Italian businessman Massimo Cellino has been disqualified from taking over Leeds United by the Football League’s board.
The League said his recent conviction for a tax offence in Italy constituted “a disqualifying condition under its owners’ and directors’ test”.
The decision leaves Leeds, who travel to Bournemouth in the Sky Bet Championship tonight, in a state of limbo over their future ownership - Cellino has already paid more than £2 million into the club.
The decision was taken at a meeting of the league’s board on Sunday evening which considered Cellino’s eligibility in the wake of his conviction in Sardinia.
The Football League said in a statement: “Mr Cellino was recently found guilty beyond reasonable doubt by a court in Sardinia of an offence under Italian tax legislation relating to the non-payment of import duties on a boat. This resulted in a fine of 600,000 euros (£500,800), an order for the payment of trial costs and the confiscation of the boat in question.
“Having fully considered the matter, the board agreed unanimously that the decision of the Italian court does constitute a disqualifying condition under its owners’ and directors’ test.
“The relevant disqualifying condition being that Massimo Cellino has been convicted of an offence involving acts that would reasonably be considered to be dishonest.”
Cellino is entitled to lodge an appeal against the decision within 14 days.
The club’s whole future is now shrouded in uncertainty.
Current owners Gulf Finance House (GFH), a bank in Bahrain, had signed a deal for Cellino, the owner of Serie A club Cagliari, to buy 75 per cent of Leeds.
Leeds have also being struggling with financial problems though GFH has insisted the club will not go into administration again.
Cellino’s lawyer had argued that as he is appealing against the Italian court’s decision, he should be viewed as innocent until that final sentence is passed.
GFH said it had “no comment at this stage” on the decision.