Flavio Briatore and football's worst meddling chairmen

Claims that Flavio Briatore often picked QPR teams and once ordered a substitution by phone from Malaysia have shocked football but surprised few Loftus Road insiders.

Yet even the disgraced F1 chief has a way to go before matching up to these classic meddling chairmen...

Terry Smith (Chester City)

Formerly a successful American football coach in the British leagues, Smith bought into Chester in summer 1999 following controversy over his failed attempts to start a European indoor gridiron league. This culminated with his Sheffield team playing a side billed as coming from Munich but which actually consisted of Smith's backup players. The homegrown ringers were said to have kept their helmets on even while relaxing on the sidelines in order to prevent identification.

A one-time trialist with the NFL's New England Patriots, Smith did not let his merely nodding acquaintance with 'soccer' dampen his enthusiasm - even agreeing to take a football test organised by the Sunday Mirror, which revealed that he thought Bobby Charlton ha played for Scotland, that teams could be awarded a penalty goal if a player was brought down in the area, that there was a limit on the number of corners and throw-ins during a game, and that goal kicks could only be taken from one side.

After bewildered manager Kevin Ratcliffe resigned three games into the campaign, citing interference from the new chairman, Smith took over as boss and immediately introduced a raft of bizarre changes - including naming twin captains for the "offense and defense" plus an extra skipper for midfield, the saying of pre-match prayers and slow-motion 'walkthroughs' of set-piece plays. He also famously took his players to McDonald's for a pre-match meal.

Unsurprisingly, Chester were relegated but Smith still hailed the campaign as a success, claiming his side had met "nine out of 10 pre-season targets". The 10th, of course, had been to stay up.

Barry Fry (Peterborough)

Having spent nine years as Posh manager, the genial Fry found it impossible to relinquish control of first team affairs after becoming the club's chairman. The nadir came during Steve Bleasdale's four months in charge at London Road in early 2006. Fry appointed Ron Atkinson as a team consultant, then allowed Sky's cameras to film inside the dressing room for a reality series called 'Big Ron Manager'.

They caught a series of clashes between Fry, Atkinson and Bleasdale, including one which sparked the latter's resignation during a pre-match team talk after Fry told him, "It's clear that you're muddled up, that you don't know what to do" and promptly announced a new starting XI and revised tactics.

Said Bleasdale: "Ron would ring me up and talk about formations and I would tell him we didn't have the players for his formation. Then he would agree to my formation, but retract it the following day. It was a total mix-up that was confusing for everybody."

Dmitry Pietrman (Racing Santander)

Told he would need to complete a six-year coaching course in order to manage the Spanish team he had just bought, the quick-thinking Ukrainian  immediately appointed old friend Chuchi Cos as manager and named himself as official club photographer.

Donning a snapper's bib, Pietrman would then sit on a chair adjacent to the Racing bench, taking few pictures but regularly shouting out orders to players and Cos. The pair later had a similar arrangement at Alaves and an unrepentant Pieterman said, referring to George W Bush: "There's a dork out there running the most powerful country in the world without a qualification to his name. And you want me to have a diploma to run a football team?"

Michael Knighton (Carlisle United)

He juggled a ball on his head at the Stretford End while attempting to buy Manchester United and claimed to have received a telepathic message from aliens saying "Don't be afraid, Michael". But arguably the most bizarre episode of Knighton's chequered career in football came when the Carlisle chairman named himself manager in 1998.

Despite Knighton's impressive credentials - "I'd been a PE teacher, I'd been interested in sports science all my life"  - fans were unimpressed as United slipped to relegation and a struggle to survive in the following season. After winning just 19 of 68 games in charge, Knighton appointed 'proper' manager Nigel Pearson as his replacement and Carlisle stayed out of the Conference with a second to spare in the incredible 'Jimmy Glass game'.

Knighton, who would go on to attempt to sell the club to hoaxer Stephen Brown, a barman in an Indian restaurant, now denies he was ever a hands-on manager. "I didn't put on one coaching session and I never gave one team talk," he insisted - despite having appeared on TV at the time in what looked remarkably like a coaching session.

Vladimir Romanov (Hearts)

The Lithuanian, who made his first fortune selling bootleg albums by The Beatles and Elvis Presley behind the Iron Curtain, has been a persistent meddler since becoming Hearts' majority shareholder in early 2005, with his son Roman admitting that no manager would have 100 per cent control of team selection under dad's regime. He said: "One hundred per cent? Definitely not. Maybe 50 per cent, maybe 60, because there are different reasons for choosing the team."

When Hearts began the 2005-06 season with eight straight wins, Romanov sacked manager George Burley over his refusal to obey the team selections faxed over every week from the Baltics. Replacement Graham Rix lasted only four months under similar circumstances and even Romanov's friend and fellow countryman Valdas Ivanauskas stayed barely more than a year, during which it was revealed that he had to fax his first team selection over to Lithuania on Friday morning and then field whatever team Romanov faxed back.

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