Queens Park Rangers—How Not to Run a Football Club

There is a story doing the rounds at the moment which suggests that Queens Park Rangers’ current wage bill equals 183% of their total turnover. This news is equal parts unbelievable and (as it’s QPR) entirely believable.

Ever since QPR was bought by the three-headed wealth hydra that was Lakshmi Mittal (richest man in the universe), Bernie Ecclestone (Formula 1 owner) and Flavio Briatore (owner of Renault F1), the club has become a by-word in how not to run a football club. When Malaysian millionaire Tony Fernandes bought Ecclestone & Briatore’s 66% of the club in August 2011, it was hoped that some sense and stability would arrive at the club.

Though under Fernandes’s patronage and Mark Hughes’ management they retained their premier league status last year, the club still resembles a transfer merry go-round with no one in control. Hughes has a reputation for being a solid manager who builds tough teams, and presumably Fernandes is a competent businessman—having a net worth of $700m.

In the last year, QPR got rid of 30 players, and brought in 21 (not including loans). Obviously Hughes needs to clear out what he perceives as dead wood, and he needs to build a team good enough progress in the EPL, but that sort of player turnover can only be hugely unsettling. It is also telling that five of the seven players Hughes has purchased this season are over 30 years old; what sort of building for the future is that? Some of them are good squad additions—Park Ji-Sung and Jose Bosingwa, for example—but there is still an air of desperation or spending money just because it is there.

Former player turned pundit Gary Neville expressed surprise that QPR hadn’t “flushed the toilet” this summer, suggesting there are still some players stinking out the place with their high salaries and poor appearances. The names DJ Campbell, Jay Bothroyd, Joey Barton, Kieron Dyer, Rob Hulse,  and Luke Young spring to mind. QPR currently have eight strikers on their books.

When it comes to clubs with Sugar Daddies, it seems it can end in one of two ways. The first is the Chelsea route, where despite the owners’ interference, some success is achieved—enough at least to keep the owner interested in his plaything. The second route is the Portsmouth route, where after the Sugar Daddy has left town, there is a huge bill left to pay, and no means of paying it.

QPR are by no means the only club who would be at risk if their rich owners upped and left. Newcastle, Aston Villa, Fulham, and Sunderland could all be in trouble if their owners move on, and with the exception of Newcastle, none of these clubs are in danger of breaking the top four this season.

Last weekend, QPR were humiliated in their opening game of the 2012/13 season, going down at home to minnows Swansea City 0-5. Already, this weekend’s fixture away to Norwich has become a “relegation six-pointer.” Despite all the warnings that history has provided for QPR, it seems that they are doomed to repeat the mistakes of “more money than sense” clubs of the past.

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