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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 July, 2003, 11:50 GMT 12:50 UK
Bates: Chelsea's driving force

By Paul Fletcher

Ken Bates is not a man who likes to sit on the fence, electrified or not.

The Chelsea supremo is not known for his tact, calm disposition or soothing manner, but for tackling a problem head on, a bombastic juggernaut who refuses to accept defeat.

'Old Grey Beard' has had more than his quota of rows, fall outs and controversy since buying debt-ridden Chelsea for just 1 in 1982.

It was Bates who badgered the Football Association and the Greater London Council in 1985 when they rejected his plans to install an electric fence to deter hooligans.

Six years later Chelsea were fined 105,000 when it was alleged the club had made illegal payments to players and Bates resigned from the League management committee shortly afterwards.

There was more controversy in 1992 when Chelsea Football and Athletic Club, formed in 1905, was changed to CFAC.

At the same time Bates formed Chelsea Village Ltd and moved the players' registrations from CFAC to the new company.

One year later CFAC was placed into receivership with debts of 2.4m and the Department of Trade and Industry appointed an official receiver to investigate the dealings.

The whole episode left many infuriated by what they saw as Bates' questionable methods.

Chelsea chairman Ken Bates
Bates - colourful, controversial
But against this backdrop of dealing and intrigue Bates has transformed Chelsea from a struggling Division Two side with a ramshackle ground into a thriving Premiership force boasting a magnificent stadium.

Next season the Blues expensively assembled squad, boasting World Cup winners and managed by Italian Claudio Ranieri, will be challenging Europe's elite in the Champions League.

Bates, born in Ealing, west London, had dipped his toe into football prior to his involvement with Chelsea when he was chairman of Oldham for a spell during the 1960s.

But it is Chelsea upon which the 71-year-old has really stamped his authority, building a successful club through his sheer determination to prove his critics wrong.

His steely manner in the boardroom is equalled only by the ruthlessness with which he dealt with defeat on the pitch.

Unsatisfied by the failures of John Hollins, Bobby Campbell, Ian Porterfield and David Webb to transform the fortunes of the club, Bates appointed Glenn Hoddle as manager in 1993 and a mediocre Premiership club began ascending the table.

Then Chelsea manager Ruud Gullit lifts the FA Cup in 1997
Chelsea won the FA Cup in 1997
Hoddle's Chelsea reached the FA Cup final in 1994 and further success, funded by Matthew Harding's cash, followed under Ruud Gullit and Gianluca Vialli.

Chelsea won the FA Cup in 1997 and 2000 and the European Cup Winners' Cup in 1998 and reached the semi-finals the following year.

The sudden sackings of Gullit in 1998 and Vialli, the club's most successful manager, in 2000 showed that despite his advancing years Bates had not lost his ruthelssness.

The Chelsea chairman, though, was struggling to tame the club's debts, believed to be in the region of 80m.

Roman Abramovich's takeover should ensure the club will have money to spend on new players and secure new long-term deals for Chelsea's current stars.

Bates will receive a reported 18m for his original 1 investment and gets to remain as chairman at the club for the time being.

It is a dream scenario for Bates, though how long he will remain at the helm is a matter of conjecture.

Whatever happens Chelsea fans will tell you that 21 years after walking through the door at Stamford Bridge, Bates has changed the club beyond recognition.




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