On the 10th December 2014, the FA announced that Hereford United had been suspended from all football and footballing activity with immediate effect. The decision was taken after the club was found to have failed to provide documentation in compliance with the Owners and Directors’ Test Regulations. According to a statement by the FA, the club will remain suspended until they are compliant with these regulations and the subsequent orders of the Independent Regulatory Commission, which set a deadline of Thursday 4th December 2014 for the submission of documentation.
This is a sad day for a club which will always evoke memories of that famous 1972 FA Cup giant-killing of Newcastle United, thanks to a wonderful strike from Ronnie Radford which prompted an equally spectacular pitch invasion from the home fans. Unfortunately, the club appears to be writing a new history for itself now, and as usual it is the fans who will suffer from the mismanagement of a football club by owners who are not fit for purpose.
Last week, I wrote a piece on the future of Massimo Cellino as the owner of Leeds United, following the decision of the Football League to disqualify Cellino, having judged that he did act dishonestly in his recent conviction for tax evasion in an Italian Court. What now appears more worrying for Leeds United is that the Football League are also investigating Cellino for non-compliance with their initial investigation- namely a failure to provide documentation that the Football League requested from him.
The principal difference between Leeds United and Hereford United is that Leeds United are governed by the Football League, whereas Hereford United are governed by the FA. Therefore, the jurisdiction of the governing body to act may differ in each case. The Football League is yet to suspend a team for a failure to comply with their Owners and Directors’ Test, and it would take a radical turn of events for them to do so now. But precedent seems to go out of the window where Leeds United and the Football League are concerned and there seems to be a lot of bad blood towards Massino Cellino emanating from the Football League at this point. It also raises questions for any other clubs which has an owner who may be found non-compliant with the Owners and Directors’ regulations; the obvious case which springs to mind is Birmingham City.
At this point, I dread to open the newspaper for fear of another negative news story about Leeds United. Only yesterday, it was announced in the Yorkshire Evening Post that the club was expected to announce an annual loss of £23 million, and it seems that one more blow could send the whole club crashing down around itself. This would be a tragedy, and would not be fair on the club’s fans that have supported Leeds through some of the worst times imaginable in the last 10 years. Leeds still achieved higher crowds than QPR, Burnley, Swansea City and Hull City on average last season and recently took almost 7,000 fans away to Blackburn. If the Football League decides to follow suit and suspend all football and football related activities at Elland Road, I fear there may not be too many more nails left to be hammered into this once great club before the coffin lid remains firmly shut.