Ranked! The 50 most hated people in football
15. Ken Bates
Having spent an entire £1 to recover Chelsea from football’s bargain bin in 1982, much of Bates’s following two decades at the helm were then spent offending and estranging the club’s fans. His first big idea was to frighten off potential pitch invaders by building an electrified fence around the field – a ruse that, having already been built, was outlawed by the FA.
Other highlights include describing a supporters’ club as “parasites” and the then-recently deceased club legend Matthew Harding as “evil”.
Originally a property tycoon, his business dalliances were of the west London-via-Geneva variety, and after an eight-year stint at Leeds – where, as at Chelsea, the content of his programme notes meant he ended up in court – he now lives in Monaco, occasionally providing “colourful” interviews that paint him as a quirky eccentric. But as a great man once said: “Just because you are a character doesn’t mean you have character.”
Words: Alex Hess
14. Joey Barton
If Barton had half the rap sheet he’s accrued, he’d still be here. As it is, his stubbing out a cigar in a youth player’s eye, beating up then-team-mate Ousmane Dabo, being jailed for assault and affray, sucker-punching Morten Gamst Pedersen, plus being banned from football for gambling on matches, stand out among his more humdrum efforts like red cards or barbed outbursts.
The Jekyll and Hyde-ish Barton is also articulate and can be very charming. Yet even in his excellent autobiography, written with Michael Calvin, a whiff of ‘I make no excuses for this episode, but... [list of excuses]’ pervades. It’s easy to understand why he’s disliked.
Words: Alex Reid
13. Diego Maradona
Even those who can't stand to look at the stumpy Argentine will appreciate just why Diego Maradona, a joyous attacker who carried multiple underdogs to glory, is also one of the best-loved players of all time.
Yet they have good reason to grit their teeth when they hear his name, too: his foremost crime to British audiences was haymakering the ball past Peter Shilton in 1986 (and then, by his own admission, urging his team-mates to throw the ref off the scent by celebrating as though nothing had happened).
However, other offences include a couple of failed drugs tests, some wild-eyed on-pitch violence and booting a fan while coaching in the UAE. It's the media, though, who have bore the brunt of Maradona's wrath: journalists have been variously run over, sworn at, insulted, invited to engage in intimate acts and even shot by the great man. No wonder he divides opinion like few others in the game.
Words: Alex Hess
12. Karl Oyston
The curse of the horror owner somehow seems much worse when it’s a local boy doing the damage. The Oyston family made their money in property and telecoms, and bought shares in struggling Blackpool in the 1980s. By 1999, Karl was in charge – after father Owen was imprisoned for rape, and mother Vicki resigned.
There was a season in the Premier League to enjoy, but since then, fans’ feelings have turned due to a lack of investment and an attitude to supporters that ranged from indifference to outright malice. There were massive protests even before the extent of Oyston’s mismanagement had come to light.
In November 2017, it was revealed that Karl and Owen Oyston had been asset-stripping the club by paying out millions to their own companies. They’ve now put the club up for sale, so perhaps the nightmare is finally almost over.
Words: Amit Kawala
11. Bernard Tapie
Let’s tread carefully with this one. In 1993, the fabulously talented Marseille team that won the Champions League were stripped of their Ligue 1 championship after their president Tapie was found to have fixed a domestic match. The motivation appeared to be giving Marseille’s players an easy night ahead of their European final. Later, financial irregularities for which he was also deemed responsible saw the club relegated to Ligue 2.
Tapie – someone who could euphemistically be described as colourful – has made all sorts of enemies in all manner of industries and places. His running of the La Vie Claire cycling team was as controversial as you might expect and resulted in one of the most fractious Tours de France in memory. Over the past 25 years he has managed to be declared bankrupt, been banned from football (obviously) and prohibited from running for public office, while also squeezing in a prison sentence.
Not bad for someone who started life as a lounge singer. Yet that tainted Champions League triumph is his lasting legacy within the game.
Words: Seb Stafford-Bloor