ON THIS DAY: The downfall of Doncaster Rovers supremo Ken Richardson

Fans held many protests against Richardson.
Fans held many protests against Richardson.
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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.

Ken Richardson was jailed for his part in burning down Belle Vue.

Ken Richardson was jailed for his part in burning down Belle Vue.

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.

Angry fans invade the Belle Vue pitch calling for Richardson to go during the 1997-98 season.

Angry fans invade the Belle Vue pitch calling for Richardson to go during the 1997-98 season.

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.

The 1997-98 season saw a series of demonstrations against the despised Richardson.

The 1997-98 season saw a series of demonstrations against the despised Richardson.

The aftermath of the Belle Vue fire.

The aftermath of the Belle Vue fire.