The Most Erratic Owners in British Football History

26 September 2020 04:56

You can't help but get excited when your club is linked with a takeover. The promise of investment and lavish spending leads to you instantly daydreaming about your tiny team blossoming into Manchester City - but it doesn't always quite turn out that way.

Because for every Sheikh Mansour there's an owner who wants to change the club colours, club name and build a Formula One track around the stadium (yes really).

Let's take a look at the barmiest owners to have graced British football's directors boxes.

1. Sam Hammam - Wimbledon

Hammam eventually left Wimbledon for Cardiff | Phil Cole/Getty Images

Hammam took full control of Wimbledon in 1977, and the club achieved four promotions in nine years, made it to the top flight for the first time in their history and won the FA Cup. But he was one hell of a character.

He promised striker Dean Holdsworth a camel if he scored 20 league goals in a single season and locked Port Vale midfielder Robbie Earle in a cupboard during transfer negotiations until he agreed to sign for Wimbledon.

Hammam had only moved to the area in the first place because he quite liked tennis.

2. Michael Knighton - Carlisle United

Former Manchester United takeover hopeful Michael Knighton bought Carlisle in 1992. They were rock bottom of the Football League at the time, but Knighton had ambitions for Carlisle to make it to the Premier League (the club had spent one season in the top flight in their 88-year history).

In 1996, he made local front page news when he claimed that he and his wife had seen a UFO.

The following year, he sacked the popular Mervyn Day as boss and replaced him with.himself. Carlisle were relegated to the third tier. He replaced himself with Nigel Pearson partway through the following campaign.

3. Ken Richardson - Doncaster

Ken Richardson rocked up at Doncaster in 1993 with plans to take the Yorkshire outfit to the Premier League and sell their Belle Vue Stadium, which was housed on the most expensive site in the Football League outside of London. Unfortunately, the council owned the stadium, not Doncaster, so Richardson instead cooked up a master plan.

He hired a former SAS solider to start a fire in the main stand, with the plan being to claim on the insurance and then sell the land to property developers for a sweet, sweet profit.

It didn't quite go to plan. Richardson's pro arsonist had left his mobile at the scene of the crime - which included a voice message left on Richardson's answer machine. The Doncaster owner was later sentenced to four years in prison.

When he wasn't making a name for himself as a Guy Fawkes tribute act, Richardson was causing havoc with managerial appointments. Doncaster boss Sammy Chung turned up to face Carlisle on the opening day of the 1996 season, only to find out he'd been replaced by Kerry Dixon.

Dixon was sacked in August 1997, and after numerous short term appointments, Mark Weaver was put in charge. Weaver's previous managerial experience? He'd been the former manager of Stockport County.'s club shop.

Doncaster were relegated with a goal difference of -83.

4. John Gurney - Luton Town

John Gurney led a consortium who purchased Luton for a full £4 back in 2003, and demonstrated he had his finger on the pulse of the Hatters' faithful by sacking universally popular Joe Kinnear within three days of taking over. And this was the least weird thing he did while in charge.

In order to find a replacement for Kinnear and attempt to get the fans back on side, Gurney proposed Manager Idol - based on the TV talent show Pop Idol - to enable the fans to vote for who they wanted to be appointed as the new Luton boss. Fans voted for Kinnear. Gurney couldn't get hold of him. Mike Newell was appointed instead.

Gurney had many grand plans for Luton, including changing their name to London-Luton Football Club to tie in with the airport (apparently Heathrow Terminal Two FC had already been taken), building a 70,000 seater stadium (Luton’s average attendance for the 2002/03 season was 6,746) with a Formula One track around the outside (because athletics tracks weren't well received enough).

Gurney was declared bankrupt in 2008.

5. Flavio Briatore, QPR

Flavio Briatore interfered at QPR beyond belief | Dan Istitene/Getty Images

Briatore was part of the Formula 1 entrepreneurial team, who invested in QPR in 2007. And even they didn't want to build an F1 track around the stadium.

In April 2009, Briatore was at the Malaysian Grand Prix and, unimpressed by what he had seen of Liam Miller during the first half of QPR's match against Crystal Palace, phoned up manager Paulo Sousa and demanded the midfielder was replaced by Lee Cook.

In November 2008, then caretaker manager Gareth Ainsworth left his mobile in the dressing room during QPR's League Cup clash with Manchester United. He checked his phone at full time to find 72 missed calls from Briatore.

6. Vincent Tan, Cardiff City

What he lacked in football knowledge, Tan made up for in fashion sense | Stu Forster/Getty Images

Vincent Tan's eccentric dress sense was just the tip of the iceberg. Decked out in the classic Cardiff shirt over an actual shirt combination - an outfit we imagine Uncle Bryn from Gavin and Stacey would choose for a visit to the Cardiff City Stadium, Tan did oversee two promotions to the Premier League during his reign.

He also changed the Bluebirds' badge so that the Blue Bird had its thunder stolen by a Welsh dragon, changed the home colours from blue to red and the home seats from blue to red.

Tan's football knowledge was also left wanting. In 2013, he was said to be angry because of a lack of goals from the Cardiff full-backs.and goalkeeper.

Source: 90min