If you ask QPR fans for their opinion of Flavio Briatore and his tenure as owner of our club I think that it is safe to say the response would be full of, at least, a few expletives. During his ownership (well co-ownership to be specific) we went through about 726 managers, both Football League and Football Association investigations, demonstrations and us fans were deemed basically pointless and ungrateful by the powers that be. My beloved QPR went from everyones favourite second team and a fantastic “old school” away day, to being both detested and ridiculed in equal measure by both other fans and the national media. However, the big “however” I must stress, despite their methods we completely destroyed the Championship eventually under Neil Warnock’s guidance, playing some utterly fantastic football whilst spending jack diddly squat. They had a plan and it was a plan that, eventually, worked.
Enter Tony Fernandes and his consortium. Our new Malaysian owners purchased a West London Premier League football team with a relatively minuscule amount of debt. The debt being a £10 million mortgage on Loftus Road that was acquired way before Flavio et al took over. Today we are playing God awful dire football under Harry Redknapp, fighting for the play-off spots in the Championship and are more than £177million in debt. I say more than as the recent accounts are for our last Premier League season. Doing some basic maths we, as of today, are circa £220 million in debt. Nearly a quarter of a billion.
So a debt free entertaining Premiership club ends up going backwards beyond belief with accounts that would make any CEO debate jumping out of the highest window he can find. A debt so large that the club are looking at being hit with a season long transfer embargo or an extra £48 million fine depending on what league we are playing in next season. The fans are surely demonstrating, calling for blood and going batshit mental. Alas, no. It seems many of my fellow fans have been so suckered in by “Uncle Tony” (something he actually calls himself somewhat sickeningly) and his PR that they have managed to sleepwalk into this situation. I personally started getting worried after our non footballing CEO was caught out at a fans’ forum lying (broadcast live on the official website no less) through his teeth to fans’ representatives. A situation which disgusted the Official Supporters Club so much that they resigned en-mass. We actually still have no Official Supporters Club since that incident. The majority of fans never battered an eye lid, they were so hoping that they could “trust” our new found saviour. Specifically, due to the distrust we rightly had with regards to the previous regime.
Scapegoats have been constantly found from players to Mark Hughes to agents to, quite ridiculously in fairness to them, the previous owners. Many people have taken Fernandes’ tweets (he loves to tweet whilst drunk it seems, either that or he failed English at school) that he is learning and that all will be alright as something to cling onto. Until now. As a proportion of the QPR fanbase wake up to the facts of the situation, there has actually been more and more reports of punch ups in the stands between fellow QPR fans. Something that was unheard of during our promotion winning season. There are calls to back the board, there are calls to back `Arry, there are those that recognise the peril we are now in and there are those that have just had enough of watching dire football.
QPR are not a big club and we know that. QPR are not going to win the Premier League and we know that. We are a working class historic football club whose genuine fans come from working class backgrounds. All we expect is to be entertained a bit and to watch players that would run through brick walls for the shirt. We are not getting entertained and the team is completely unrecognisable from the “them and us” never say die attitude and joint team/fan spirit that existed under Neil Warnock. Under Tony “Uncle” Fernandes and his useless CEO Phil Beard that has all been destroyed.
Part of me hopes the truth behind all of this complete and utter ineptitude is that the board doesn’t actually care about the football club and that we are just a vehicle for the new stadium, housing and retail development under review up the road from Loftus Road. The football club is just a means to an end of building the “Air Asia Stadium” and all the lucrative contracts that come with the associated area and construction projects. Losing a few hundred million quid is “whatever” if they secure their goal of owning that development – and profiting billions from it no doubt. I hope that they do not care about us and have as much interest in the paying fans as Flavio Briatore did.
The opposite is even more scary. If they do care, if this is how they try to run a professional football club, if this is them giving 100% to Queens Park Rangers FC, our history, our fans – then that is beyond scary. I remember a fight kicking off outside Hammersmith Palais back in the day after we played Manchester United (up yours Cantona for that late goal!) and one local youth took on a bunch of drunk Mancs who had tried to disrespect his girlfriend in some way. He could clearly handle himself and I remember him shouting at them as they ran away “Bush Boys, don’t test ya know!”. That’s something our owners should pay heed to; don’t mess with our football club – you will regret it.
By Scott Jones – QPR fan – @ScottJonesy