You can see it coming from a mile away, the impending doom. ‘arry brandishing a blank cheque book and mobile phone. Players blinded by pound signs literally driving themselves like moths to the West London money-pit flame. Fans not knowing whether to celebrate or demonstrate. It’s a volcano of Pompeii-y proportions waiting to happen isn’t it?
As it stands, for better or worse QPR are a top flight club, with all the freedom from governance that that brings.
In 2011 they stood on the threshold of the biggest financial prize in world football – promotion to the English Premier League. With victory at Watford in the penultimate game they mathematically secured the title. But celebrations would have to wait.
The Football Association were concluding an investigation into irregular payments to non FIFA regulated agents and a third party ownership mess akin to the Tevez affair, this time involving the similarly Argentinian Alejandro Faurlin. The FA were due to report on their findings on the day of the R’s final game of the season, where they would collect the trophy.
Voted player of the season the previous year, Faurlin had played no small part in propelling QPR to their lofty position since his arrival in Shepherd’s Bush. Rumours circulated that the club were set to face 10 or even 15 points of deductions for these administrative misdemeanours and the resulting advantage gained on the pitch. Their lead over 3rd place and the lottery of the play-offs was just 8 points. Not enough.
However, news came shortly before kick-off that QPR were guilty of only two of the listed charges and would not face any points deduction. Instead a fine was the verdict. West Londoners in Hoops whooped, while their Chairman Gianni Paladini, a man still in his job at the time of the hearing, wept with relief.
In 2011 the net worth of QPR’s owners made them the richest football club in the world. The richest football club in the world on the march to the richest football league in the world. Hardly surprising the FA were loathe to refuse them a seat at the top table.
Reprieve granted, Rangers were crowned champions that day, and into the sunshine of the Premier League they strode; the “4 year plan” a success. The ridiculous Flavio Briatore and Bernie Ecclestone cashed in their cheques and sold their stakes in the club to current sugar daddy Tony Fernandes. Paladini would leave the club too, by mutual consent.
Elsewhere in 2011, Luton Town were embarking on their second season in the Blue Square Bet Premier League. The 5th tier of English football.
Two years previously, the club were stalked by a similar grim reaper from the FA. This time he’d brought a friend in the shape of the Football League.
After suffering 3 administrations, Luton were not the richest club in world football. But having been rescued from the brink by a consortium of supporters, the club had been retrieved from a succession of owners and directors whose dealings were now being investigated, and were being run sensibly and sustainably. Those responsible for the wrong-doing were gone, some banned from directorship of companies in future. But still the FA and Football League’s axe fell on Luton Town, the club. Successive relegations followed.
Luton’s mistake, it seems, was being at the wrong end of the pyramid to receive the right kind of justice. The “integrity of the competition” was at stake they said, so an example was made. 40 points were deducted and here we are, in our 4th year, banished from the football league for the sins of former owners.
QPR might stay up this season. Fernandes might even stick around for a while. But if clubs with attendances of 18,000 spending £100k a week on Chris Samba is the kind of integrity that the FA were so keen and lenient to preserve, for clubs like Luton and Pompey, it merely adds insult to injury.
If you haven’t yet, watch the excellent documentary The Four Year Plan. It’ll make you angry.