It was a day fans of Doncaster Rovers thought would never come – the jailing of despised club supremo Ken Richardson.
It was on March 5 1999 – 17 years ago today – that the club’s self-styled benefactor was sentenced to four years jail for his part in a bungled plot to burn down Rovers’ former Belle Vue ground.
Richardson, then 61, showed no emotion in the dock as he was found guilty of conspiracy to commit arson at Sheffield Crown Court following a two-week trial.
Judge Peter Baker said Richardson had exercised great influence on the club and “used money to set in train serious crime”. The court had heard how he offered £10,000 to a former SAS soldier to start the fire in the Main Stand in 1995, causing damage put at £100,000.
The prosecution said Richardson’s intention was to try to force Rovers to move to a new stadium. The plan failed when Alan Kristiansen, who was hired to start the fire, left his mobile phone at the scene and was quickly traced and arrested.
At the start of his regime, Richardson lauded himself as Rovers’ saviour.But fans turned against him when then boss Kerry Dixon revealed he had no say in picking the team - and that Richardson was constantly meddling in affairs.
The showdown between fans and owner came to head in the disastrous 1997-98 season when Rovers plunged out of the Football League amid angry protests and demonstrations as well as a string of managers taking the reins.
It wasn’t Richardson’s first brush with the law. In 1984 he was fined £20,000 for his part in a racing scandal in which horses were swapped in a scam to sting the bookies.
Rovers bounced back to the League in 2003 while on his release, Richardson returned to running his sack factory in East Yorkshire.