QPR & Liverpool fans know a thing or two about financial troubles. Sean Curtin examines how one club bounced back from potential financial ruin and how another did not.
Bottom of the league, QPR host what has been an indifferent Liverpool team, looking to recapture last season’s form on Sunday, but there is a more interesting story behind this match-up.
Both clubs have experienced huge financial turmoil since the turn of the millennium. While Liverpool overcame their issues, QPR’s have persistently spilled from the boardroom onto the pitch and vice versa.
QPR: from founders to failures
QPR really could have had it all. One of the founding members of the Premier League, they saw the huge financial benefits that breaking away and forming the new league could generate. It started so well. Finishing 5th in the inaugural season, the highest league position for a London club in that opening season.
The R’s clocked up respectable league finishes under the guidance of Gerry Francis for their first two seasons. When Francis jumped ship for Spurs midway through the 1994-95 season Ray Wilkins took over as player-manager.
Wilkins continued to maintain QPR’s Premier League credentials and took them to an 8th place finish that season. However, the following season top-goalscorer Les Ferdinand was sold for a record £6 million to Newcastle United. Soon after QPR would bow out of the League they played a founding role in creating.
Things went from bad to worse and by 2004 QPR had gone from the Premier League to as low as Division 2 before settling in Division 1. In 2006, with the club in administration, the team was rocked by allegations of blackmail and violent threats against the club chairman.
During this time the team went through a succession of managers. But in 2007 QPR were bought by Formula 1 moguls Bernie Ecclestone and Flavio Briatore for £14 million. By the end of 2007, Laksmi Mittal had purchased a 20% stake from Briatore. Mittal was the 8th richest man in the world at the time.
What should have happened was drastic improvement in performances on and off the field. Instead QPR went through a string of managers. Eventually, almost despite themselves the club were back in the Premier League by 2011-12 season.
With big money owners now at the helm, R’s fans expected a revival akin to their rivals Chelsea and Fulham who both had wealthy backers. It never came though. Mittal and the Racing bosses provided little additional cash on top of what they had paid to buy QPR.
In 2011, Asian billionaire Tony Fernandes purchased Ecclestone’s 66% stake in the club. Since then the club have paid out roughly £81 million in transfer fees. The spending has been to little avail and the club has been relegated back to the Championship and promoted back in to the Premier League in this time.
Liverpool: The American connection
Liverpool’s financial troubles didn’t rear its head until the disastrous takeover from American’s George Gillett & Tom Hicks. The pair purchased the club for £218.9 million.
However the honeymoon period didn’t last long. Despite reaching the Champions League final in the new ownership’s first season fans wanted them out.
Gillett & Hicks quickly fell out and began looking to sell. All the while Liverpool’s debts began to spiral. Eventually in 2010 with the club on the brink of bankruptcy, the club’s creditors took Liverpool to the High Court forcing Gillet & Hicks to sell to another American group; Fenway Sports Group.
Can QPR learn from Liverpool?
Given both teams have now put their financial turmoil behind them, it’s remarkable how much their fortunes have differed. After finally giving up on Dalglish they appointed a young manager, known for an expansive and attractive style of play.
They’ve stuck by Brendan Rodgers who endured criticism at times and came so close to clinching a first Premier League title last season. Finally back in the Champions League the Club are looking to once again reinstate themselves as a force in England.
QPR meanwhile appear rudderless. If the board have a direction in mind they don’t appear to have told anyone. They’ve continued to go from manager to manager and now find themselves under the waning spell of Harry Redknapp.
QPR have so far squandered the opportunity that new ownership should have presented them with. A team situated in one of the greatest cities in the world should be able to attract quality coaching staff and players.
Fenway Sports Group instilled a vision at Liverpool while QPR have heaved from one disaster to the next. The teams line up this weekend with vastly different goals. Liverpool want European Football, at least this season. Just staying up will be enough for QPR.
Both QPR & Liverpool came close to the brink of financial collapse in recent years, but it is how they have responded that defines them.
Sean Curtin, Pundit Arena