20121124

Make millions and buy a football club - a chairman's tale of how to win and lose a fortune

WILLIAM HILL SHORTLIST



Be Careful What You Wish For, by Simon Jordan (Yellow Jersey)



When Simon Jordan bought Crystal Palace in 2000 he believed he could change football.  Just 32 years old, his bank balance swollen from the £73 million sale of the mobile phone retailer he had built up with business partner Andrew Briggs, he was ready to take on everyone he loathed in the game, from the establishment figures he felt put their own interests ahead of the game, down to the agents he saw as nothing better than leeches.

Blond-haired, perma-tanned and brashly opinionated, it was inevitable he would encounter suspicion and distrust in the world he had infiltrated.  Yet he loved Crystal Palace, the club he had supported all his life and where his father had once been a player, and was determined not only that he would turn them into a thriving Premier League club but that he would do it on his terms.

Of course, it all ended in tears.  Jordan fulfilled his promise of taking Palace into the Premier League within five years, thanks to the startling run of form generated by the appointment of Iain Dowie as manager in December 2003, but could keep them there for only one season. By 2010 they were in administration, as they had been immediately before Jordan bought the club, and Jordan's fortune had disappeared.

For all his determination not to be sucked into the whirlpool of over-spending that appeared to be a pre-requisite for any football club of ambition at the time he became involved, Jordan still wound up parting with vast sums for mediocre players, although problems might have been avoided if he had succeeded in buying the freehold for the club's Selhurst Park ground.

As it was, the worldwide recession began to make an impact at just the wrong moment and Jordan was soon chasing his losses in the hope that the club's fortunes would turn. It never happened. Frustratingly, with Palace having climbed to eighth in the Championship after Neil Warnock had inspired another unlikely transformation, a return to the Premier League was beginning to seem possible just as matters came to a head. Instead, the club were pushed into administration by one of their creditors, docked 10 points and plunged instantly into a relegation battle.

Only when a Creditors' Voluntary Agreement was accepted in the summer of 2010 was the future of the club secured under new ownership.  Under the terms of the agreement Jordan, having plunged at least £35 million of his own money into the club in his ill-starred decade, would have walked away with less than £150,000.

Jordan pulled no verbal punches either in the boardroom or during his brief stint as an Observer columnist and Be Careful What You Wish For offers more of the same, sparing few of the many in football who met with his disapproval.  Some critics have been snooty about his writing style but the combination of juicy gossip and eyebrow-raising revelations is a potent mix and most have agreed on one thing - that it makes a cracking read.

Be Careful What You Wish For, by Simon Jordan, is published by Yellow Jersey. For more information and to buy, visit amazon.co.uk or the William Hill 2012 page at The Sports Bookshelf Shop.

The full shortlist for the 2012 William Hill Sports Book of the Year award is:


  • That Near-Death Thing – Inside the TT: The World’s Most Dangerous Race, by Rick Broadbent (Orion)
  • The Secret Race – Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France: Doping, Cover-ups, and Winning at All Costs, by Tyler Hamilton and Daniel Coyle (Bantam Press)
  • Be Careful What You Wish For, by Simon Jordan (Yellow Jersey)
  • Fibber in the Heat, by Miles Jupp (Ebury Press)
  • A Life Without Limits – A World Champion’s Journey, by Chrissie Wellington with Michael Aylwin (Constable & Robinson)
  • Shot and a Ghost: A Year in the Brutal World of Professional Squash, by James Willstrop with Rod Gilmour (James Willstrop / Rod Gilmour)
  • Running With the Kenyans - Discovering the Secrets of the Fastest People on Earth, by Adharanand Finn (Faber & Faber)


The 2012 winner, which will receive a £24,000 prize, will be announced at a lunchtime reception at Waterstones Piccadilly (London), Europe’s largest bookstore, on Monday, November 26.

More reading

James Willstrop -- Hidden star of the sport the Olympics left behind (Shot and a Ghost)
Tyler Hamilton and the Lance Armstrong scandal (The Secret Race)
A cheeky adventure turns into a cautionary tale (Fibber in the Heat)
Fatal attraction of the world's most dangerous race (That Near-Death Thing)
One man's quest to learn the secrets of the swiftest (Running With the Kenyans)

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