Tuesday 25 October 2016

John Giles: Leeds go from bad to worse under Cellino

Massimo Cellino
Massimo Cellino

WHEN you spend as long a time as I did at Elland Road, it is very hard not to take things personally when yet another calamity befalls Leeds United.

Uwe Rosler was appointed in midweek by Massimo Cellino and that's his fifth manager so far in no time at all. One after the other, he hires them and fires them and the whole sorry mess staggers on.

Someone said to me during the week, with very dark humour indeed, that if he bought as many players as he hired managers, Leeds would have been promoted.

It would be funny if the situation wasn't so bleak. The downward spiral shows no sign of stopping and while I'm sure Rosler will give it everything he has, I have no confidence that he will be at the club long enough to make any impact other than short-term.

My biggest concern is not so much that Cellino owns the club but that if he didn't put his money into Leeds United, a great institution would probably have gone out of business.

At some point, I reckon Cellino will walk away and my fear then would be what is left behind. There might be nothing left at all.

That's the part of this story which makes my blood boil. The club was in such a sorry state that a man with Cellino's reputation was able to walk in and take control simply because he had cash available.

This time last year when the Cellino story was in overdrive, Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis told the authorities in Naples that he would take his club, his players and his manager and "move to England."


Call me cynical but for me that was a clear indication that the view in Italy is that England is a soft touch, or at least, an easier place to do business for enterprising football club owners.

Let's be honest, he was right. How many times have we seen clubs badly owned, if there is such a phrase, in the last few decades?

It would be an interesting piece of research to investigate how many owners and directors of football clubs in England have been or are currently serving time in jail.

I might be wrong but I would guess it's a higher number than most other sports and there are good reasons for this.

While other sports modernised and brought their administration into line with the real world, football lagged behind.

Every rule in the book falls when challenged by the law of the land or, more significantly, by European Law and there are obviously businessmen who are well-equipped to take full advantage of this weakness.

It was a ridiculous suggestion that De Laurentiis would uproot a club with such a grand tradition as Napoli to a different country, or even suggest it, but it tells you the mindset of some club owners.

For De Laurentiis, the club was his to play with and the long-term investors, the fans who give their life and soul to supporting their team, are just pawns.

There is a list as long as your arm of foreign or even English investors buying into football because they saw it as a meal ticket. Leeds has been suffering for years on the back of a wild spree which followed the First Division win in 1992 but Liverpool flirted with disaster four years ago and they aren't in great shape at the moment.

Financially, Anfield is much more secure than it was under Hicks and Gillett but I don't think the average man on the Kop would see that as anything to boast about even if it is. It could be a lot worse.

Any Liverpool fans who are still a bit po-faced about their club and believe that it is too big to go under should look at Leeds or Newcastle. There are worse things than receivership.

Mike Ashley is routinely hammered by everyone who loves the game and I've criticised him heavily myself but he runs a financially stable ship at Newcastle.

It is, of course, an engine for shirt sales which seems to be Ashley's primary concern with football.

The current battle for control of Rangers is probably about shirt sales as well for Ashley and that's the sad thing about all of this.

Businessmen will try to turn a profit where ever they see one and if they are given a free run to do it, they won't hesitate. Every time there is a half-hearted attempt by the football authorities to intervene they face slick and expensive lawyers and usually lose.

Football needs to find regulations which chime with civil law but somehow weed out the men who don't give a damn about the game.

We have far too many of them involved in football.

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