Hi. I’m Matt Winton and many QPR fans will remember that some years ago my family helped the club financially and funded the signings of a number of players.
My dad, Harold, was subsequently a club director and was later given the title of honorary president, which he proudly held until he passed away a couple of years ago.
I was surprised when West London Sport asked if I’d write a regular blog on Rangers – and here’s my first contribution.
Everybody seems to have an opinion on QPR and in particular the club’s transfer policy.
Let me say first and foremost that I know from experience that running a football club is incredibly tough and often just as complicated.
“Take us back to the days when Loftus Road rocked and was one of the most intimidating grounds in football.”
We fans are passionate and often opinionated, but it’s easy to underestimate how difficult decision-making at a club can be, and how easy it is to criticise with the help of hindsight.
Even so, I believe Rangers have got things badly wrong in recent years. And like a lot of fans this has left me with some concerns about the future of our club.
It is obvious that football has radically changed in the last decade or so, especially since the advent of the Bosman ruling and Sky chucking around obscene amounts of money.
It is understandable for people to be sceptical when comparing today with yesteryear, but I fully intend on doing so, because I believe some things don’t change. Good practice is good practice.
Over the last 10 years some of the game’s most iconic clubs have heaped terrible suffering on their supporters because of a ‘boom or bust’ epidemic that continues to be the scourge of our once great game.
It is with deep personal regret to me that QPR appear to be trying to replicate this unsuccessful model for the second time in recent memory.
After all, lest we forget, it was a similar story in the Chris Wright era, as we trail-blazed our way into administration – fortunately long before the days of points deductions.
This left the club with over a decade of crippling debt, that we were unable to service and inflicted massive long-term financial consequences on the club, which only went away finally when the dastardly billionaires Bernie and Flavio appeared on the scene.
When you look at QPR over the last 30 years, you will see that the club did once have a very sustainable financial template in place, which unfortunately got muddled in the mid-90s and has seemingly not been revisited since.
The financial blueprint I speak of was best practiced by Jim Gregory and Richard Thompson after him, although admittedly Thompson contributed towards moving away from this successful formula in 1995, through a mixture of panic buying (Hateley and Zelic) in response to fan disharmony at the sale of Les Ferdinand, and also to facilitate his own exit strategy.
Prior to the 1995-96 season, QPR had been a very well operated football club for the best part of two decades under ownerships that realised the scales of economy that will always be associated with the club.
This economy was simple. We had to focus on nurturing and developing talent acquired from the lower leagues, with a view to selling at the right time for substantial profit.
In the food chain I guess this made us a feeder club. But it also meant that other clubs were our feeder clubs too.
In came the likes of Terry Fenwick, David Seaman, Paul Parker, Trevor Sinclair, Andy Sinton, Andy Impey, Ferdinand and others, all of whom served the club very well before being sold for a profit.
These transfers allowed us to break even financially every season, because the club cannot generate enough revenue alone from gate receipts, merchandise and matchday sales at Loftus Road.
It has for a long time been impossible to cover the costs of having a playing staff good enough for the top two divisions on our average attendance of 16,000.
QPR operated through the 80s and early 90s very successfully on this basis and these were the core values that gave our club a talented and caring playing staff, prudent and successful chairmen, a great sense of community in west London and a fervent support that felt at one with their football club.
It is now time for QPR to revisit this business model, and reconsider the ill-conceived idealism that we can be anything other than what our history and heritage tells us we are.
This is the simple, tried and tested, advice that I would give to both Tony Fernandes and Philip Beard:
1) We are a London club and therefore will always struggle to attract large attendances. There are simply too many clubs in one city for us to exponentially grow our fanbase.
2) You should not base our business plan around potential television revenues or parachute payments, as this is a guaranteed recipe for disaster.
3) We should not live beyond our means and create endless debt in the business to a wealthy benefactor, as inevitably the club will one day change hands.
4) You must start scouting and buying talent from the lower leagues again.
5) Focus your financial resources on harnessing this talent and selling them to bigger clubs. You will then not lose money and we can again find our place as a well established top-division team.
6) Get some experienced players in the twilight of their careers in on free transfers, who in turn would give the team great balance, experience and also help to develop the club’s sellable assets, as the likes of Ray Wilkins, Trevor Francis and Tony Currie did.
7) Never again let QPR be the club to pay the highest wages or the biggest transfer fees as this always ends in tears. Please see every example when this has happened before and realise it only ever ends badly: Sheron, Spencer, Hately and almost every signing in the last two seasons. It breads a mercenary culture and creates no long-term stability or structure.
Only when this happens, Tony and Phil, will you be able to experience the harmony of what a truly special club QPR is.
Take us back to the days when Loftus Road rocked and was one of the most intimidating grounds in football, rather than the slightly poisonous and toxic environment of recent years.
Most importantly, save yourself a fortune. I promise you Messrs Gregory and Thompson were never out-of-pocket.