QPR owner Tony Fernandes must implement austerity measures with £58m Football League fine approaching

 
Joe Hall
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Tony Fernandes faces a financial headache if QPR's court case fails. (Source: Getty)

Relegation is always a testing experience for any football club, but for Queens Park Rangers this season the drop comes with more uncertainty than usual.

QPR are facing the prospect of a massive £58m fine from the Football League as their financial performance is deemed to be in breach of the league's financial fair play (FFP) rules.

To make palms at Loftus Road even clammier, the Football League's chief executive Shaun Harvey has refused to rule out the possibility that the club could be booted out of the competition and relegated to the conference if they refuse to pay.

Tony Fernandes, the amicable owner who is also the chief executive of Air Asia, is challenging the legality of the fine with an independent arbitration panel. The issue centres around the club's losses for the 2013/14 season, which exceeded the permitted £8m loss.

QPR declared a £9m operating loss, yet for the Football League that figure is somewhat skewed by a £60m write-off of shareholder loans.

Read more: QPR’s £58m row to be decided by legal challenge

QPR managed to scrape promotion via playoffs, yet in financial terms their £69.7m loss made them the league's worst performer by some distance. The club's £75m wage bill for the season was higher than Champions League heavyweights such as Borussia Dortmund and Atletico Madrid, representing an unsustainable 195 per cent of turnover.

Despite playing in the second tier that season, the club's wage bill was still the ninth highest in the country - the only clubs to have spent more on wages currently occupy the Premier League's top eight.

No one can accuse Tony Fernandes of being an unenthusiastic owner - his willingness to engage with fans and sign off on cheques for his manager certainly marks a contrast with some of the more despised Premier League proprietors.

Yet when unhindered paternal love includes a bottomless trust fund, cherished children can often grow into dependent spoilt brats. Since Fernandes' arrival in August 2011, QPR's managers have been allowed to buy big and sell small.

Since Fernandes took over in West London the Hoops have spent just short of £120m - more than stable Premier League clubs such as Everton, Swansea, West Bromwich Albion and Stoke City.

As two relegations would suggest, that money hasn't been spent wisely nor effectively. Christopher Samba, signed for £12m on wages of roughly £100,000 a week only to be sold back to Anzhi Makhachkala after 10 appearances, is known as one of the club's more extravagant purchases yet at least the club made (most of) their money back on the big defender.

The same can't be said of Stephane Mbia (bought for £5m, sold for nothing), Samba Diakite (cost £3.52m but has only made 25 appearances in three seasons) or Djibril Cisse (bought for £4.4m, sold for nothing).

Read more: Ramsey blasts deserters as QPR surrender to relegation

Will QPR's situation be worsened by a £58m fine? The club will argue that since the Football League has since made its rules more lenient, it would be unjust for them to be punished retrospectively.

Yet even if Fernandes and co wrangle their way out of the fine, the above graph makes it abundantly clear that the Football League's aim of "encouraging responsible spending" and "protecting long-term viability and sustainability" through its FFP regulations have not been met.

Nine senior players will be out of contract this summer, while many stars will look to engineer a move back to the Premier League club. That may not be such a bad thing.

QPR's relegation was confirmed two days after a majority Tory government was elected to parliament on the promise of austerity measures to turn the country around.

After years of free-spending, it may be time for QPR to take after the country's political landscape and start cutting back at Loftus Road.

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