Dublin: 6°C Monday 17 January 2022

'It’s not what you know' - Five unlikely football board members

David Miliband has been invited to join Sunderland’s top brass. We take a look at few more unusual football board members.

Image: Neil Munns/PA Archive/Press Association Images

FOLLOWING THIS MORNING’S news that British Foreign Secretary David Miliband has been offered the vice-chairman role at the Stadium of Light by our own Niall Quinn, we look back at five others who probably got some funny looks the first time they sat at the boardroom table.

Delia Smith

Norwich City

A fan since she was brought to Carrow Road by her husband-to-be at the age of 27, Delia Smith is one of the most iconic board members in football.

Though famed for her culinary prowess, Smith has been the joint majority owner of Norwich City since December 1997 when they bought out aging chairman Geoffrey Watling.

Clearly, Smith sees a football club as more than just a shiny plaything for the rich and the famous. A quick flick through the chef’s chequebook suggests that she has pumped over £8m into the club during her time as owner.

And speaking of commitment, who can forget her famous half-time rallying cry to the City fans in March 2005.

Eric Morecambe

Luton Town

When he wasn’t busy forming part of British comedy’s most famous double-act, Eric Morecambe could be found in directors’ box at Kenilworth Road.

After becoming a club director in 1970, the funnyman became notorious  for slipping in references to The Hatters throughout his BBC2 sketch show, even insisting that Oscar-winning actress Glenda Jackson wear a “Luton Town FC” banner during her appearance on the show.

Now, Luton’s claim to Morecambe’s posthumous patronage has been challenged by fans of the club from the town of his birth, Morecambe FC. The consequences, it must be said, were quite entertaining.

Elton John


In 1976, music legend Elton John took the opportunity to give something back to the club which he had supported since childhood, taking over as chairman and director at the fourth division club.

Within seven years, Elton’s Watford were challenging for the First Division title, finishing second to Liverpool in 1983 before facing the disappointment of a narrow Wembley to Merseyside’s blue half the following season.

Though Elton’s position within The Hornets hierarchy has varied over the years, he has always provided solid financial backing for the club, even holding benefit concerts at Vicarage Road. Can you feel the love? (Sorry, couldn’t help myself)

David Sullivan

Birmingham City

Who doesn’t want a porn baron at the helm of their club?

Having decided at the age of 21 to take control of the British “adult entertainment” industry, Cardiff-born entrepreneur David Sullivan was a millionaire by the time he was 25.

In 1993, however, Sullivan and his long-term business partner David Gold decided to invest in a different kind of toy, buying large shares in Birmingham City whom they hoped to restore to the top flight of English football.

Amid allegations of financial impropriety, by 2007 Sullivan had become disillusioned with Birmingham. He and his partners decided to take their financial backing to Sullivan’s boyhood club, struggling West Ham United.

Uri Geller & Michael Jackson

Exeter City

In May 2002, a consortium featuring celebrated spoon-bender Uri Geller bought out Exeter City, a team desperately in need of some superhuman inspiration.

Exeter fans will surely have been disappointed by  their new co-chairman’s promise, just days after his appointment, that he would refrain from using his paranormal superpowers for the good of the club.

Not even the appointment of the King of Pop as an honorary director could help Geller’s consortium to save Exeter. Michael Jackson’s appearance at St James Park in July 2002 served only as some light relief at the outset of a season which would ultimately see Exeter relegated.


Get closer to the stories that matter with exclusive analysis, insight and debate in The42 Membership.

Become a Member

About the author:

Niall Kelly

Read next: