QPR owners stay committed because their eyes are on the prize

There has been plenty of speculation about QPR’s finances and how the club’s owners will respond to relegation.

It’s become trendy to suggest Rangers might ‘do a Portsmouth’ – a grim picture painted with some relish by Tony Fernandes’ detractors.

This misses the point, as does basking in the warm glow of assurances about his long-term commitment whenever such platitudes are trotted out.

Both sides are failing to see the bigger picture.

Be in no doubt that Rangers’ owners will remain absolutely committed to their project and have no intention of walking away, regardless of which division the team are in.

Because, although relegation is an obvious major setback, when it comes to the regime’s long-term ambitions, the importance of which division Rangers are in next season is easily overstated.

Notice that whenever the likes of Fernandes and Philip Beard restate the shareholders’ commitment they almost always mention a new stadium in the next breath. That’s no accident.

Leaving Loftus Road is a key aim.
Leaving Loftus Road is a key aim.

Fernandes is presented with a PR open goal when he can heroically reaffirm his commitment to the cause in the face of relegation – because it’s the pursuit of a new sports and entertainment venue, not whether Rangers stay in the top flight, that locks the owners in for the long haul.

Any hitch there would be much more significant than relegation – a potential game changer.

But, Crossrail permitting, such a hitch looks increasingly unlikely.

A new sport and leisure complex in the west/north-west London area could generate an absolute fortune – more than enough to dwarf even the huge losses incurred by Rangers’ feckless spending.

It would be comparable to the regeneration of areas of east London and so would the subsequent wealth to spring from it.

It would also establish QPR’s Malaysian shareholders as major players in London – one of the most prominent cities in the world.

It’s why Beard, a man with little football knowledge or understanding of QPR fans’ priorities, but with a background in branding and having helped establish the O2 Arena as a leading entertainment destination, was installed as chief executive.

And it’s why Fernandes appears so calm and committed despite ill-informed assumptions that the club’s owners can’t sustain the current level of spending.

They can sustain it. And they will sustain it while there’s a potential pot of gold in sight. Much has been lost, but there’s still an awful lot to be gained.

So, fully committed? Absolutely. In it for the long haul? Too right.

A £15m loan secured against the club’s assets last month looks suspicious and will inevitably be taken as a sign of financial stress and the commitment of the regime possibly wavering.

Again, this move has been made largely with the new stadium in mind.

It is a strategic move by Fernandes and chums to test a relationship with lenders Barclays Hong Kong – a growing relationship which has existed for some time and could be called upon in future years if, despite their collective wealth, Rangers’ owners are not keen to fund the entire cost of a new stadium and training ground.

QPR plan to repay it quickly, possibly within three or four months.

QPR chief executive Philip Beard
Beard is overseeing the planned relocation.

In securing such a loan while facing relegation from the Premier League, and in a climate in which banks are reluctant to loan money to football clubs, Rangers have established that, going forward, they won’t have problems getting access to cash.

Of course, ‘doing a Portsmouth’ can’t be ruled out. No amount of money is finite, losses cannot be permanently sustainable, loans secured against the club’s assets are never something to savour, and failing to get back into the top flight would be problematic.

So too would relegation from the Championship which, although an outcome Fernandes’ army of believers probably won’t contemplate, is entirely possible given the shambles he continues to preside over.

But the regime’s pockets are deep and their eyes are on the prize. So although a Pompey-style meltdown could happen, as things stand the club is more likely to end up spiritually rather than financially ruined.

Many dismiss Fernandes’ vision of a 40,000-capacity stadium as a bizarre and misguided pipe dream, given QPR’s relatively modest fan base.

They fail to understand the scope of his rebranding project, which is every bit as radical as Flavio Briatore’s despite the more touchy feely style.

Football, QPR and the London landscape are changing rapidly and over the next few years are likely to change even more.

A state-of-the-art stadium and leisure complex in an overhauled area of west/north-west London, which is home to high-profile players from parts of the world where the Premier League (which Rangers hope to be back in by then) is massive, would be a huge attraction – and extremely profitable.

It would also mean the end of QPR as we know it, which for some will equate to a Wimbledon-style killing of their club and for others will be necessary progress given Rangers’ limited growth potential while they remain at Loftus Road.

Either way, it’s a project Fernandes and co remain determined to press ahead with.



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