Leeds owner Massimo Cellino claims 'pie tax' punishment comments were a joke

10 February 2016 09:23

Leeds owner Massimo Cellino has told an Italian newspaper he introduced the club's controversial 'pie tax' to punish supporters who criticised him - but he insists he was only joking.

The Sky Bet Championship club angered many fans in December when raising adult tickets in Elland Road's South Stand by £5, offering a voucher for refreshments in exchange for the rise.

The additional sum was mandatory and implemented solely in that area of the stadium, with tickets rising to as high as £42 for category A matches as a result.

It has emerged that weeks later Cellino gave an interview to Sardinian newspaper L'Unione Sarda when he initially said he chose to add the surcharge after coming under fire from fans.

He added in a video interview that he took the decision in reaction to beer being sold close to the club's stadium, in the hope it would encourage supporters to instead spend their money on refreshments inside the stadium.

According to the Yorkshire Evening Post, Cellino said in the video: "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!'

"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."

He then added : "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 five pounds with beer included'. They are very angry and criticise me for this."

Cellino stood by the explanation when asked by the Yorkshire Evening Post about his remarks, stressing he had not sought to punish Leeds supporters.

He 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."

Source: PA