A Leeds fans’ group has hailed its latest publicity stunts in its campaign to oust club owner Massimo Cellino as a major success.
Anti-Cellino protest group Time To Go Massimo, which claims to have raised over £8,000 from 490 separate donations, increased the pressure on the Italian with a series of stunts ahead of Saturday’s home Sky Bet Championship match against Bolton.
The group funded an advertising van that was driven around Leeds city centre displaying protest messages before being parked outside the stadium and held a mock funeral by the Billy Bremner statue to mark “the death of the club”.
A hearse had been planned but failed to show up and in its absence a coffin was carried by protesters, while a single-engine plane flew over Elland Road for half an hour before kick-off with a banner displaying the message ‘Time To Go Massimo’.
“The fly over has proved a huge success, it was very visible and the coffin stunt again has highlighted our campaign and brought us media attention,” said Time To Go Massimo member John Bond.
“What all this does is to maintain and build on our campaign’s momentum. It shows that there are Leeds fans out there, a large number of them, who are calling for change at Leeds United.
“We’ll continue to raise funds and we expect to gather more momentum. We’ve raised over £8,000 already and we’d like to thank everyone who has contributed.
“There are other things planned, and we’ll announce those at the right time, but we’re confident our campaign will continue to grow.”
— Abi Jaiyeola (@abijnews) March 5, 2016
Time To Go Massimo, angered by a perceived lack of investment in the team and a long list of off-the-field dramas, paid for posters to be displayed on advertising hoardings outside Elland Road last month.
Before and during the home game against Middlesbrough on February 15 it hired a specialist company to project 30 metre-high protest images on to stadium.
Cellino has alienated fans in increasing numbers during a stormy two years since his company Eleonora Sport Ltd bought a controlling stake in the club from previous owner Gulf Finance House in April 2014.
The 59-year-old, who served a five-month Football League ban at the end of last season following a tax conviction in Italy, is currently awaiting an appeal date after a second Football League disqualification for a similar offence.
The former Cagliari owner ordered Steve Evans, his sixth head coach at Leeds, not to speak with the media following last Monday night’s 4-0 defeat at Brighton and infuriated fans over the recent ‘pie tax’, a £5 levy on tickets in return for a food and drinks voucher to be used inside Elland Road.
Cellino told Italian newspaper l’Unione Sarda in a recent interview that the ‘pie tax’ was a punishment for fans who had chanted at home matches for him to sell the club. He later claimed to be joking.
His relationship with the club’s fans suffered a further blow earlier this week when his son, Edoardo was forced to issue an apology after he and brother Ercole, both registered as directors of the club, abused supporters with expletive-laden insults in heated exchanges on social media.
The Football Association is understood to be aware of the messages and making enquiries surrounding their context.