Ex-SAS man hired to burn football stadium

THE MAIN shareholder of a football club was convicted yesterday of hiring an ex-SAS soldier to set fire to its stadium.

Ken Richardson, 61, a key figure at Doncaster Rovers at the time of the 1995 arson attack, was described by the prosecution as a "devious man" who had joined the South Yorkshire club because there were profits to be made.

Roger Keen QC, for the prosecution, told Sheffield Crown Court that Richardson had offered a Newcastle private investigator, Alan Kristiansen, pounds 10,000 to carry out the attack at the Belle Vue ground.

The former SAS man and his accomplices sprayed petrol under the main stand and set it alight. The fire caused pounds 100,000 damage to the stand and almost put the club out of business.

The night after the fire, Kristiansen left a message on Richardson's telephone answering machine, saying: "The job's been done."

Richardson, from Douglas on the Isle of Man, denied any involvement but was convicted of conspiracy to commit criminal damage by fire after a two-week trial.

Judge Peter Baker QCwarned Richardson, whose involvement with Doncaster Rovers ended last year when the club was relegated into the Football Conference that he could expect a custodial sentence. "This is a most serious offence, albeit an unusual one. But there's no doubt what the sentence will be - it's just a question of its length," he said.

The sentencing was adjourned until a date to be arranged. Richardson was remanded in custody pending a bail application.

Kristiansen was arrested after police found his mobile phone which had been left at the scene of the fire.

The private investigator, who was the prosecution's main witness, has already pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentence.

Mr Keen claimed Richardson had plotted the fire for financial gain and described the evidence he gave in court as "the worst concoction of waffle, piffle and flannel" he had heard.