Peter Ridsdale : biography
Peter Ridsdale (born 11 March 1952) is an English businessman and Chairman of Football at Preston North End F.C.. He was until December 2011 the Chairman of Football Operations at League Two club Plymouth Argyle. Ridsdale was previously the chairman of Leeds United, Barnsley and Cardiff City.
United We Fall
In November 2007 Ridsdale released the book United We Fall: Boardroom Truths About the Beautiful Game making claims about incidents which had contributed to the downfall of Leeds United in the mid-2000s. Extracts were printed in The Sun and on their on-line page. Ridsdale made the following claims:
- Former Leeds manager David O’Leary had a large role in "a secret deal with bung agent Rune Hauge that ultimately landed the disgraced Norwegian £1.75million". The claims were in regard to the deal that brought Rio Ferdinand to Leeds.
- Before O’Leary had left the club he had "lost the dressing room" and this was the real reason for his sacking in the summer of 2002. Several players had stated that "they’d be looking to move elsewhere if O’Leary remained as manager for the 2002–03 season" including Paul Robinson who had stated after being dropped for a match "I’ll never play for that b*****d again".
- Football agent Pino Pagliari had "offered the illicit payment when Robbie Keane moved to Tottenham in 2002" to submit an "invoice for ‘agent services’" for £600,000. In return for Ridsdale allowing this the fee would be split 50:50 between the two of them, however Ridsdale refused and reported the offer to his board, for future reference so to never deal with the agent.
- Martin O’Neill had signed a contract in January 2003 to become manager of Leeds as soon as would release him from his contract. He would have taken over from then manager Terry Venables however Venables’ team at the time went on a seven game winning run. The contract had a clause requiring that Ridsdale be Chairman when O’Neill took over; however pressure from fans led to Ridsdale leaving before Venables was sacked, so O’Neill never took charge.
When responding to these claims David O’Leary called Ridsdale "deranged" and suggested that he was ‘two faced’ with his comments compared to how the pair’s relationship had continued since both had left Leeds.
O’Neill later responded to the claims regarding him stating that he had taken part in discussions with Ridsdale and had signed a conditional statement but "he insists that nothing legally-binding was put in place".
Ridsdale’s sports consultancy firm WH Sports Group Limited, which provided advice to football clubs from 2003, failed in 2009 with debts of more than £475,000. Ridsale was found to have diverted payments by football clubs totalling £347,000, due to the company, into his personal bank account. In October 2012, he was disqualified as a company director until April 2020 after an inquiry by the Insolvency Service. His wife Sophie Ridsdale was likewise banned from acting as a director of any company until 2016.
Responding to the ban, Ridsdale claimed that he was currently only acting as Chairman of Football at Preston North End, not as a director.
Ridsdale became chairman of hometown club Leeds United in 1997 and enjoyed success in the first four years of tenure as Leeds reached the UEFA Cup semi-final in 1999–2000 and the UEFA Champions League semi-finals in 2000–01. During this time he enjoyed a good relationship with the Leeds fans. However, once the full extent of what Ridsdale and his board had done at Elland Road was discovered by the fans this relationship vanished and he is now best remembered by Leeds supporters for the financial and relegation nightmares that the club found themselves in, going from a top flight Premier League club to a League One club in the space of three seasons.
Under Ridsdale’s stewardship the club borrowed £60m against future gate receipts, effectively gambling on Leeds qualifying for the Champions League in successive seasons, which they failed to do. Ridsdale has repeatedly denied any blame with regard to the later situation of the club but has also conflictingly admitted it was a mistake to allow David O’Leary to spend so lavishly on players. Ridsdale also claimed that he would have saved Leeds from subsequent relegations to the third tier of English football and the debt his board had incurred in the name of the club The fact remained however that by the time Ridsdale stepped down in March 2003, Leeds were £103 million in debt and failing on the field.