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The Guardian's sport correspondent Vivek Chaudhary
"It's what we've come to expect from Mr Bates"
 real 14k

banner Thursday, 8 February, 2001, 16:14 GMT
Bates downed by strongarm style
Bates sacked Gianluca Vialli for failing to win a Champions League place
Tap on the shoulder: Bates sacked Vialli
Ken Bates, ousted from the board of Wembley Stadium, was a victim of the forthright approach to business that has made Chelsea such a commerical success, argues BBC Sport Online's Claire Stocks.

The sound of Ken Bates, one of the most ebullient, idiosyncratic figures in English football, sounding off at those in authority is not rare.

What is unusual is the sight of Bates beaten in a battle of wills and forced to step aside.

In 18 years at the helm of Chelsea Football Club, Bates has seen off all-comers.


Even Jesus Christ only had one Pontius Pilate - I had a whole team of them
  Ken Bates in his resignation letter to the Wembley board

He has built a reputation at Stamford Bridge for his killer instinct.

Under his reign, managers John Neal, John Hollins, Bobby Campbell, Ian Porterfield, David Webb, Glenn Hoddle, Ruud Gullit and Gianluca Vialli have come and gone.

Both Gullit and Vialli found their successes on the pitch were not enough to save them from a man uncomfortable with challengers.

Bates' autocratic style also saw him ban the late Matthew Harding, a fellow director and potential replacement, from the box in a feud which only really ended with Harding's untimely death in a helicopter crash in 1996.

Ironically, Bates blames his demise from the board of Wembley National Stadium Limited on the actions of a fellow director, vice-chairman Sir David Hill-Wood, whom he described as "my Brutus".

Ken Bates was pivotal in the decision to demolish Wembley's twin towers
Wembley woe: Bates claims he was stabbed in the back

Perhaps Bates' mistake during his tenure on the board of the project to rebuild Wembley was to attempt to conduct his business in the same manner as he has been able to in south west London.

At Chelsea, Bates is untouchable.

Though he does not have a majority shareholding (he owns around 28pc of Chelsea Village plc, owner of Chelsea Football Club), he controls the votes of the majority shareholder, Rysaffe Trust Ltd.

Rysaffe is an offshore company with anonymous owners formed when Bates rescued Stamford Bridge back in 1982.

That, coupled with his iconic status among the Chelsea faithful - who will forgive him almost anything for saving the Bridge from being flatted by property developers in the 1980s and restoring Chelsea to the top echelons of English football - make Bates virtually unassailable.

Matthew Harding (left), who died in a helicopter crash in 1996, and Ken Bates
Bates banned Harding from the directors box before the pair healed their rift

Though the fans do occasionally grumble at the legendary "Ken Bates screws the fans schemes" (his words), such as the requirement to buy insurance with season tickets already the most expensive in the league.

But it is his and managing director Colin Hutchison's success in transforming Chelsea's finances that have paid for the influx of foreign stars.

Chelsea has one of the strongest merchandising arms in the UK and Bates' integrated vision of a football club, which has seen Chelsea acquire a hotel, apartment block, catering arm, travel business, megastore, radio and television stations, has since been adopted by others.

Last year BSkyB bought a 9.9pc stake in the club in a deal which valued the whole of Chelsea Village at 400m, making it the Premier League's second-most valuable football club behind Manchester United.

Bates' business acumen is not in doubt.

He was chief negotiator for the Football Association in the deal to buy the complex from Wembley plc , and, in his words, "made a substantial operating profit... despite having inherited a lacklustre leaderless management".

He has arguably done more than anyone - and for no fee - to make the project a reality.

A photographer plays a joke at Bates' expense, lining him up behind the Chelsea hoarding advertising glass
Bates: Strong-willed

But it was his attempt to transfer his Chelsea style onto the new Wembley project which cost him his chairmanship of the scheme in December and has since seen him sidelined to the extent he felt he had to resign.

His grandiose plans, including offices and hotels, saw the scheme fall two years behind schedule and costs spiral from 240m to 660m.

The City balked and Bates' failure to get enough financial backing saw him replaced by the more pragmatic Sir Rodney Walker.

Walker also had a more democratic vision for the new national stadium.

Home of football

Bates never made any pretence that he saw Wembley as the true home to only one sport - football.

Even though the project had been given a lottery grant on the assumption it would be able to host athletics - Bates invited no representatives onto the team.

Some would say there was nothing wrong with this approach, given that it would be football which would fund the running costs of the new stadium.

But it was not diplomatic.

Bates was also pivotal in the controversial decision to have the emblematic twin towers demolished - and by his own admission leaked the story to the press to ease public reaction.

Bates' is not averse to a little manoeuvring, so his gripes at being bumped off the Wembley project sound a trifle sour.

"Even Jesus Christ only had one Pontius Pilate - I had a whole team of them," he claimed in his bitter resignation letter to the Wembley National Stadium Limited on Thursday.

He also claimed that leaks and spin doctoring had become a way of life within the Football Association.

If so, they have learned their lesson well.

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See also:

08 Feb 01 |  Search for a New Wembley
Bates quits Wembley project
25 Jan 01 |  Chelsea
Chelsea confirm 24m shirt deal
31 Dec 00 |  Search for a New Wembley
Minister's rap for Wembley boss
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