THE FOOTBALL LEAGUE LIMITED
PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT COMMITTEE
DECISION ON THE APPEAL OF MR MASSIMO CELLINO
Tim Kerr QC, Chairman (sitting alone)
This is the appeal of Mr Massimo Cellino against the written decision of the Football League Limited (“the League”) dated 24 March 2014, that Mr Cellino is disqualified from acting as a director of a League club. Mr Cellino is entitled under the League’s Regulations (“the rules”), Appendix 3, rule 6.1, to appeal to the Professional Conduct Committee. The parties have agreed that the appeal should be determined by me in that capacity.
The League decided that Mr Cellino was subject to a “Disqualifying Condition” under its rules on the ground that he had been convicted on 18 March 2014 by a court in Cagliari, Sardinia, of an offence relating to non-payment of import tax in respect of a boat, the Nélie, and that the conviction was for a “Dishonest Act” since a reasonable person would consider the conduct for which he was convicted to be dishonest.
The appeal was heard in London on Monday 31 March 2014. Mr Cellino was represented by Mischcon de Reya, solicitors in London, through Mr Adam Morallee, partner, and Ms Sarah Infante, trainee solicitor; and by Mr Tim Owen QC and Mr Aaron Watkins of counsel. The League was represented by Bird &
Bird, solicitors in London, through Mr Jonathan Taylor, partner; and by Mr Nick Craig, the League’s Director of Legal Affairs; assisted by Mr Antonio Carino, a senior associate in the Milan office of DLA Piper, solicitors. 4.
The representatives contributed with skill and professionalism to secure an early hearing of the appeal, and provided written and oral submissions of high quality for which I was very grateful. Written evidence and oral argument was presented. I also heard oral evidence by telephone from Professor Stefano Maffei, Professor of Criminal Procedure at the University of Parma. By agreement between the parties, Professor Maffei also provided a written report dated 28 March 2014.
The appeal is governed by English law (rule 6.8 of Appendix 3 to the rules, incorporating rule 83.1). The two main issues of substance I have to determine are, first, whether the decision of the court in Cagliari on 18 March 2014 was a “conviction”; and second, if so, whether it was a conviction for an offence which can reasonably be considered to fall within the category of a “an offence involving a Dishonest Act”, i.e. “any act which would reasonably be considered to be dishonest”. Those words are the relevant parts of the definitions of “Disqualifying Condition” and “Dishonest Act” in Appendix 3, rule 1.1.
If the answer to both questions is yes, then the League’s decision is correct, Mr Cellino is subject to a “Disqualifying Condition” and by rule 2.1 of Appendix 3 he is “disqualified from holding office or acting as a Club Director at a Club” unless there are “compelling reasons” (see rule 6.2) why that should not be so. If the answer to either question is no, then he is not subject a “Disqualifying Condition” and is not disqualified from acting as a director of a League club.
By rule 6.2 of Appendix 3, Mr Cellino’s appeal can only succeed if he satisfies me (a) that he is not subject to a Disqualifying Condition, and/or (b) that if he is, there are “compelling reasons” why his conviction in Cagliari on 18 March 2014 should not lead to his disqualification from holding office or acting as a
director of a League club. At the hearing, Mr Cellino’s counsel made it clear that he relies on both arguments, the second as an alternative to the first. The Facts 8.
Mr Cellino did not give evidence and his lawyers did not have instructions on the background facts. The following account is inferred from later documents and later known events. Mr Taylor, for the League,