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Monday, 15 January, 2001, 15:31 GMT
The football scam
Bristol Rovers' Memorial Ground
Feng Shui did nothing for Bristol Rovers' fortunes
BBC Sport Online's Pranav Soneji looks at football clubs taken for a ride by classic scams

It's not often a barman working in an Indian restaurant and living in an old people's home attempts to buy a 25% controlling stake in a football club.

Carlisle United unfortunately found themselves in that unenviable position when former chairman Michael Knighton thought he had found a suitable buyer for his shares in the club.

Stephen Brown appeared at a news conference at Brunton Park claiming to have 6m to invest into the club after the sale of a Spanish hotel.

All well and good if you are a Carlisle fan.

Michael Knighton
Knighton wasn't smiling when the deal collapsed

But it transpired Brown was nothing more than a 'Timeshare' flat salesman whose only experience in sports adminstration was an unsuccessful spell as commerical manager of Scottish club Gala Fairydean.

And the non-league club were so dissatisfied with his performance, they let him go after only three months.

Brown had also unsuccessfully tried to buy a controlling stake in Scottish Second Division side Partick Thistle three years ago, along with failed attempts to buy into two Scottish rugby union clubs.

The Carlisle farce prompted local MP Eric Martlew to demand an inquiry into the financial administration at the club.

But Carlisle are not the only club to be approached by someone under false pretences.

Souness scuppered

Blackburn boss Graeme Souness, during his time as Southampton manager, was duped by a man claiming to be the cousin of a former world footballer of the year.

Ali Dia had persuaded his agent to ring the former Liverpool and Rangers boss and pretend he was George Weah ringing about his relative, who just happened to be a highly talented striker he was representing.

The agent claimed Dia had played 13 internationals for Senegal and that Weah was certain he would succeed in the Premiership.

Souness' curosity obviously got the better of him and he gave Dia a one-month contract.

But the painful truth emerged about his real identity when Dia was introduced as a substitute against Leeds.

Current Blackburn manager Graeme Souness
The Ali Dia deal embarrassed Souness
His performance was so diabolical that Souness had to substitute the substitute after just 53 painful minutes.

Needless to say, his contract was rapidly terminated and he joined Gateshead, who eventually let him go in February 1997.

He has not been heard of since.

When The Times printed an exclusive report on Liverpool's efforts to sign French under-21 striker Didier Baptiste for 3.5m, more than a few eyebrows were raised.

It wasn't the fact Gerard Houllier was signing another foreigner, or that he could be a Frenchman of high potential that provoked so much controversy.

It was the fact that Baptiste didn't actually exist.

He was an entirely fictious footballer who plays for Hardchester United, the football team in the TV soap "Dream Team".

It seems football clubs are willing to stretch to endless limits in an attempt to rejuvenate ailing fortunes on the pitch.

Witness Bristol Rovers, who fell victim to a practical joke from two feng shui "experts" who claimed they could enhance the club's results.

Chinese whispers

The ancient Chinese art of feng shui creates balance, harmony, and prosperity in your surrounding environment and induces general well-being.

They demanded staff to ensure all toilet seats were down at all times and the installation of a fish tank containing plastic fish behind the goal.

An ornamental ceramic frog above the stadium entrance, placing house plants in all four of corners of the players' dressing room and hanging wind chimes around the stadium were the other requirements to ensure maximum efficiency.

But the off-the-field changes yielded no changes on the field and Rovers were beaten by then Second Division rivals Gillingham 1-0.

The two 'experts', Guy de Beaujeu and Patrick Stockhausen, then further embarrassed the West Country club when they proclaimed the entire stunt was in the name of their forthcoming comedy series.

"They fell for it hook, line and sinker. They did everything we asked without question," De Beaujeu admitted afterwards.

One thing is for sure though. Rovers are not the first and probably won't be the last in the ever-growing list of footballing scams.

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Carlisle fans, through thick and thinCursed Cumbrians
Carlisle buyer goes missing
See also:

11 Jan 01 |  Carlisle United
MP demands Carlisle inquiry
10 Jan 01 |  Carlisle United
Brown's Carlisle deal scrapped
20 Dec 00 |  SOL
Stars in their eyes
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