The Times/Alex Wade - February 11, 2008 QPR fans give thanks a billion times over Throw money at Loftus Road? That’s rich, says Bernie Ecclestone (worth £2.24bn)
Bernie Ecclestone does not mince his words. “One thing’s for sure,” he says. “If we owe anything, we pay it back.”
Ecclestone, one of the wealthiest men in sport with an estimated fortune of £2.24 billion, was not referring to his family policy on monthly credit card repayments. The Formula One impresario was alluding to the debts he inherited when, along with Flavio Briatore, another of motor racing’s more colourful characters, he took over Queens Park Rangers.
Their arrival was greeted with rapture by long-suffering fans who in recent years have seen the club teeter from one calamity to another. The subsequent arrival of an even wealthier investor – Lakshmi Mittal, reputedly the world’s fifth-richest man – consolidated a new nickname for the club. With Mittal having bought 20 per cent of Briatore’s shareholding, fans were chanting “1-0 to the billionaires” when their team opened the scoring in a Coca-Cola Championship match against Barnsley last month.
But for all the excitement – even Naomi Campbell, the supermodel, has been seen in the directors’ box – QPR’s recent history is fraught. Since relegation from the top division in 1996, the club have gone into administration and been dogged by a succession of controversies. There have been off-field tragedies involving young players, the infamous “Great Brawl of China” – when a match against the China Olympic team descended into violence – and a remarkable court case in 2006 when seven men were acquitted of charges of conspiracy to blackmail, false imprisonment and handgun possession after Gianni Pala-dini, the chairman, alleged that a gun had been held to his head before a home match against Sheffield United.
But if high noon at Loftus Road seemed, at times, in danger of becoming a weekly event, QPR emerged from administration in 2002 thanks to a £10 million loan from the ABC Corporation. The benevolence of the Panama-registered company came at a price – a cool £1 million in annual interest – and, until the Formula One duo turned up, seemed set to dog any attempt to escape the lower reaches of the second tier.
Yet even as Ecclestone and Co took the reins there were murmurs of disquiet. One newspaper made much of the fact that, some two months into the new regime, the ABC loan had yet to be discharged. Ecclestone is happy to set the record straight.
“We will pay the debt when we can – at the end of June this year,” he says. “That’s when the loan matures, so that’s when we can pay it back.” Likewise, debts to Antonio Caliendo, a former director and major shareholder, reportedly owed £2 million after the takeover. “We’re finalising the balance sheet with Mr Caliendo in order that we can clarify what is owed to him,” Ecclestone says. “When this is completed he will be paid immediately.”
The settling of such obligations will be good news for QPR fans; so, too, Ecclestone’s sense of the club and their future, despite what appeared to be some rather heretical confessions. He cheerfully admits that he was “never all that interested in the domestic game” and that, if anything, QPR’s sworn rivals, Chelsea, were his team, thanks to watching matches at Stamford Bridge with Roman Abramovich.
Moreover, Ecclestone says that QPR “wasn’t on my radar” and that he initially thought that they were not even a football team. “Flavio had been telling me he was looking at buying a restaurant, so when he called me one day to talk about QPR, that’s what I thought he was talking about,” Ecclestone says. Since getting involved, however, he has been delighted by the fans’ response. “They’ve been great,” he says. “They’re incredibly loyal and passionate, a really good bunch of supporters.”
The new owners see this season as one for consolidation, with a push for promotion in 2009. The idea of moving to a new stadium is not on the agenda, although Ecclestone agrees that Loftus Road, with a capacity of fewer than 19,000, is on the small side. “But we can’t move the place so we’re looking at ways to upgrade and refurbish it,” he says. “We need to work out how we can get the maximum use out of the ground.” Money has been spent, with Akos Buzsaky, the Hungary midfield player, Matthew Connolly, the defender signed from Arsenal, Hogan Ephraim, the former West Ham United winger, and Rowan Vine, the striker recruited from Birmingham City, among several players to commit their futures to the club. Luigi De Canio, the Italian manager, has overseen a steady climb towards mid-table safety.
Ecclestone is proud to have “saved the club from going out of business” but adds cautionary words for those who think a bottomless pit of money is available. “QPR isn’t a wealthy club. It’s a club that’s owned by some wealthy people,” he says. “No one is going to be lashing out lots of money. Things need to be done correctly and that’s what we’re going to do.”
After the club’s helter-skelter existence of recent years, a strong dose of pragmatism mixed with a healthy bank balance may be what the doctor ordered. The Times
R.E. Evans, Sheffield United outside-left, won his first cap for England after playing ten times for Wales.
11 February 1933
Liverpool and Everton set a new high-scoring record for the Merseyside derby when Liverpool won 7-4 at Anfield. Barton(3), Morrison, Roberts, Taylor and Hanson scored for the Reds while Everton's goals came from Dean(2), Johnson and Stein.
11 February 1939
A record Molineux crowd of 61,315 saw Wolverhampton Wanderers beat Liverpool 4-1 in the Fifth Round of the F.A. Cup. Wolves eventually reached the final but were beaten 4-1 by Portsmouth despite being one of the hottest favourites of the inter-war era.
11 February 1961
Hibernian achieved their record victory when they beat Peebles Rovers 15-1 in the Second Round of the Scottish Cup. 11 February 1963
Referee Gilbert Pullin of Bristol was severely censured by the F.A disciplinary committee for making improper remarks to Denis Law during a match between Manchester United and West Bromwich Albion. He subsequently resigned from the League list.
11 February 1967
Harry Leyland, Tranmere Rovers goalkeeper, announced his immediate retirement from the game after 16 years in League football. He had five years with Everton, mostly in the reserves, and then joined Blackburn Rovers in 1956. Played in the 1960 F.A. Cup Final which Rovers lost 3-0 to Wolverhampton Wanderers and signed for Tranmere in March 1961. In all he appeared in 384 League matches.
11 February 1981
Nottingham Forest are beaten 1-0 by Nacional of Uruguay for the World Club Championship played in Tokyo. 11 February 1993
Stephen Lodge who refereed the match between Oxford and Sunderland reports himself to the FA after watching a video of the match and realising he had sent the wrong player off.
11 February 1997
Scotland face Estonia in Tallinn four months after their first attempt at playing was abandoned. 11 February 1998
Liverpool striker Michael Owen becomes England's youngest international this century in the match against Chile. England lose the match 2-0.
11 February 2000
Manchester United announce a new sponsorship deal with Vodafone worth £30 million.
Change at Loftus Road: Gianni Paladini Departing?...Winton Thanks...QPR Award Nominees-
- Messageboard Rumours re Gianni Paladini Depature (or just a change in Title?
[An Updated Twitter Post by Dave McIntyre: "Rangers I believe are denying there's any truth that Paladini is looking to stand down as sporting director" Twitter
Dave McIntyre"This, I think, is how it stands: GP's resigned as sporting director & stays as club chairman until his future is decided at the end of March" Twitter BBC - Gianni Paladini's future at troubled Championship club QPR is in doubt.
- BBC Sport understands Paladini has offered his resignation as sporting director after being barracked by fans during Tuesday's loss against Ipswich. The Italian is expected to continue in his role as club chairman until the end of next month, when his position is due to be reviewed. It will then be decided whether Paladini will have any further involvement at Loftus Road. Paladini, a former agent, bought a stake in QPR in 2004. He took control the following year after a boardroom dispute led to the ousting of - Bill Power as chairman and chief executive Mark Devlin.
Paladini remained as club chairman after a Flavio-Briatore led takeover in August 2007, and was later handed the additional title of sporting director. Co-owner Briatore, who is chairman of the club's parent company, QPR Holdings, has been criticised following a series of problems on and off the pitch. Paladini, who has had a major influence over transfer deals, has also come under fire. QPR are currently 17th in the table - only two points off the relegation zone - and have lost their last four games. Mick Harford has been in caretaker charge since Paul Hart departed last month after only five matches at the helm. Hart was Rangers' eighth manager since 2006 and their sixth since Briatore's arrival. BBC
- Check back later at the QPR Staff Directory! qprreport.blogspot.com/2010/02/change-at-loftus-road.html
Sommer Bardsley Yates Maddix Brevett Sinclair Holloway Barker Quashie Gallen Dichio Subs: Allen Goodridge Challis
Goals: M. Wright (15) R. Fowler (30) Dichio for QPR (66)
Liverpool survived a spirited second-half fightback by Queens Park Rangers to stay on the fringe of the Premiership title race with a victory which seriously loosened Rangers' grip on their top flight status.
Roy Evans' Anfield aristocrats refuse to throw in the towel, although they are 11 points behind leaders Newcastle, who have a game in hand.
QPR's situation is critical after their seventh successive Premiership defeat. Ray Wilkins' outfit have just a dozen tension-filled matches left to salvage their Premiership status but the signs are not encouraging. They have 18 points -- at the same stage last season relegated Ipswich had 23, Norwich 37, Crystal Palace 31 and Leicester 21.
Rangers played some bright football but lacked composure in front of goal. Danny Dichio and Trevor Sinclair both wasted point-saving chances by ballooning over at the end of thrilling runs as Liverpool struggled to cope under heavy second half pressure.
Rangers might even have scored as early as the second minute but fortune never seems to favour out of touch teams. Dichio robbed John Scales and pulled the ball back for Kevin Gallen whose drive rebounded from David James legs. Nigel Quashie pounced on the rebound to fire in another goal-bound effort which was blocked by Jason McAteer.
Rangers paid a heavy price for their profligacy. After the superb Stan Collymore had skimmed the crossbar with a 25 yard effort, Liverpool snatched the lead.
It is a sign of their ambition that their central defenders are always willing to lend a hand in attack. When Scales' 15th minute effort diverted off Ian Holloway, the ball fell obligingly into the path of Mark Wright, who beat Juergen Sommer for his first goal of the season.
Then it was the turn of the Collymore-Robbie Fowler combination. Fowler outpaced Danny Maddix for Collymore's splendid 30th minute pass, touched the ball past the advancing Sommer and rolled it into the empty net.
Fowler aimed a couple of headers narrowly over the top before Dichio revived Rangers with a 66th minute shot that cannoned past James off Phil Babb.
Rangers attempted to turn up the heat but with star man Sinclair clearly below par they rarely looked like snatching the equaliser that would have meant so much to the Loftus Road fans.
Liverpool boss Roy Evans removed 25 goal Fowler and replaced him with Jamie Redknapp, whose 15-minute run out was his first taste of senior action since being injured playing for England in November.
Ray Wilkins admitted he is worried about QPR's situation after their latest Premiership defeat by Liverpool today. Rangers face relegation after seven successive Premiership defeats and Wilkins said: "Of course I am very concerned about what is going on here. Who wouldn't be in my position? I thought we worked hard to get ourselves back into the game but you can't afford to give a team like Liverpool a two goal lead and expect to get back in the game.
Unhappy Roy Evans was pleased with only one aspect of the afternoon for Liverpool -- the three points that keeps them on the fringe of the title race. "This was not one of our great performances," he said. "We didn't seem to get going at all. I am very disappointed because we were generally below par especially in the second half. The highlight of the day for me was the three points, but for us to have any chance we have got to keep winning -- and then Newcastle will still have to slip up. They can only lose it now. We gave Rangers glimmers of hope too many times by taking our feet off the accelerator. When we were 2-0 up we thought we had the game won."
Liverpool's Jason McAteer added: "We knew they would come out in the second half so we tried to keep the ball and keep the pressure up."
Asked on the significance on today's victory on the title race, McAteer replied: "Newcastle and Manchester United both won at the weekend so we needed the points to keep with them."
"Newcastle are going to win the title if they keep winning their games so all we can do is try and keep with them in case they slip up."
Copyright - "Press Association"
Sunday 11 February 1996 FA Carling Premier League
"Queens Park R" 1 - 2 "Liverpool" (0-2)
GOAL Dichio Wright 15, Fowler 30
25 Jurgen Sommer 2 David Bardsley 3 Rufus Brevett 6 Danny Maddix 21 Steve Yates 4 Simon Barker 8 Ian Holloway 19 Nigel Quashie 9 Danny Dichio 10 Kevin Gallen 11 Trevor Sinclair
Subs: 24 Trevor Challis 18 Greg Goodridge 17 Bradley Allen
1 David James 5 Mark Wright 2 Rob Jones 12 John Scales 6 Phil Babb 16 Michael Thomas 4 Jason McAteer 10 John Barnes 17 Steve McManaman 23 Robbie Fowler 8 Stan Collymore
Subs: 26 Tony Warner 15 Jamie Redknapp 9 Ian Rush
SUBSTITUTIONS Fowler (Redknapp 76)
OFFICIALS & BOOKINGS Referee: Dermot Gallagher Booked: Booked: VENUE MANAGERS Loftus Road (capacity 19,148) Attendance: 18,405 Ray Wilkins (Q P R) Roy Evans (Liverpool)