The Rundown

Who is the worst owner in football history?

The Rundown

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You may not be happy with the current owner of your football club but they cannot be much worse that Chechen businessman Bulat Chagaev who recently took over Swiss club Neuchatel Xamax.

Chagaev fired the club's entire coaching staff after only two games on Sunday as the turmoil since his recent take over continued.

Neuchatel have already fired two coaches, ditched all their sponsors and sacked their administrative staff since Chagaev took control in May, saying he wanted to lead them into the Champions League.

On Friday, they also sacked Brazilian goalkeeper Rodrigo Galatto after only one week and one game at the club following his performance in a 3-0 home defeat by FC Lucerne in their opening match of the season.

However, Chagaev still has some strong competition when comes to the title of "worst owner in football" - here are some other contenders.

Mike Ashley - Current Newcastle owner

Hated by the vast majority of his owns fans and not just because he changed the stadium's name to " James' Park Stadium" (surprising that that never caught on). Newcastle fans have been hoping to get Ashley and "The Cockney Mafia" out of the club for their perceived lack of ambition for some time now. Even the players seem upset, with defender Jose Enrique having just come out just this week on Twitter saying: "The club is allowing all the major players of the team to go. Seriously, do you think it is the fault of the players? Andy (Carroll), nobby (Kevin Nolan) etc etc. This club will never again fight to be among the top 6 again with this policy." Ouch!

Hicks and Gillett - Former owners of Liverpool

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Liverpool fans had to work overtime to get rid of hated American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett before the much more likeable and seemingly sensible John Henry managed to rescue the club in a £300m deal that Hicks called an "epic swindle." Hicks and Gillett drove Liverpool into £350 million worth of debt because of problems with some of their other business interests, despite the club itself actually having a positive turnover. Liverpool had to go to the court to force through the sale of the club and only narrowly avoided administration and a nine-point deduction.

Kjell Inge Røkke and Bjørn Rune Gjelsten - Former Wimbledon owners

The sad thing about Wimbledon's relocation to Milton Keynes is that so many people tried to shift the club away from its South-West London base. Ron Noades was the first to see Milton Keynes as a potential destination while Sam Hammam shopped the club around all sorts of places and even got Premier League approval for Dublin before the idea was vetoed by the Football Association of Ireland. However, it was Norwegian owners Kjell Inge Røkke and Bjørn Rune Gjelsten, under the stewardship of chairman Charles Koppel, who finally sold the club to the Milton Keynes Stadium Consortium after claiming they were subsidising the club to "around £6 million a year." The club would eventually be renamed the MK Dons and Wimbledon's fans had to build a new club from scratch at the bottom of the football league pyramid. However, that new club will this season take its place in the Football League for the first time in League Two, just one division below the MK Dons.

Maurizio Zamparini - Palermo

Zamparini is included purely for the football coaches out there because from a fans' point of view you cannot really argue that he has been a success - he turned the Rosanero from a Serie B club when he took over in 2002 into an established Serie A outfit that has qualified for the Europa League on three occasion and got to three Italian Cup finals. With such success you would think they must have had one or two good managers but amazingly Palermo have made over 20 coaches changes since Zamparini took over. Has Zamparini learned his lesson? Well no - just last season for example he sacked Delio Rossi and appointed Serse Cosmi in his place only to then fire Cosmi four games later and put Rossi back in charge. That wasn't the end of things either as Rossi left by mutual consent at the end of the season. Stefano Pioli is the current man in charge - if he lasts the season he will be doing well.

Michael Knighton - Formerly of Carlisle United and almost Manchester United

Manchester United are valued as the richest club in the world, according to Forbes 2011 Soccer Valuation, which values them at £1.13bn and one man who must feel sick looking at that final figure is Michael Knighton. The property tycoon agreed to buy United back in 1989 for then British record fee of £20 million and even went out on the Old Trafford pitch showing off his football skills to publicise the deal. However, for unknown reasons the deal fell through. United went on to become an international mega-brand, while Knighton took over Carlisle United and became a figure ripe for mockery and derision. He would eventually take the Cumbria club into administration, as fans had to watch him make himself manager of the team, and also reveal to a local newspaper that he and his wife had once seen a UFO. He seems to have dropped off the radar a bit in recent years...a bit like that UFO he saw.

Peter Ridsdale - Currently chairman of Plymouth, formerly of Leeds United, Cardiff City and Barnsley.

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If you look at the four clubs that Ridsdale has been associated the one thing that strikes you is that they have all had massive financial difficulties in recent seasons. Ridsdale often walks into these messes, to be fair, but most of those clubs' fans will argue that he hardly cleans things up either. His spell as Leeds chairman was particularly damaging to his reputation and the club is still feeling the effects, Leeds went from the semi-finals of the Champions League in 2000 to League One in just seven seasons and it was in large part because Ridsdale borrowed £60m against future gate receipts, effectively gambling on Leeds qualifying for the Champions League in successive seasons. At Barnsley the club almost went into liquidation before Gordon Shepherd and Patrick Cryne took over, while when he left Cardiff the club was £66m in debt and about to face a fifth winding up order over a £1.9m tax bill.

Others who deserve a mention

Sir Dave Richards (formerly Sheffield Wednesday) - The Premier League chairman is loathed by Sheffield Wednesday who blame him for the club's huge debt that saw them drop down the divisions.

Tom Coughlan (formerly of Cork City) - His disastrous management of the League of Ireland club saw the club wound up in 2008 despite the club often having the best average attendance in the country. Coughlan was subsequently banned from football for a year for "reckless trading."

Peter Swales (formerly of Manchester City) - Chairman of City from 1973 to 1993 before the fans finally got rid of him. His mismanagement is often cited as the reason why City fell so far behind neighbours Manchester United.

David Gold and David Sullivan (West Ham) - Comical off-the-field issues played a large part in West Ham's relegation from the Premier League last season.


There were plenty of suggestions from our readers for football's worst owners. As promised, here's a selection of your proposals:

Ken Richardson -
Formerly of Doncaster Rovers

pmaniatt nominates Mr Richardson because he, "tried to
ruin the club, got them relegated out of the football league, plotted to burn
down the main stand, and got sent down for it."  Fair to say that the chairman wasn't one of
the most popular folk at Belle Vue, and was jailed for four years in 1999 for
arson, after one of the men he hired to set the place alight left his mobile
phone at the scene of the crime. The managerial appointment of Mark Weaver also
surprised fans as his previous experience was manager of the club shop at
Stockport. Richardson watched on as
Weaver picked Dave Smith in goal for one game - reportedly because he lived
round the corner from him.

Robert Chase -
Formerly of Norwich City

"Took Norwich City from 3rd in the premiership and UEFA
cup football to relegation and borderline bankrupcy in the space of a few
years," says dai_mo_chen.

Also with the same nomination, tyreman04: "Robert Chase
without question. Flying high in the Prem, beating Bayern Munich and running
Inter Milan close then relegation and virtual bankruptcy despite selling
players like Sutton and Fox for millions. His stupidity caused the loss of
Martin O'Neill as manager after half a season when promotion looked on the
cards."  Add to the examples of Chris
Sutton and Ruel Fox the departures of Chris Woods, Steve Bruce, Andy Townsend
and Mark Robins and you can see why the fans were furious with little or no
re-investment in the squad.

Keith Cousins, Steve
and Liam Beasant - Formerly of Rushden & Diamonds

alandjenkins writes: "They didn't just take their club
into administration, expulsion from the top flight of Non-League Football, and
loss of every single member of staff... they also gave their stadium to their
greatest local rivals, Kettering Town. As I write this, Poppies fans are
crowing over a stadium which for fifteen years they've been deriding as
"plastic", and the seats which once spelt out R D F C in the Airwair
Stand now spell out K T F C."

Rupert Lowe -
Formerly of Southampton

"His response to Dave Jones was awful facing false
allegations. Then hired and fired Paul Sturrock and acted like it was not his
fault. Followed by the poaching of Harry Redknapp from Portsmouth only to stab
him in the back by trying to get his friend Clive Woodward on board as a
director of football! The club have had to sell Bale, Walcott and Kenwyne Jones
but it has not stopped them sliding into league one," says yuhimm_fung. In
truth Lowe fell into the same trap as many other owners by sacking managers too
readily, but unfortunately for Saints fans he took it to an extreme and it had
pretty disastrous consequences for the club. Eight managers during his 10 years
in charge which saw the club relegated from the top division for the first time
in 27 years and on the verge of administration and further relegation; not, by
the end, the best CV.

George Reynolds - Formerly
of Darlington

The plight of The Quakers under Reynolds's chairmanship is
summed up by conster4444: "Built a 25,000 stadium for a league two side,
how stupid is that and also the max capacity is 10,000 unless getting prior
consent from the council due to road safety. Also all the loans from that drove
them into administration and they went there again around 5 years later still
paying back that money he borrowed. To add insult to injury he was forced out
of the board and sent to prison for 3 years for tax dodging." Reynolds was
actually pretty popular when he turned up to take over at Darlington with his ambitious
plans for promotions and his impressive new £20 million stadium, but it all
turned sour very quickly as he ran out of funds and whilst the club's debt sent
then spiralling out of the league, Reynolds was imprisoned for tax evasion,
with his personal fortune whittled away. He was released after just over a year
at her Majesty's pleasure but had an electronic tag in his possession rather
than a football club.

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