World Football's 8 Most Bizarre Chairmen and Owners
“You’ll have to ask the chairman about that” is the phrase that will be written on Harry Redknapp’s gravestone.
At Tottenham, him and Daniel Levy were to Transfer Deadline Day what Morecambe and Wise were to Saturday night TV in Britain during the 60s and 70s.
But not every manager has the help of a supportive boss. In fact, sometimes the activities chairman or owners get up to can be as much of a hindrance as a help to the team.
So what are the most bizarre things that the big bosses of football clubs have done?
8. Ken Richardson (Doncaster Rovers)
Let’s start off with a bang.
Correction: Let’s start off with a fire.
In 1995, Doncaster Rovers chairman, Ken Richardson, tried to actually burn down their stadium, the Bellevue ground.
Richardson took this desperate course of action after the local council turned down their plans to build a new ground.
However, their scheme was found out when the man Richardson hired to torch the stadium to the ground left his mobile phone at the scene of the crime.
Richardson had also previously tried to sell the stadium, despite the council owning it and he also hired Mark Weaver as the Donny Rovers manager, who’s only football managerial experience was running the merchandise shop at Stockport County.
7. Vladimir Romanov (Hearts of Midlothian)
The day after Vladimir Romanov, who is the current Hearts chairman, announced a bid to take private control of the club in 2005 he sacked manager George Burley.
This wasn’t the most popular decision as Hearts were 1st in the Scottish Premier League at the time, after winning their first eight games, equaling a club record.
Romanov went through a string of managers, many of them quitting saying that he interfered in team selection others reportedly being sacked after refusing to pick the team Romanov would fax through from Lithuania on a Friday morning.
6. Dmitry Pietrman (Racing Santander)
After Ukranian-American businessman Dmirtry Pietrman bought Spanish side Racing Santander with the intention of managing them, he was told he wasn’t allowed as he wasn’t qualified and received disciplinary action for being in the side's technical area.
So what did he do?
He hired himself as the club’s official photographer and shouted orders to the players and to his friend and puppet manager Chuchi Cos.
He justified his decision by stating
"There's a dork [President George W. Bush] out there running the most powerful country in the world without a qualification to his name. And you want me to have a diploma to run a football team?"
5. Mohammed Al-Fayed (Fulham)
Egyptian businessman, Mohammed Al-Fayed, has had an eventful life, including accusing Prince Phillip of murder.
But undoubtedly the most bizarre incident in his time as Fulham chairman was when he unveiled a statue of Michael Jackson at their ground, Craven Cottage.
Al-Fayed’s reasoning for placing a statue of the late King Of Pop, who only attended one Fulham game in his lifetime, was:
“The last game he attended here with me, he was running like a child, he loved the place. He loved Fulham and he wanted to attend all of the matches.”
And Al-Fayed insisted that fans who were upset about a statue, of someone who wasn’t even a Fulham fan let alone a Fulham player, being installed at the ground should:
“Go to hell.”
4. Ken Bates (Chelsea)
Ken Bates is a name that strikes fear into the heart of every football fan worldwide. He’s had tenures in charge of Oldham Athletic, Wigan Athletic and is the current outgoing chairman of Leeds United.
But after buying debt ridden Chelsea for £1 million (21 years before selling it to Roman Abramovich for £139,999,999 more) his plans to install an electric fence around the pitch at Stamford Bridge, to reduce crowd trouble, were rejected by the council. Even though Bates protested that it worked in controlling the cattle on his farm.
It's almost as if humans and cows are different, isn't it, Ken?
3. Flavio Briatore (Queens Park Rangers)
West London clubs are not faring well in this list.
The extent to Forumla One boss Flavio Briatore’s hands on approach during his chairmanship of Queens Park Rangers was fully brought to light by documentary The Four Year Plan. The film looked behind the scenes at the four years Briatore and Bernie Ecclestone owned QPR.
In fact, serial stranglers have had a less hands-on approach to their work.
The film showed Briatore openly calling the then manager Iain Dowie:
“A f*****g hooligan.”
And a goalkeeper.
We saw angry fans call Briatore a “w****r”, so Briatore demanded:
“I want the names of who is booing me, or I sell the club!”
Briatore fired manager after manager, sold top scorers and picked the team from his executive seat.
But the most bizarre decision? He allowed someone to film all of this and make a documentary out of it!
2. Michael Knighton (Carlisle United)
Michael Knighton first came to public attention when he tried to buy Manchester United (or, be their Knighton shining armour, if you will) for £20 million in 1989, which would have been a record figure for a British club.
The deal for Knighton to buy Manchester United fell through, but this wasn’t before he appeared in the middle of the Old Trafford pitch, in full kit, and showed off his “Keepy up” skills to the crowd.
But that isn’t the most bizarre thing he’s done.
In 1992 Knighton went on to buy Carlisle United and, in 1997, he sacked popular manager Mervyn Day and appointed himself as manager.
But that isn’t the most bizarre thing he’s done either.
In 1999 Knighton tried selling Carlisle to Stephen Brown, a barman in an Indian restaurant, who Knighton later claimed to be a conman.
But not even that is the most bizarre thing he’s done.
“Michael, don’t be afraid.”
1. Gigi Becali (Steaua Bucuresti)
Romania’s most successful team, Steaua Bucharest, is owned by controversial Romanian political, Gigi Becali. He’s a Member of the European Parliament and Romania’s National Liberal Party. But his views are anything but socially liberal.
Here's a time line of some of his quotes and actions that are suitable for Bleacher Report (there’s a lot worse that I just cannot put on here):
November 2006: Becali commissions a reproduction of Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper with himself as Christ, and the Steaua Bucharest players as his Disciples.
February 2011: Becali says the president of the Romanian league, Dumitru Dragomir, "must be beaten" for "humiliating" Steaua during TV rights negotiations and accused him of "corrupting football." He also insists, in 2008, that Dragomir called him “a tramp” so they had a fight.
March 2011: Marius Lacatus, who Becali once hailed as “the last solution for Steaua.” resigns as Steaua manager after a year, with Becali giving the reason for his resignation:
"I pick this team. It's not a democracy."
He appoints Sorin Cartu as his fifth coach of the season, explaining:
"I'm giving him three months. We'll see."
April 2011: Becali responds to Rapid Bucharest president Dinu Gheorghe referencing Becali's first job as a shepherd.
"What? He is a filthy jerk. A fat bum. I'll force this ***** back up his mother. I'm tired of him, all his irony and jokes. He forces me to lose control! He's way out of line."
December 2011: CFR Cluj owner Arpad Paszkany talks about Becali:
"Total coward. He hides behind a microphone. Let's solve this like men, in a ring, with fists and feet, no rules.”
Leading Becali to respond:
"You want in the ring, let's get in the ring, b****. I'll break your arms and legs. Let's take guns too. Let us shoot with guns."
April 2012: Becali, as part of an Easter message, apologizes to any Steaua Bucharest fans he’s offended.
"I'm sorry for offending them. Apart from the ones who called for me to die just before Easter. They are possessed by Satan."
August 2012: Becali claims about Lady Gaga:
“She's a disciple of Satan. She probably doesn't even realise she's possessed. When we see her we must spit.”
February 2013: And prior to Chelsea’s upcoming match with Steaua in the Europa League, Becali says:
“Let [Roman] Abramovich compare his clothes with mine then we can see whose suits are really expensive. Why would I sit at the Ajax [who Steaua beat in the last round] president's table? He wears €200 shoes, mine cost €4,000.”