With Vincent Tan’s recent antics as owner of Cardiff City making the headlines, Cormac O’Connor takes a look at various owners, shareholders, chairpersons and chief executives who have been ever-present on the back pages
A good football owner should be seen and not heard. There every Saturday to support the team, but avoiding boosting their own profile by talking to the press or by acting in a way which makes it impossible for journalists to ignore. If you’re not sure who your club’s owner even is, then rest assured; they are doing a good job. Some of them though just can’t avoid the dipping their toes in the limelight.
Roman Abramovich – Chelsea
Having poured over a billion pounds into Chelsea in just over ten years, one could argue that Mr Abramovich is quite entitled to sack whoever he wants at the club. After all, three Premier League titles, four FA Cups, two League Cups, a Champions League and a Europa League have made this the most successful era in Chelsea’s history. Abramovich has spent close to £90 million simply paying off sacked managers.
However, sometimes Abramovich just can’t resist meddling with the football side of things, sometimes landing his managers with players they clearly didn’t want. See Andriy Shevchenko and Michael Ballack under Mourinho and Fernando Torres and David Luiz under Ancelotti.
Such is the depth of Abramovich’s pockets that he has managed to keep the fans onside despite sacking the ‘Special One’ who was idolized by the Stamford Bridge faithful. Even axing another fan favourite, Roberto Di Matteo, eight months after the Italian had lifted the Champions League, didn’t draw the fans ire directly upon himself.
Instead it was the Oligarch’s choice of replacement, Rafa Benitez, who took the flack. The Russian has sacked ten managers at Chelsea and he is now back with the one he first appointed.
Daniel Levy – Tottenham Hotspur
Often lauded for his tough negotiating, Daniel Levy has a reputation for being an extremely difficult man to deal with when it comes to transfers. “We’re not selling our best players,” insisted Levy when Chelsea bid for Luka Modric in the summer of 2011.
The Spurs chairman stuck to his guns and Modric stayed for another season. In 2012, however, Levy decided that selling their best players was actually something Tottenham did do as long it came with a ‘partnership’ with Real Madrid.
The partnership seemingly meant that Spurs would sell their best players to Real Madrid as Gareth Bale soon followed Modric to the Bernabeu. Having spent over £100m in the summer, Tottenham were early favourites for a Champions League spot with some pundits even tipping the North Londoners for a title challenge.
That title challenge failed to materialise and, after a positive start, Tottenham’s form began to deteriorate as a 0-5 home defeat to Liverpool prompted Levy to sack manager Andre Villas-Boas. The Portuguese was the ninth manager to be shown the door by Levy since his reign began in 2001.
Towards the end of AVB’s stint he began to distance himself from the players recruited during the summer transfer window. Rumours began to circulate that it was in fact Franco Baldini, the clubs technical director, appointed by Levy, who had spent the money.
Baldini, however, kept his job as sacking the Italian would be akin to admitting that the whole structure was wrong which in turn would be admitting that Levy was wrong; something chairmen rarely do. Sacking the man in the limelight and leaving all the blame at his door is by far the preferred choice.
Ken Bates – Leeds United and Chelsea
Bates bought Chelsea for £1 and sold the club for £150 million. By any stretch of the imagination, that is good business. However, Chelsea also had £80 million in debt and were close to, if not on the brink of, ‘doing a Leeds’ and tumbling down the divisions.
So, his time at Chelsea cannot go down as a complete success. It was at Leeds where Bates really put his name forth for the crazy chairman award. He claimed to have saved the club money by signing a half-million pound deal with a private jet firm to transport him from his home in Monaco to Leeds.
The savings seemingly coming from the fact that it, was a sterling deal, not euros. Surprisingly the board at Leeds didn’t think that spending half a million pounds was a good way of saving money and promptly sacked Bates.
Delia Smith – Norwich City
Smith insists she wasn’t drunk during her message to “the best football supporters in the world,” a speech in which she stumbled and slurred her words. The now infamous “Let’s be ‘avin you” rallying call was greeted with awkward applause and a half-hearted cheer by the fans; the applause one suspects was issued solely to stop Smith actually hearing the collective cringe.
This was not the only speech the celebrity chef has delivered to the Norwich faithful. Having achieved promotion back to the Premier League in 2011 she thanked manager Paul ‘Langbert’ whose name is actually Paul Lambert.
Vincent Tan – Cardiff City
Cardiff’s Malaysian owner has made himself such an easy target for ridicule it’s hard to rule out the likelihood that this is deliberate effort on Tan’s part to be cast as the next Bond villain. His no-matter-the-weather shades, brown leather gloves and high-waist trousers outfit is without doubt the worst in football.
Tan recommended Cardiff sign players with an ‘8’ in the birthday, as this is apparently a lucky number. He sacked his head of recruitment and replaced him with a 23-year-old friend of his son. He also changed the colour of the home jersey to red instead of blue. Tan was angry with David Marshall’s lack of goals despite Marshall being a goalkeeper.
Mike Ashley – Newcastle United
The Sports Direct mogul appointed Joe Kinnear as director of football. Enough said.
Assam Allem – Hull City Tigers
Allem added ‘Tigers’ to the end of Hull City’s name. Also, when angry fans chanted ‘City till we die’ Allem told them “they can die as soon as they want.” Quaint.