino came in he promised Elland Road and Thorp arch would be bought by the end of the year, that new players would be brought in and that we would be promoted within two years. The signs now seem that things are much worse that he expected and that those expectations need to be reduced.

With Brian McDermott gone Cellino has the task of finding a new coach. The departure of the manager with two years still left on his contract will cost the club around £750,000 and therefore Cellino is not likely to want to spend a lot of money hiring a new coach. With names such as Hockaday even considered it suggests Cellino is lining up a cheap option. Favourite though seemed to be Reading academy manager Eamonn Dolan but with three years still to run on his contract Reading are rumoured to have put a price of around £400,000 on him. Cellino will be very reluctant to pay this kind of money.

Some good news came with the confirmation that Cellino had secured the sale of Cagliari to The Floursid Group, run by former Inter Milan executive Tommaso Giulini for around £35 million. The sale ends Cellino’s 22 year reign at the Sardinian club and will now allow him to concentrate his efforts on Leeds United. There will be a hope that some of the money from this sale can be used to help Leeds prepare for the new season.

So with the business of hiring a new manager delayed by contesting the winding up order and strengthening the squad delayed by not having a new manager we really are not ready for the new season. Fans may not be prepared wither having not got their season tickets yet due to an unwillingness to take out finance. Time we started to get things sorted isn’t it?