Top 10 Insane Football Club Chairman, Owners & Presidents
By Chris Wright
With an incredibly tenuous doff of the cap to Mr Obama nailing himself a second term last night, here’s Pies’ timely run-down some of the most clinically off-kilter chairman, owners, executives and presidents in football…
10. Ken Richardson, Doncaster Rovers: The year was 1995 and Doncaster’s ‘saviour’ Richardson hired two local criminals, one a former SAS operative, to burn down Rovers’ Belle Vue stadium for a princely £10,000 after having his plans for a new stadium thrown out by the local council.
The plan was to raize the stadium, claim on insurance and then sell the nearly-cleared lans to property developers for a nice little profit. The stadium was burned down as per requested but there was once small yet ever-so-significant hitch: the ex-SAS man-turned-pro arsonist dropped his mobile phone at the scene. South Yorkshire police didn’t take long to get in touch. Richardson was later sentenced to four years in prison.
As well as the botched fire, Richardson also made perhaps one of the stupidest managerial appointments in the history of British football while at Doncaster. With the club penniless, he hired the cheapest manager possible – the former manager of Stockport County’s club shop.
Donny were duly relegated from the Football League and into the Conference with a goal difference of -83. Richardson (described by detectives as ”the type that would trample a two-year-old child to pick up a 2p bit”) withdrew his financial backing almost immediately.
9. George Reynolds, Darlington: With the club in need of stabilisation and growth, Darlington took the executive decision of hiring Reynolds – a former smuggler, burglar and safe cracker who had done two stints inside for theft in the 1960s and 70s. This, it won’t surprise you to learn, was five years before the ‘Fit and Proper Persons’ test was introduced.
Reynolds’ first order of business was building Darlington (who were in the equivalent of League Two, the Football League’s bottom tier, at the time) a gigantic 25,000-seater stadium named after himself, which swiftly bankrupted the club and sent them into administration. Reynolds then buggered off, only to be imprisoned for a third time in 2005, this time for tax evasion and money-laundering. Good egg.
8. Aldo Spinelli, Livorno: Despite threatening to sell the club on an almost yearly basis, Spinelli has been at the helm for almost 14 years now – not that he appears to have remotely enjoyed his time in Tuscany. Volcanic rants about how much he hates his life and wants to ‘sell up and f**k off’ are commonplace.
Spinelli once attempted to address a problem with dwindling attendances by publicly chuntering that it was no wonder the people of a ‘Commie town’ (Livorno) didn’t want to come to a ’420-year-old, lousy, cess-pit stadium’. Hardly the kind of PR required to get people swarming through the turnstiles come matchday.
7. Maurizio Zamparini, Palermo: A dangerous mix of cranky impatience and hair-trigger ferocity, Zamaparini is widely regarded as the most tempestuous president in Italian football – going through coaches like Tic Tacs. At the last count, we’re at 23 coaches since 2002.
Over his decade in charge, Zamparini has provided a cavalcade of choice quotes, calling for all referees to be imprisoned, threatening to cut all his players’ testicles off and eat them with his salad, calling England a ‘land of pirates’ and admitting that he fancied coach Delio Rossi more than his own wife.
He also once called Adrian Mutu a ‘crafty gypsy’ though he insisted it was a compliment.
6. Ratko Butorovic, FK Vojvodinas (the chap on the right): I mean Christ, would you just look at him? Feel free to peruse Big Pimpin’ Ratko’s Google Image search for more details.
5. Ken Bates, Chelsea/Leeds: We’re all familiar with Uncle Ken’s various shenanigans, but his inclusion in this list is for one reason and one reason alone: He once submitted plans to install electrified fences around the pitch at Stamford Bridge to keep the hooligans in line because ‘it worked on his farm’. The Greater London Council did not accept the proposal.
4. Luciano Gaucci, Perugia: You’re looking at the man who once ‘signed’ Colonel Qaddafi’s son, Saadi Qaddafi, who was absolutely bloody awful and therefore never actually played for Perugia before testing positive for banned substances and being banned for three years after sitting on the bench for the first time. The rumour is that the Libyan despot actually paid Gaucci to let his son muck in.
During his tenure, Gaucci also tried to sign the captain of the Swedish women’s team, cancelled an imminent signing’s contract over rumours he was gay and even attempted to bribe a referee with a racehorse. His piece de resistance came in 2002, when he terminated the contract of South Korean striker Ahn Jung-Hwan after his golden goal knocked Italy out of the World Cup semi-finals, saying, ”I have no intention of paying a salary to someone who has ruined Italian football.”
After Perugia went bust in 2005, Big Luke was sentenced to three years in jail for tax fraud, but only after he fled to the Dominican Republic and hid from the authorities for four years.
3. Sam Hammam, Wimbledon/Cardiff: Hammam made his name at ‘The Crazy Gang’, i.e, mid-90s era Wimbledon, where he quickly gained a reputation for being ‘unorthodox’ in his approach to football chairmanship.
He promised to Dean Holdsworth a camel if he broke the 20-goal barrier, he locked Robbie Earle (then of Port Vale) in a dressing room and refused to let him out until he signed for Wimbledon and paraded elephants around the pitch at Selhurst Park before leaving to go and preside over what he called Cardiff City’s ‘orgy football’: ”The other team know they’re going to get it, but they don’t know from whom or where from.”
Also once made Spencer Prior eat sheeps’ bollocks.
2. Aurelio De Laurentiis, Napoli: Batchy De Laurentiis is an Italian film director by trade and his dramatic tendencies seem to permeate his role as Napoli’s club president. When he’s not unveiling new signings from under rubber lion masks, our Aurelio can usually be found conducting fake press conferences to announce Edinson Cavani’s ‘departure’ to Manchester or storming out of Italian cup draws on the back of a stranger’s Vespa after throwing a tantrum over the draw being fixed with only two names having been drawn out of the hat.
1. Zdravko Mamic, Dinamo Zagreb: Largely loathed by Dinamo fans, executive manager Mamic and scandal are practically synonyms for one another. A mean (just look at those eyes), impatient and physically intimidating man, Mamic has hired and fired 15 different head coaches despite only taking up his role in 2003.
Over the years, Mamic has been sanctioned for, among other discretions: groping bellydancers, punching a director of the Croatian FA, attacking former a Dinamo director and chasing him over a fence, breaking a city planning official’s hand with a set of crutches for refusing his plans to build a skyscraper in Zagreb and once celebrating a Dinamo victory with a Nazi salute.
He also despises the press, and has violently assaulted journalists of several occasions; once forcing a hack to hide in a bush for nearly ten minutes to avoid an arse-kicking. His crowning glory came when he once ended a long, aggressive rant on his hatred of media and supporter speculation about him with the immortal phrase “I’m going to stick YouTube up my dick,” after many fans took to the site to voice their discontent at his conduct.
Honourable mentions: Enrico Preziosi (Genoa), Freddy Shepherd (Newcastle), Michael Knighton (Man Utd/Carlisle), etc, etc (let’s face it, there are hundreds of the gits!)…