QPR have this week been celebrating the 10-year anniversary of the formation of the QPR in the Community Trust – and there’s a lot to celebrate.
The club’s excellent community work has been well documented, not least with regard to the response to the tragedy at Grenfell.
It’s been well documented partly because Rangers have put it at the forefront of the club’s pursuit of a new training ground at Warren Farm and the goal of being primary developers in a major regeneration project, initially at Old Oak and now the site of the Linford Christie Stadium.
This follows the success of Brentford, who put the work of their award-winning community scheme at the heart of their campaign for a new stadium at Lionel Road.
The argument is that QPR’s aspirations are linked to the community. The positive impact of the QPR in the Community Trust speaks for itself and therefore an expansion of QPR benefits the local area in several ways, including community use of a redeveloped Warren Farm and a stadium-led regeneration which would also involve sporting and leisure facilities for the community as well as new homes.
That the Trust, led by CEO Andy Evans, has made a hugely positive difference to the local area and is run extremely well is beyond dispute.
That’s the polite preamble. I’ll cut to the chase. Andy Evans should be on the board of QPR.
That’s been my view for some years, as many unfortunate enough to have followed me on social media may know – in fact, since even before the Rangers community scheme Evans had led since 1994 took charity status in 2009 and the Trust was formed.
Around that time, and in the difficult years which followed, I was often asked what my solution would be as the QPR soap opera bounced from one farce to another.
A change of direction
My view was always that the issue was complicated and the road back a long and difficult one, but that a necessary starting point would be for Evans, former QPR director Kevin McGrath, plus a couple of other fans who had helped the club in various ways, to join the board. Or that they could form a type of sub-board which the owners would use as their chief source of guidance rather than the various malign forces the last two regimes have been steered by at times.
This was largely necessary because a purge of QPR people had taken place during the fall-out from the boardroom coup won by Gianni Paladini in 2005, which has had a major impact on the direction – or lack of direction – of the club under subsequent owners.
Evans survived that purge as good people around him were being picked off. He did so partly because of the move from community scheme to registered charity, which made its funding independent from the club’s and cushioned his department from any cuts which might have been made.
In the end, the much-needed change of direction at QPR came some years later as a result of two main factors: the appointment of Les Ferdinand and the realities of Financial Fair Play.
The main motivation for bringing Ferdinand back to the club as the tide of opinion among fans was turning against Tony Fernandes is open to interpretation.
Regardless, as Johnny on the Spot, Ferdinand has pushed for the kind of return to the ‘old QPR’, with an emphasis on community values and developing players, which the likes of McGrath, who is a trustee of the Community Trust and chairman of Rangers’ women’s team, and Evans would have pushed for had they been the ones in a position to do so.
Progress has been made, although the terrain has been difficult. But more could still be done in terms of the right people having a strong influence at QPR.
Actions as well as words
Evans is not a main shareholder or financial contributor to the club. But then neither is the current chairman Amit Bhatia, who is always quick to sing his praises – he does so sincerely and has done great work for the Trust himself – and is now said to be calling the shots at QPR.
It is common for directors, even chairmen, to not be part of the ownership structure. It’s been the case at QPR previously and is currently the case at some of the country’s top clubs.
Others frequently appoint non-executive directors on the basis of their intentions, knowledge, standing in the community and/or their contribution to, and ability to represent, the club.
In terms of the latter, incidentally, Evans has at times over the last decade or so been the only consistent representative of QPR at away matches. That summed up the malaise around the club and its lack of leadership, but I don’t think anyone would suggest he is not a worthy representative of QPR.
The time has come for Evans to be made a club director in recognition of the contribution he and his team have made and can make in the future. It’s long overdue.
QPR have been very eager indeed to shout about his work, how much it’s valued and plays an integral part in the overall direction of the club.
But actions speak louder than words. And the fact that someone like Evans is not on the board, but Bhatia’s property-developing friend Jamie Reuben now is, speaks volumes. There ought to be a place for both.