Who’s the best chairman in the Premier League?

With all the hype
surrounding foreign ownership of Premier League clubs, FFC columnist
Luke Raine suggests
it's time to remember the English chairmen that have flourished within our
game.

Since the arrival of Juninho on Teesside in 1996,
there have been a number of claims from the media and pundits that
Middlesbrough chairman Steve Gibson is the most supportive and ambitious
chairman in the Premier League. He has continually stood by his manager or
acted in the best interests of the club (the situation with Bryan Robson
immediately springs to mind). But is Steve Gibson the best chairman in the
league? Or is this an impossible question to answer?As a Middlesbrough
supporter, I am obviously extremely grateful for what Gibson has done not just
for the football club, but also for the town. When he arrived in 1986 the club
were weeks, if not days, away from being wound up. Fast-forward 20 years, and
the club has a new stadium and are now an established Premier League side who
can afford to spend 12 million pounds on a Brazilian centre forward. The two
situations are barely comparable. Another factor in Gibson's favour is that he
is from the area and this makes him even more popular with the fans as he is
seen as ‘one of their own'.

Gibson is also fairly quiet compared to other
more outspoken chairmen. In the cases where he has come out and spoken to the
media about various footballing issues, he has more often than not been spot on
with his comments. In the cases where he has maybe let himself down a little,
he has come out and apologised. The best example of this was when Gibson
recently came out and questioned the integrity of former ‘Boro and England boss
Steve McClaren, I think most Middlesbrough fans would agree that these comments
were unprofessional but at least Gibson had the intelligence to know that he
was wrong and he duly apologised.

Gibson, naturally, isn't the only candidate for
the title of "best chairman in the
league". Jack Walker's millions fired Blackburn Rovers to Premier League glory
and a place in the Champions League. In more recent times, Dave Whelan at Wigan has taken the club from the bottom tier of English
football to being competitive in the Premier League. The work of Phil Gartside
at Bolton should also not go unnoticed.

We are now in an era where the foreign
ownership of football clubs in England
is becoming more and more common. What would Liverpool
fans give for a multimillionaire who has stood (or sat) on The Kop for his
whole life to become chairman? Therefore, in a way, I think people like Gibson,
Whelan and Gartside are largely undervalued in English Football.

I am not one to sit here and say that foreign
investment into English teams is definitely a bad thing – that would be a
debate for another day. I do however think that if there were more people like
the aforementioned three running Premier League clubs that the league would be
a better place.

It is an interesting debate, especially as the
role of the chairman has changed so much in the last twenty years or so.
Obviously the three I have mentioned aren't the only men who deserve special
credit. There are undoubtedly people who have done similar, if not better jobs
at teams down the league structure as well.