The QPR hierarchy want to reassure fans that relegation would be a mere setback and wouldn’t affect their commitment to the club. Others would have you believe a financial catastrophe looms if Rangers go down. So who’s telling the truth?
As is often the case with these things, the truth is maybe somewhere in between.
Last week’s reports ‘revealing’ that big-money signings had arrived at Loftus Road without relegation clauses in their contracts led to speculation that chairman Tony Fernandes would face a wage-bill crisis if the R’s return to the Championship.
That had many fans worrying – and some comforting themselves with previous comments made by vice-chairman Amit Bhatia, who told West London Sport last year that Rangers were well placed to cope with the drop.
Others simply dismissed the negative reports out of hand, as many fans tend to – no matter how many times in recent years these pesky journos turned out to be right and the happy clappers wrong.
Bhatia’s comments were made in September – before the latest glut of expensive signings.
But the basic premise – that some players were signed with relegation clauses and others not, and that he and Fernandes were comfortable with this – remains. They won’t panic if Rangers go down.
More recently, chief executive Philip Beard insisted the owners will remain fully committed to QPR in the event of relegation.
He told West London Sport: “We’ve got a group of shareholders who are totally committed.
“My understanding – and I spend a lot of time with them – is that they are 100% committed to this club in the short, medium and long term.
“Ideally we stay in the Premier League this season and kick on. If things don’t work the way that we want them to, we’ll regroup and fight tooth and nail to come back up.”
Reassuring stuff it seems. Although it’s worth mentioning that those words were a response to a direct question: If Rangers were relegated, would the club be in a better or worse financial state for having had a season in the Premier League?
Most promoted clubs who fail to stay up at least return on a strong financial footing having spent time in the top flight.
Rangers’ huge spending means this may not apply to them, which underlines how badly the board will have got it wrong if the team are relegated.
It would be no ordinary relegation. Not your usual plucky promoted team trying and failing. To have spent so much and not managed to finish above the bottom three would be a dismal outcome.
In fact, staying up by a narrow margin, which I believe Rangers will do, wouldn’t exactly be praiseworthy either. Whatever the outcome, some soul-searching will be called for in May.
But what won’t happen in May, if Rangers do go down, is apocalypse hinted at last week.
In a nutshell, the owners of QPR are so absolutely loaded they can easily afford to keep bankrolling the club in the Championship. It won’t faze them.
The wage bill will be massive and so will the losses. But there will be no crisis. At least not in the short term.
The issue isn’t how the owners react if QPR start next season in the second tier. The issue is what happens if they stay there.
What happens if, come November or December, results are not good, the fans are unhappy, and the owners are unhappy that the fans are unhappy with them?
The Championship in sunny August would be the relatively easy part. The Championship in bleak mid-winter and beyond is what may test the owners’ resolve.
As far as the-powers-that-be are concerned, the club has plans for a new stadium, a new training ground and more. So in the general scheme of things, relegation would not affect the longer-term picture. The show will go on.
As for the wage bill, the club felt compelled to make big-money signings in order to battle against the drop and there was an understanding that such players were unlikely to join if relegation clauses were insisted upon.
And it was felt that if the worst came to the worst, these players could play a major role in securing promotion back to the big time.
That belief seems to have been influenced by the progress of Newcastle, who were in a similar situation and are now flying high.
Whether QPR’s set of players could deliver a similar return is debatable.
Plus, most fans will remember what happened the last time the club went down with a group of players it was strongly believed had the quality to bounce straight back.
Major spending and having high-profile players doesn’t guarantee success and can actually cause failure – this season and others have proved that.
Just because you can afford to pay big money and run up massive losses doesn’t necessarily mean you should.