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Farewell West Ham. Hello QPR. London in the EPL next season

Tony Attwood on London clubs in the Premier League.

WHU down, QPR up, farewell pornography, hello F1.

David Sullivan and David Gold said when they took over WHU that they budgeted for failure – that is to say relegation.

Whether that is true or not we will find out now the club has gone down – once again.  The demise of the club has been well-charted here, since it is primarily a financial collapse involving an Icelandic bank, some takeovers, and a fair degree of legal action against Birmingham City (who ironically also are now in deep financial trouble).

WHU has debts of £80m, and according to Sullivan is in “a worse financial position than any other in the country”.    Part of that is caused by the club’s wages bill which is in the top ten for the EPL – as compared to its performance on the pitch which is of course in the bottom three.

But there is a further problem for WHU.  “All the debts are football or bank debts secured on the stadium and training ground so there is no route via administration,” Sullivan said. “West Ham really is a football club where the football and bank debts exceed the value of the club.”

That’s a bit of a problem really.  No administrator would touch the mess because there is nothing to administer (at least until Revenue and Customs overthrow the “football creditor” rule which means football must be paid first), although I wouldn’t put money on them not owing something to St John’s Ambulance and various small time businesses.

£40m has been loaned by Newham council for the move of WHU to the Olympic Stadium in Stratford which will cost £95m.  WHU expect to be in the new ground for the 2014/15 season – although Orient will probably go to the Lords to stop it, and the Tinies are still asking for reviews.   Strangely WHU probably hope that either Orient or the Tinies actually win their appeals since it would save WHU a lot of dosh.   What makes it worse for the owners is the fact that they have personally guaranteed the money that Newham Council have come up with – although tax payers in Newham might wonder why they have to finance a football club.
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The Olympic authorities might also wonder why they have given a 60,000-seat location to a second division club that will probably be picking up crowds of 20,000.  A 60,000 seat ground does cost money to run – and that might mean more input from the local authority – especially if WHU slipped into the third division with another relegation.
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(This is interesting since tax payers in Islington actually benefit from Arsenal being there in terms of new housing – much of it of the social housing kind affordable by local employees of the authority.)

Sullivan also said that the pair of owners need another £20m-£40m to keep the club going.  Then they need all the money to finance the move to the new stadium.  They will get parachute payments from the TV deal (£16m in the first two season and £8m in the next two) but that is down from the £40 a year they were getting.

But as so often seems to happen  as London loses one club at the top table another pops up to take its place.

QPR have been there before (as have many others – remember Wimbledon, who next season will return to the Football League, and could be back in the EPL in a few more years at this rate of progress).

QPR is owned by the Formula One men Ecclestone and Briatore who bought it for £14m in 2007 – although some of it is now owned by the family of Lakshmi Mittal (the 8th richest man in the world) who bought shares from Briatore.   It is all done through a Virgin Islands company Sarita Capital, so as with the Tinies we are not going to know what is really going on with its finances behind the scenes.

The F1 Gang have put up £5m to buy some new players and guarantee a £13m debt, which by and large means the going price for a small EPL club is about £20m.

There is some confusion over whether some past debts have been paid off or not,  but the big talk is the cost of the tickets (making QPR perhaps the most expensive club to watch in the EPL – certainly QPR v Arsenal is more expensive this coming season than the return fixture at the Ems).  The big talk from the owners is that they will use their contacts in F1 to try and get new sponsorship deals.

Whether QPR can stay up depends on the players they can bring in – as we saw this season with Blackpool vim and vitality and lots of interviews on Radio 5 are fun, but not enough to help a club survive.  But if QPR are a one-season wonder, will London finally have a season where a local club goes down, but another does not come up?  It could be, because the future for WHU and their lovely promised stadium doesn’t look that bright.

Arsenal, Tottenham, and Chelsea look permanent fixtures, while Fulham will stay there if the owner keeps his money in the club.  Beyond those names plus QPR and WHU the clubs get smaller – Palace, Watford, Millwall, Brentford, Orient, Dagenham, Barnet and now Wimbledon.  Looking ahead over the years Palace could conceivably get themselves back together, and Wimbledon seem to exist in a world of their own which means anything could happen.  Millwall have been in the top division briefly, but if they did have a good run I am not sure they, like the rest, could sustain it.

Perhaps in terms of guessing the future we could note that last in 2009/10 WHU were only one place above relegation, and QPR ended up 45 points behind the league winners (Newcastle) but only 10 points above Sheffield Wednesday who were relegated.

We really might see a decline in the number of London clubs in the EPL after the coming season if QPR can’t maintain their status.

Untold Index

7 comments to Farewell West Ham. Hello QPR. London in the EPL next season

  • walter

    Wasn’t it Wenger who said in his first seasons that the more London clubs in the EPL the more difficult it is for Arsenal to win the league with all those difficult derby games?

    About QPR I must say I do felt for them a bit when I was younger. My local club in Belgium once bought a player from QPR who turned in to a really great player of my local club. We were still a club in the highest division in those days. (Long forgotten days). So I was thankful for QPR for letting that player go (for money)

    And I don’t care for the downfall of WHU that much. Just for one Belgium West Ham supporter who really is very nice person and who has a good vision on how things work in the EPL. Sorry for him, not for the club.

  • Joe

    I remember when Charlton were in the EPL, they used to be a quality team but things went downhill for them. With WHU they were always in decline, going up and down leagues. But there is one thing to look forward to and that is Millwall v WHU matches. THERE ARE GOING TO BE RIOTS!

  • Some Hammers I’ve talked to are actually looking forward to the Millwall derbies. That suggests some serious football-induced dementia. On the other hand, taking West Ham out of Upton Park and moving them to a soulless facility with no history is like moving Parliament out of Westminster to a Le Corbusier condo across the river. They can put up a clock tower, but that still wouldn’t make it right.

  • Shard

    So low representation for London through the football teams, and none from the referees? Great.

    As for West Ham. Somebody commenting here once suggested that a person involved with the group that also are referee sponsors was trying to buy them and that perhaps examining referee performances in their matches might prove instructive. I think it’s worth checking out (if possible) because as you said in terms of wage bill they are a top ten team? Is it ONLY down to mismanagement, or does luck (or nefarious design) play a part in them finishing bottom 3?

    And if Lakshmi Mittal gains control over QPR (though the other owners aren’t keen to sell), I think we might see some serious cash being splashed.

  • Adam

    @shard just a little fact for you. Mike Dean officiated West Ham 6 times in the prem this season once at home and five times away. West Ham did not record a single victory? Under Dowd & Foy they lost five out of five, Under Mason, Clattenburgh, Friend, Jones, Oliver, Taylor, Walton and Webb they did not record a single premiership win? Was West Ham really that bad?

  • Shard

    @Adam

    Some of their players don’t seem that bad at all. I always sort of expected them to pull through sometime in the season but it never happened. But of course maybe they WERE that bad. I don’t remember seeing many of their matches and paying attention to ref calls. The two matches I do remember where they were unlucky with decisions were against Chelsea and ManU where penalties were awarded against them wrongly. For the rest, I have no idea. But it might make an interesting case study if we can find their matches.

  • Adam

    @ Shard, I agree maybe they WERE that bad, but they turned Man utd over 4-0 in the carling cup under Clattenburgh yet lost 0-3 in the prem again under Clattenburgh at Old Trafford. We only beat them 1-0 at the Ems under Jones. Just shows the erratic nature of their season. That’s why i asked previously if anyone followed West Hams season more closely and if their fans felt as aggrieved as the supporters of this site do about Arsenal. For me something is not right with West Hams demise, But as stated above, I’m open to the fact that i could be wrong. Lets wait and see if Tony Fernandez gets his hands on the Hammers or do they have to drop another league before the current owners are forced to sell. If Mr Fernandez does gain control of West ham in the near future will his subsidiary company the Tune group stop sponsoring the pgmol?