A video has emerged in which Leeds United owner Massimo Cellino suggests the controversial ‘pie tax’ was introduced to punish critical supporters.
Cellino came under scrutiny in December after increasing the price of tickets in the south stand at Elland Road by £5, which included a mandatory voucher for food or drink.
The south stand is generally home to some of the most vocal Leeds fans, many of whom are unhappy with the Italian’s ownership.
“At some point someone told me ‘Cellino, Cellino’ – 20 supporters of my team – ‘time to go.’ And I said ‘but why don’t you go away?’ And the supporters (said) ‘we pay!’,” Cellino told Sardinian newspaper L’Unione Sarda.
“So I said ‘No, you pay to see the game. To criticise me you need to pay extra’ and I put five pounds more for each ticket.”
In the video, Cellino later adds: “I’ll explain what happened. Outside the stadium there is a guy who thinks he’s clever and put up an unauthorised stand. He sells beers. Consider that in England you can’t live only on television rights. Leeds live on tickets and beer that is sold at the stadium, and season tickets.
“We collect about 40 million (euros) per year with season tickets and beers only. So if you put the stand in front of the stadium with a bar to sell the beers, what can I do?
“So I said ‘those that go to this bar, that are the friends of this guy, because they are the supporters that criticise us also, they need to pay 20 pounds plus plus five pounds with beer included.’ They are very angry and criticize me for this.”
The bar which Cellino is understood to refer to is the the Old Peacock pub, which has been situated on Elland Road since 1826, before the stadium was built.
When asked to clarify his comments by the Yorkshire Evening Post, Cellino said: “It was just a joke. I never could do anything like that.
“In the bar business we try to make (the fans) buy the beer from our bars and not from everybody who sells them in front of the stadium. It is to help the club.”
In the video, the 59-year-old admits he has struggled to adapt to the differences between England and Italy.
“There they don’t speak Italian, so you have to learn English. It is cold, guys, you need to play in 2 degrees below zero; the cold is too much,” he said.
“You need to play with t-shirts and I can not sit with a blanket to watch the game, there is too much cold, really. And they play in t-shirts. They are barbarians, what the f**k?”
Since buying the club in April 2014, Cellino has already served one Football League ban after being found guilty of evading tax owed on a yacht.
On October 19, it was announced that the former Cagliari owner had been disqualified from running Leeds again following a judge in Italy ruling that he had deliberately avoided VAT due on a Range Rover imported by him from the USA.
Cellino appealed on October 28, and his 223-day suspension has been upheld.