Leeds United have threatened a supporters- group with legal action after an advert was placed outside the club’s Elland Road stadium criticising owner Massimio Cellino.
The banner takes aim at the controversial Italian, and features the slogan ‘Time To Go Massimo’, with fans deeply unhappy with the 59-year-old’s reign at the club. Having twice been disqualified by the Football League after failing their Owners and Directors Test, although he is yet to start his ban after it was reported in the Guardian that he has contested his original disqualification.
Fans were already unhappy with Cellino’s radical approach to owning the Championship side, but a price-hike earlier in the season for tickets – which became known as the “pie tax” due to supporters being able to redeem the extra costs in food and drink inside the stadium – appeared to send many over the edge and lead to the start of a revolt against Cellino.
The Yorkshire Post reports that a supporters’ group launched a crowdfund campaign to pay for the sign, which has been erected outside the East Stand and within yards of where Cellino parks his car when attending Elland Road.
It’s added that more protests against Cellino are being planned, but the law firm responsible for Leeds United have called for the advert to be removed immediately due to a “harassment” claim and warns that they will take the matter to the police if it remains outside the stadium.
Ward Hadaway, the law firm in question, sent an email to City Ads Yorkshire, which read: “This poster has obviously been placed outside the entrance to Mr Cellino’s place of work so as to cause the maximum distress to our client.
“This exacerbates the quantum of harassment that is intended to be caused and is malicious.”
Should the advert remain outside Elland Road, Ward Hadaway says it will make a formal complaint to both the police and licensing authorities, adding: “If necessary we anticipate being instructed to obtain the appropriate court order to have you disclose this information and will seek the costs incurred in doing so from you.”
A spokesman for the supporters responded, saying: “With so many fans frustrated at the Cellino regime, we wanted to hit the ground running following another unsuccessful transfer window.
“The generosity, tenacity and passion of Leeds United fans never ceases to amaze – in just under a week we have the funds in place to run a substantial advertising campaign to highlight why we feel it’s time for a change in ownership.”
The advert features an animated image of Cellino with a large red cross printed over his face, and a number of quotes made by the Italian since he bought the club in 2014. They read:
- "In 2015-16, it we don’t go into the Premier League, then I’ve failed. You can tell me I’ve failed.”
- “I will go to the bank the next day and buy Elland Road.”
- “If we sell the good players we are wasting our time.”
- “My dream is to keep a coach for 20 years.”
Leeds are well and truly out of the Championship promotion race as they sit 16th in the table, and having sacked manager Uwe Rosler in October last year and sold young prospect Sam Byram to West Ham during the January transfer widow, the fans have called out Cellino for failing to honour his word.