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Wednesday, January 27, 1999 Published at 19:19 GMT


Football boss had ground torched

Blaze caused 100,000 of damage to main stand

A former owner of Doncaster Rovers has been found guilty of conspiring to burn down the football club's ground.

Mike McKay reports for BBC News
Ken Richardson, 61, a self-styled "benefactor" of the struggling club, was convicted after a 15-day trial at Sheffield Crown Court.

Richardson, of Douglas, Isle of Man, was a major shareholder of the club at the time of the fire on 29 June 1995.

[ image: Ken Richardson: Faces jail sentence]
Ken Richardson: Faces jail sentence
The court was told he hired a former SAS soldier working as a private investigator to burn down the Bellevue ground.

Judge Peter Baker QC adjourned sentencing but warned Richardson he could expect a custodial sentence.

He was remanded in custody pending a bail application.

Mike McKay reports from Sheffield Crown Court
The blaze caused 100,000 worth of damage to the roof and seats of the main stand.

The prosecution could not say for certain why the attack was ordered although financial gain was suggested as a motive.

'Devious man'

Richardson, a millionaire businessman, had been involved in long and abortive negotiations to sell the lease of the ground to Doncaster Council so a new stadium could be built.

But he denied involvement, saying he loved the club and that a fire could only have ruined it.

Mike McKay on decline at Doncaster and the fans' turbulent relationship with Richardson
In court he was described by the prosecution as a "devious man" who had offered Newcastle-based private investigator Alan Kristiansen 10,000 to carry out the attack.

The former SAS man and accomplices sprayed petrol under the main stand and set it alight.

The following evening he left a message on Richardson's answering machine, saying: "The job's been done."

Kristiansen was arrested after police found his mobile phone at the scene of the fire.

The ex-serviceman is also awaiting sentence after admitting the offence then acting as the key prosecution witness.

'Piffle and flannel'

Richardson's evidence was described by the prosecution as "the worst concoction of waffle, piffle and flannel" they had ever heard.

But his defence accused Kristiansen of telling a "pack of lies" and suggested he had made mistakes leading to his arrest deliberately.

Afterwards, Detective Inspector Dick Venables of South Yorkshire Police expressed satisfaction.

"It's the culmination of a difficult 12-month investigation which put a heavy demand on resources and committed officers to places throughout the country and the Isle of Man."

'This man destroyed the club'

Maureen Stephenson of Rovers supporters club said Richardson had got what he deserved.

[ image: Fans organised a lengthy campaign against Richardson]
Fans organised a lengthy campaign against Richardson
"I'm glad that justice has been done but I just wish that it could have happened earlier and we could have been saved from relegation.

"This man destroyed the club," she added.

Richardson came to Rovers with a controversial background which had seen him preside over the rise and ruin of a developing non-League club, Bridlington Town.

In 1984 he was given a suspended prison sentence, fine and racing ban after being convicted of switching horses in a race at Leicester.

He relinquished control of Doncaster following the club's relegation from the Football League last May.

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