One Direction’s Louis Tomlinson and the ‘A’ List of celebrity sports team owners

New Doncaster Rovers part-owner Louis Tomlinson at the Keepmoat Stadium

New Doncaster Rovers part-owner Louis Tomlinson at the Keepmoat Stadium

One Direction star Louis Tomlinson is far from the first celebrity to buy a significant stake in a major sports team.

Tomlinson has teamed up with former owner John Ryan to take over Doncaster Rovers.

The move is expected to significantly raise Rovers’ profile but will beg the question of whether a high-profile owner is a good thing.

Here, is a run down of other such cases.


If Tomlinson does for Rovers what John managed during his tenure at Watford, the stands at the Keepmoat Stadium could soon be alive with One Direction renditions. John became chairman and director of the club in 1976 and presideded over the most successful era in the club’s history as they were promoted to the old Division One and finished runners-up to Liverpool in 1983, as well as reaching the FA Cup final the following year. John subsequently sold the club but he continues to hold a significant shareholding and remains its lifelong president.


Smith was a long-time fan of Norwich City who took the chance to become the club’s majority shareholding shortly after the Canaries went public. Smith revelled in her newly public role and predictably oversaw a revolution of the club’s catering facilities. But she is best known for her antics at half-time of a match against Manchester City in 2005. With her club sliding towards relegation, Smith grabbed the on-pitch announcer’s microphone and implored of the fans: “Where are you? Where are you? Let’s be ‘aving you!”


Given that he was “in west Philadelphia born and raised” according to the opening of the ‘Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ programme in which he first made his name, it is perhaps not surprising that movie star Will Smith should choose the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers to make his first foray into sports management. Smith and his wife Jada Pinkett Smith contributed to a consortium led by multi-billionaire Joshua Harris to become part-owners of the club in October 2011.


Australian rugby league fan Crowe took a majority stake in the financially stricken NRL side the South Sydney Rabbitohs in 2006. Under Crowe’s ownership, the club improved to enjoy one of the most successful eras in their history. Crowe famously bought Sam Burgess - and subsequently his three brothers George, Tom and Luke - after watching him playing for Bradford Bulls on television, and subsequently inviting him to the set of his film Robin Hood in the Yorkshire Dales for talks.


If Elton John provides the blueprint for celebrity ownership, Rovers fans will get a chill from the story of Kiss front-men Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley. The pair bought a share of the expansion Los Angeles Kiss - rebranding them with the band’s famous logo - in the Arena Football League, the highest-level indoor gridiron league in the US. A reality show, documenting the attempts of Simmons and Stanley to run the club during their first year in charge, is soon to air in the US.




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