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by on May 27, 2014

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MAY 2014


Cheered on by a vociferous Loftus Road crowd packed in to the rafters, QPR eventually pulled their collective fingers out and, over two legs, squeaked past a well-drilled & plucky Wigan side to reach Wembley. In front of 87,000 people on a tense wet & dry Saturday in late May, they met McClaren’s Derby County who had mauled Brighton & Hove Albion in the other semi…

For much of the match it appeared that Rangers’ Cup Final had arrived one game too soon but, somehow, despite a predicable replication of what followers had come to expect throughout the campaign (a cautionary line-up omitting Morrison, Benayoun & the exciting Yun) and with Kranjcar hobbling off early with a foreseeable pulled hamstring compounded soon after by a red card for O’Neil, Rangers contrived to perfectly mug the far superior Derby side in the 89th minute. Bolstered by immense rearguard resistance from Dunne, Onuoha and heroic ‘keeper Green, Hoilett broke away, headed up the only cul-de-sac available to him and Bobby Zamora’s redemption was completed with a cool finish (R’s only shot on target). McClaren wore that forlorn wally-brolly look once more (Wembley is just not for him) while old Harry Houdini, more labrador than bloodhound, gazed in disbelief half bewildered, half embarrassed, and shrugged his shoulders. As the final whistle resonated around Wembley, Tony Fernandes hugged, kissed, tweeted, danced and piggybacked like a deranged Lone Ranging lottery winner. Relieved?

Rangers had done it – cruel victory from the jaws of defeat, against ALL the odds. It’s a funny old game this football. Harlesden experienced a vulcanian blue & white eruption, victory buses remained parked and many many pints were indeed sunk…. glorious!!




Plenty of credit must go to Derby’s players & staff who stood and magnanimously applauded the victors in a true spirit of respect – well beyond the call of duty. They are a fine young side and will be back next year hopefully.


A Brief History of Crime

Since the Premier League breakaway of 1992, the financial gap between the leagues means relegation has proven catastrophic for many clubs, including Bradford City, Sheffield Wednesday & Nottingham Forest – examples who were not at the receiving end of any might of wealth, the likes of which wielded by QPR’s backers.

Neil Warnock, who took the R’s up to the Premier League as champions in 2011, was backed to sign 11 new players in an effort to stay there. Warnock was callously sacked in January 2012 and ten players were then signed for his replacement Mark Hughes, including Nedum Onuoha, Djibril Cissé & Bobby Zamora. Hughes’s team did scrape survival in 2012 by just one point, despite famously losing their final game 3-2 after City scored two goals in injury time to win the title in dramatic fashion. After that, Hughes (who stated “There’s no way we will ever be in this situation again while I am manager of QPR.”) undertook another hefty round of squad reinforcements, with contracts for 10 more players including Park Ji-sung, Robert Green, Andy Johnson, Junior Hoilett, Ryan Nelsen, Samba Diakité, José Bosingwa, Júlio César, Esteban Granero & Stéphane Mbia. Yet despite that escalation and further salary inflation, Hughes’ signings struggled abysmally and he was inevitably sacked the following November. Fernandes sanctioned £20.5m spending in January 2013 and a further swelling of the wage bill on Christopher Samba & Loic Remy, while Harry Redknapp (Hughes’ replacement) signed Jermaine Jenas, Yun Suk-Young & Tal Ben-Haim. Rangers won a total of 4 games for 2012/13, finished bottom of the league some 14 points points adrift from Sunderland (in 17th), and were relegated.

It had been reported, though disputed by some, that Queens Park Rangers possessed a higher wage bill for 2012/13 than Champions League finalists & La Liga winners Atlético Madrid. Atlético’s salaries, according to Spanish media, totalled £54m – 30% less than QPR’s – to employ a squad without many acknowledged stars and whose stellar progress has been widely attributed to the inspirational management of Diego Simeone.

Rangers’ financial accounts for that season confirmed that the club overspent in a vain effort to avoid relegation, producing a staggering wage bill of £78m, 128% of the club’s entire turnover. The accounts also showed that majority owner Fernandes (plus partners Kamarudin Meranun & Ruben Gnanalinigam) along with the family of Indian steel billionaire Lakshmi Mittal (33% owners) had loaned the club £166m to enable the spending, resulting in a £65m loss – the greatest of all 20 clubs. The total net debt amounted to £177m, the fourth highest in the Premier League.

The board’s approach exemplified how not to handle Premier League promotion. Swansea City, who came up with Rangers after winning the 2011 play-off, did increase their wage bill but ended up with a £17m profit (compared to QPR’s £23m loss), finishing 11th. Since then, Swansea have survived by not unduly splurging on players while being credited with shrewd recruitment.

Cold light of day

In 2012, after two years of detailed discussions, the Football League and its clubs agreed on a Financial Fair Play framework across all three of its divisions. The rules are designed to encourage clubs to manage their finances in a way that allows sustainability. QPR have now caused the FL a multi-million pound headache by getting themselves promoted – the grey cloud hanging over R’s takes the form of the substantial fine they will almost certainly face for breaching these rules. With League clubs permitted to make losses of £8m without sanction, the question is not so much whether the club will pay a penalty but what percentage of their bonanza will be stripped from them.

“…there is a system in place that calculates the potential sanctions,” said Ian Clayden, a football financial expert.”For the Championship, if a club is promoted to the Premier League there is a calculation table which calculates tax, if you will, on the club, based on spending over and above the acceptable limits.” QPR’s recorded losses for 2012-13 and this season’s predicted figures means a fair play fine of around £30m is expected.

Even though a massive pressure valve has now been partially released, QPR’s financial situation undoubtedly remains critical – achieving promotion this season takes on an even greater significance considering the errors of the last 3 years while the club’s potential is still constrained by Loftus Road’s capacity, just 18,500. Rangers don’t often sell it out for matches but Fernandes & co are ploughing on head-first into a new 40,000 capacity stadium with the knowledge that no London club, except Arsenal, has successfully achieved such a move in recent times given the enormous costs and practical planning difficulties in an overcrowded capital.

As a committed QPR fan, I am extremely happy we got back up – don’t get me wrong. I even warmed to Fernandes after seeing such unadulterated joy on his cheeky little face at Wembley, and he is unquestionably passionate about football. I just pray that many harsh lessons have been learned and that the club can convert its more recently-acquired haters, regain security, and claw back their credibility & dignity. Watch this space…

(Financial info & Fair Play rules derived from articles written by David Conn for The Guardian – March 2013/May 2014 – and Simon Stone for BBC Sport.)

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1 CommentAdd yours

  • David - June 2, 2014

    Great piece Alan! It’s going to be a hard season for QPR next season. However, I think Fernandes’ decision to sell his Caterham F1 team will probably be a benefit for both concerned. But as you say, it’s really hard to see how a 40,000 all seater stadium would work for QPR. I could sort of understand a 25,000 or even 30,000 stadium but the numbers stated seem rather excessive to say the least.

    I think the documentary about QPR a while back has more or less soured everyone’s feelings towards QPR. Not being a QPR fan myself, my only feeling is that these rival fans are all too prone to jealousy. However that’s only my own feeling towards it.

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