Introducing…The 100 Most Controversial British Football Club Owners Of All-Time

28 By Ian  |   The Ball  |   May 11, 2012  |     25

Since British football began to mirror the industrial revolution in the last two decades of the nineteenth century, the story of the politics of the game in this country has been very much about the relationship between those that have come to own the clubs and those that have, whether directly or indirectly, contributed to keeping them going as sporting institutions into the twenty-first century. What is particularly remarkable is the durability that football clubs have shown over this period. The number of former Football League clubs that no longer exist in any form is extraordinarily small, and we are now at a point at which it is almost inconceivable that any club would cease to exist without a replacement springing up in some form or another.

None of this means, however, that the path of the relationship between football club owners and their supporters has been anything like a happy one. The history of the game in this country has been littered with bad eggs, businessmen who found themselves out of their depth, eccentrics, asset-strippers and carpet-baggers, and we are delighted to be able to announce that over the next few months we will be rounding them all up in a top 100 of the most controversial football club owners of all-time. An article will be devoted to each, and we hope that we will be able to throw in a few curve-balls as well. Before this series gets under way, however, we’re calling for your assistance. We think that we have covered just about everybody that deserves a place on this esteemed list, but there is a chance that we might have missed a couple of people off.

So, if you can think of anybody that you think would fit into the “colourful” category and that we might, somehow, have managed to overlook, here’s your chance to get their name added to that list. All you need to do is add their name and club to the comments box below this post and we’ll take care of the rest. We would ask you to be circumspect with any other comments that you may wish to make about them. Libel laws exists for a reason, after all! We look forward to seeing what names you can come up with.

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Ian began writing Twohundredpercent in May 2006. He lives in Brighton. He has also written for, amongst others, Pitch Invasion, FC Business Magazine, The Score, When Saturday Comes, Stand Against Modern Football and The Football Supporter. Ian was the first winner of the Socrates Award For Not Being Dead Yet at the 2010 NOPA awards for football bloggers.

  • May 11, 2012 at 2:16 pm


    May I start your list with the suggestion of a chairman/owner/director who was involved in controversy and suspect activity at not one, but three teams – John Russell of Scarborough, Halifax and Exeter City; three teams now either bust and replaced, or solely owned by a supporters’ trust.

  • May 11, 2012 at 2:45 pm

    Simon Johnson

    If you include prospective owners we could probably do a top 100 of our own at Wrexham!

    If it is limited to those who have actually owned the club then Alex Hamilton has to be right up there. His frontman-turned-enemy Mark Guterman claimed to be our owner for a while and he previously owned Chester so he could also be on the list.

    Although Geoff Moss and Ian Roberts weren’t quite as pantomime as the aforementioned gentleman they did actually manage to asset-strip us where the others failed. They also managed to accuse Wrexham fans of fire-bombing the student flats they built on what used to be our car park.

    Much as I hate to mention Chester twice in the same post, Stephen Vaughan must be on the list for many reasons. I imagine our neighbours would also include Terry Smith in the ‘controversial owner’ bracket.

  • May 11, 2012 at 3:03 pm


    Without a doubt you have to include Alex Hamlton of Wrexham for openly wanting to evict his own club from the Racecourse ground

  • May 11, 2012 at 3:23 pm


    Five words: Tom Hicks and George Gillett.

    Disgraceful owners.

  • May 11, 2012 at 3:46 pm


    John Russell by a country mile. Hicks and Gillett mere amateurs.

  • May 11, 2012 at 3:54 pm


    Paul woolhouse of sheffield united in the early 90’s, who as far as I know is still wanted by interpol.

  • May 11, 2012 at 5:11 pm


    Terry Ramsden – Walsall. A story of racehorses, gambling, the stock market and prison. Oh, and turkeys.

  • May 11, 2012 at 6:35 pm


    Scarborough FC can produce a list of at least 5. Thank God for Scarborough Athletic!

  • May 11, 2012 at 6:55 pm


    Potentially a controversial view, but given that the chickens hatched during his reign are now coming home to roost I’d say ‘Sir’ David Murray would deserve a place on the chart.

    At the very least Craig Whyte could be in the reckoning what with the SFA’s dim view of the tax avoidance undertaken during his brief but explosive reign (released today in a lengthy report).

  • May 11, 2012 at 7:22 pm


    With a nod to the bit about libel law, John Batchelor (York City FC) was

  • May 11, 2012 at 8:00 pm


    Here’s a blast from the past; Mark Hulyer at Charlton Ath. No money, dodgy deals galore, signed Alan Simonsen from Barcelona and his regime eventually led to the club leaving the Valley for the long years of exile

  • May 11, 2012 at 10:07 pm


    Terry Ramsden was undoubtedly a colourful character but his time at Walsall was relatively scandal free. The real story involves the men who bought the club from Ramsden. They sold Fellows Park for £7m and still somehow made a loss on the move to Bescot even though the stadium was a budget copy of Scunthorpe’s Glanford Park. The fact it mysteriously cost twice as much to build as Glanford Park may have had something to do with it. As might the fact that construction was carried out by a firm owned by one of the directors. Those hoping to get some clue as to how the money had been spent via the accounts would be disappointed. The directors put Walsall into administration within a year and wound up the companies that had bought the club and built the new ground without filing accounts. Most astonishingly, Walsall never owned the ground that the sale of Fellows Park paid for and still don’t. It has passes between various landlords ever since.

  • May 11, 2012 at 10:21 pm

    Kev, Swansea

    Mike Lewis and his mate Tony Petty for nearly killing off both Swansea City and Exeter City. No co-incidence that these were the two teams that were fighting it out on the last day of season 2002/3 to avoid the last relegation spot into the Conference. I know the Swansea rags to riches story is starting to bore people now, but it’s not just the win against Hull in 2003 that should be remembered, but the fact that it was a miracle they were still around to play the game at all. And it was all down to Lewis and Petty. We’ve got long memories down here.

  • May 11, 2012 at 10:52 pm

    Harry Taylor

    Barry Norgrove from Kidderminster Harriers. Consistently ran the club into the ground only to asset-strip it every January with any players who were playing well, appointed an ex-Fraudster in John Baldwin as our Financial Director and denied us having any debt a month before he was voted out as Chairman by the majority of the board.

  • May 11, 2012 at 11:38 pm

    Wayne Price

    Alex Hamilton for buying wrexham fc, negotiating a deal to buy the ground for himself and then handing eviction papers to wrexham

    geoff moss and ian roberts succeeded where añex hamilton didn’t, asset stripped the ground for their own wealth.

    But Steve Vaughan has to be number one.

  • May 12, 2012 at 2:30 am


    Balram chainrai must be on this list…no owner has split the fans more, or damaged Pompey more than him.

  • May 12, 2012 at 9:30 am


    Good to see three former Chester owners mentioned already! I would also add Eric Barnes, who arguably started the rot at the club, and is talked of by some of our older supporters with more disgust than any of the more recent characters.

    Jim Rushe at Northwich is another one worth a mention, and that bonkers Danish lot who wanted to buy us but ended up buying Croydon.

  • May 12, 2012 at 10:05 am

    Renegade Womble

    Sam Haman – Who separated the club from its ground (both sold for a tidy profit), and so by doing, started the whole saga that led to ‘Football Franchising’ and the death of Wimbledon FC.

  • May 12, 2012 at 10:42 am


    Almost all of them?

  • May 12, 2012 at 10:42 am

    Morden Womble

    1. That guy from Doncaster who tried burning it down
    2. Stan Flashman
    3. George Reynolds
    4. Paul Dipre

    And most importantly SAM HAMMAN – scumbag

  • May 12, 2012 at 1:08 pm

    Merthyr Bloke

    Wyn Holloway at Merthyr Tydfil Fc. He succeeded in killing off the 60 year old club, running up an aledged (by him) £1.5million debt in the Southern League. The phrase “A fool and his money are easily parted” should be the epitaph on his gravestone.

  • May 12, 2012 at 2:19 pm

    Joe Bloghead

    Probably not worth a place in the top 100, but Hartlepool’s Garry Gibson paid himself large ‘consultancy fees’ while never quite getting round to replacing the outdated stand as he promised to do.

  • May 12, 2012 at 2:59 pm


    At Luton, we’ve had our fair share of controversial owners – David Evans banning away fans, David Kohler was another one, and it’s fair to say we haven’t really recovered from Bill Tomlins and Jayten’s ownership of the club that ended in 2008. But surely the most controversial owner we’ve ever had has to be John Gurney. He was only there for about 40 days, but still managed to alienate all of our fans. You only need to read this statement from the official website to come to the conclusion that he was completely off his rocker.,,10372~389702,00.html

  • May 12, 2012 at 4:00 pm


    3 administrations in 10 years I give you Darlington FC’s holy trinity:
    George Reynolds
    George Houghton
    Raj Singh.

    From football league to sticky glue league in 2 years!

    Now on the way back as a community interest company.

  • May 12, 2012 at 4:01 pm


    Gjelstein and Rokke…. the 2 Norwegian billionaires who owned Wimbledon FC 99-02…..could easily have bought the club some land to build a stadium in South London…. but instead sold the club to a businessman in Milton Keynes… the face of universal opposition


    Sam Hammam….moved WFC from their home at Plough Lane to a ground share….instead of putting the £8m from the sale of PL towards a new ground, he instead pocketed it and duped the above Norwegians into buying a Premier League club with no actual assets

  • May 13, 2012 at 12:24 pm


    In regard to Pompey there is a long list – but Terry Venables must surely be the most blatantly controversial?

    Unlike Mr Chainrai, Venables actually managed to make a profit on owning Pompey, selling his 51% holding in the club in 1998 for £250,000 when the club was losing £150,000 a month. This was a share he had bought for £1 a year earlier. As to being ‘Fit and Proper ….’

    May I also suggest a second series as a follow up – ‘100 most controversial Football CEOs’? Pompey has had a fair share of those as well.

  • June 8, 2012 at 7:30 pm


    Walsall FC owner/chairman/majority shareholder Jeff Bonser has been in charge for over 20 years.
    As already stated the club has always paid rent to play in a ground they paid to build, despite owning Fellows Park until 18 months before moving in 1990. Jeff became a director in 1988.
    The club pays around £450k a year to play in a badly designed, functional stadium lacking in atmosphere. We struggle to survive in L1 while crowds drop.
    And the landlord? A company that administers the pension fund of a company once owned by a Mr.J.W.Bonser.

  • September 24, 2012 at 9:43 pm


    For pure comedy value, George Rolls

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