Ex-owner of Doncaster Rovers jailed for arson plot

THE FORMER owner of Doncaster Rovers Football Club was jailed for four years yesterday after plotting to burn down the main stand of the club's home ground.

Ken Richardson, 61, showed no emotion as Judge Peter Baker QC sentenced him.

Richardson, of Douglas, Isle of Man, presented "a sorry figure in the dock", said the judge, but he exercised great influence on the club and "used money to set in train serious crime".

Richardson was convicted of conspiracy to commit arson after a two-week trial in January. Sheffield Crown Court was told that the wealthy businessman offered pounds 10,000 to a former SAS soldier to start the fire in 1995 at the club's Belle Vue ground, causing damage put at pounds 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.

Gilbert Gray QC, Richardson's barrister, said the five weeks his client had spent in jail since conviction had seriously affected his mental and physical health. He said: "He is a mere shadow of his former self."

Mr Gray said Richardson wanted the best for Doncaster Rovers. "Was this a greedy man seeking to make a huge killing out of insurance? The answer is no," he said. "What it could have achieved was a move for the club."

In 1984 Richardson was given a nine-month suspended sentence and fined pounds 20,000 for his part in a racing scandal known as the Flockton Grey affair.

At an earlier hearing Kristiansen, 41, of Newcastle, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit arson. He was jailed yesterday for 12 months.

Two other men who helped him to start the fire - Ian Hay, 54, from Gateshead, and Alan Cracknall, 32 of Ryton, Newcastle - pleaded guilty to arson. Both were sentenced to nine months, suspended for two years.

The judge said he was considering ordering Richardson to pay costs of pounds 75,000.