QPR and FFP: the battle goes on and the result will be seismic

By Tony Attwood

During the course of last season, we had a number of debates about the range of FFP outside of the European regulations, and speculated that from the Championship perspective QPR and Leicester might have problems if they returned to the Championship, and Bournemouth might have some difficulties as well.

Reports suggest that Bournemouth are not in difficulties with Championship FFP, although of course we won’t know unless and until they are relegated from the Premier League.  Leicester are freed from any worry by having survived in the PL (whether they exceeded the old regulations or not doesn’t matter as long as the club is in the PL) which just leaves QPR.

The problem is that the news sources dried up in the second week of May.  A whole raft of headlines turned up at that time such as

And so we wait, and wait.  At the very heart of the problem is that the rules that applied when QPR committed what some feel was their misdemeanor, have been changed.  Others argue that QPR have nothing to fear.  The arguments continue.

At best for QPR they get a tiny fine – which means the Championship is left looking like a toothless tiger, and will never have any credibility again in terms of financial control.  It will make noises but everyone will know that a club willing to fight them, has a strong chance of winning.

The worst for QPR is that they get thrown out of the Football League and have to apply for a place in the Conference – which is tough since the fixtures have already been published.  But if they did that the League would have its FFP programme in tact.

At the heart of the matter is that in March QPR filed accounts which showed a loss of £9.8m in the year in which they got promoted to the Premier League.  But (and not for the first time I’m saying “there is always a but”) that £9.8m is seen as an absolute farce by some because it involved writing off loans of £60m in such a way that they would not be counted in the calculations.

If that move were legal then all the regs are null and void since any wealthy owner can make loans to the club and then say, “oh actually guys, I don’t need the money, you have it.”  In short any owner can invest in a club at any level in order to help the club buy more and more players – exactly what FFP is designed to stop.

If QPR has breached the rules as they stood at the time they will get a fine of around £58m which the owner has vowed not to pay.  (This comes from the rule whereby if clubs lost more than £10m than what they were permitted to, they would be fined £6.681m for the first £10m they lost and 100% of the amount they recorded as losses on top of this figure.)

The League could then kick them out, which these days is not quite so unthinkable as it might once have been.  After all the SPL threw Rangers out into the third division – not quite the Lowland League, but fairly small beer.  Scottish League Two contains East Stirlingshire which has a ground capacity of 3,746, and it is not the only club of that size.

As with European FFP, Championship FFP has some flexibility and some leeway, with the expected exceptions like investing in the ground, the youth infrastructure and the like.

What QPR are doing therefore is not questioning the detailed application of the rules, as for example Man City did when they were caught short, but rather they are going a stage further and challenging the absolute legality of the Football League rules.

The last public statement on the matter that came from the Football League said: “Legal proceedings are ongoing between Queens Park Rangers and the Football League. QPR challenges the legality of the Football League’s Championship Financial Fair Play Rules and any charge against QPR for breach of FFP Rules shall not be commenced pending the outcome of that challenge.

“The proceedings are confidential in nature and neither party is entitled to comment upon the proceedings until the independent arbitral panel has delivered its decision.”

Which is why all the media shut up at that point, accepted the new season’s programme of matches, and pretended nothing happened.

The sanctions against clubs in the Football League that break FFP rules can only be applied while they are in the Football League, which is why QPR had nothing to fear as long as they were in the Premier League.  But they must know that the one and only punishment available is the fine.  It is only if they refuse to pay, that they will go.

On the other hand, QPR are the first team caught in this way.  They are threatening heaven and earth against the League, but the League has another problem, for the clubs that have obeyed the rules (and there are many) have already suffered by having QPR take one of the places for promotion to the Premier League.  If the Football League back down, then why should any other club bother?  They could be an uprising if the League lose this one.

The oligarchs will know that they can move in and snap up a Championship team, pump in the money without anyone really knowing too much about where it came from, and if it might be legit money or not, and then effectively get a promotion.  That would bring in a huge wealth and open the gates to money laundering on a significant scale.  Indeed if you are a long term reader you will know that we dealt with the money laundering issue in a series of articles – it being a subject that not too many newspaper articles have wanted to dwell on.

Shaun Harvey, Championship and Football League chief executive will not rule out QPR still being ejected from the league if they don’t pay up.  And what lurks at the foot of all this is that the loss was over £60m in one season in the Championship.   The oligarchs are watching in the wings.

In once sense though QPR’s position probably contains a lot of posturing.  If they do get fined £60m and pay they will still be in the Championship.  If they refuse to pay they will be out of the Championship, not getting any money from TV in the Championship, not fighting with a chance of rising back up, and playing in front of tiny crowds.  The loss if they are thrown out, will be much, much greater, and could lead to the end of the club.  Ticket sales will be down, sponsorship (which always has clauses in it about which league the club are in) will vanish…. the loss would be £150+ in the first year, and then even if they got promotion back to League 2, £100m in the second year compared with what they would have got had they become a mid-table Championship club.

Because of the news blackout on the case what we don’t know is whether QPR has yet been successful in challenging FFP in front of an independent tribunal although we presume not.  If it fails QPR could then challenge the League in the UK’s courts.  This takes us to the area of the recent claim by a Belgium lawyer Daniel Striani, in the Belgium court against Uefa’s FFP.

But as we reported recently, although that case was won by Striani, Uefa immediately appealed and has continued to impose FFP regulations.  What’s more the European Commission, under whose remit sport-related regulations are considered, has already said it is happy with FFP.

Striani’s challenge is the Uefa’s FFP is inherently anti-competitive because it restricts clubs’ freedom to manage their own resources, which could distort competition between clubs.   But the EC has repeated ruled that sport is a special case when it comes to competition, because it is not an open market.   If QPR are raising these arguments again, they will presumably once again end up challenging the EC.  As people sometimes say these days, “Good luck with that”.

Just to make it more complex, in a year’s time yet another set up rules comes in, within the League.  Clubs can lose up to £39m maximum over a three season period provided they meet certain other regulations relating to the owner providing acceptable evidence of secure funding for the next two years.

But even here QPR seem to have a problem because the Championship also has a rule that says clubs will only be able to run up maximum losses of £13m next season.

If QPR win, then it will look like anyone can do anything.  If they lose…. who knows.

From the anniversary files…

  • 12 July 1995: George Graham found guilty of receiving £425,000 payment from agent Rune Hauge following the purchase of John Jensen and Pål Lydersen.  He was dismissed by Arsenal and banned for one year by the FA.


26 Replies to “QPR and FFP: the battle goes on and the result will be seismic”

  1. Surely FFP was not about stopping oligarchs investing in Clubs per se but more about ensuring Clubs don’t burden themselves with debt that they could not pay back should the “benefactor” pull out of their backing for the club. So if QPRs huge debt is written off by Fernandes then this shouldn’t count in their FFP calculations as it’s debt that QPR no longer have. Put simply if someome decides to GIVE QPR £50m why shouldn’t they spend it.

  2. dunno what but having a premonition that something ugly cometh this way.
    As always, a nice read Tony.

  3. Big Bucks Arsenal could also be fined in future, how would you feel if Arsenal were not to make it to the European Championship or even worse still, relegated and had to rely on the chairman to fund the stadium and expensive foreign players that keep them ahead of other clubs in the sky football monopoly

  4. The EEC has something to say on monopolies as well, with the same clubs with big bucks, Arsenal for instance, having unfair advantage over other clubs due to sky money for the first four who receive £50 million every time they qualify for the European Championship, which they can do as they can afford to buy the best players

  5. Why don’t you keep your nose out of our business and worry about your own team. Sick of people like you sticking your nose in and stirring things up. Whatever the outcome is Q.P.R will deal with it and move on.

  6. There must be some way in getting rid of these foreign oligarchs who, armed with dodgy money, are a blight on football’s landscape wherever they appear.
    Whenever the FFP Rules are flaunted, you can bet your bottom dollar a “sugar daddy” is involved. What is worse, backed by his lawyers, loopholes will be found to circumvent the Rules, with bodies like UEFA largely impotent to fight back due to a lack of numbers in its own legal department.

  7. This is just a personal opinion, but although QPR have obviously broken the rules and deserve full punishment under the current FFP rules, I’d hate to see them disappear out of league football. They have such a colourful history and are very important to the local areas of White City & Shepherds Bush.

  8. QPR Mad – many thanks. It happens every time. On a site that proclaims it is about “Football news from an Arsenal perspective” we get a response that says why don’t you keep your nose out of our business, or words to that effect. Do you write to the newspapers every day with the same line?

  9. Richard, the EC has debated the issue of sport and restrictive leagues in depth, and reached its conclusions, which in basic language is that sport is different from other commercial enterprise, and so needs different rules.

  10. As a Rs fan ffp is a joke. Any pemier league team that i class top 4 candidates Arsenal, Spurs and both Manchester teams rarely get there noses out of joint by missing out on champions league. Ok liverpool and spurs have done it for an odd season but cant sustain it as its financially unviable. But pre ffp Chelsea man city buy the title with 100 million plus bulk signings thats ok?

    Yes i agree Arsenal model business is faultless but winning an odd Fa cup is that your goal each season? Or do you aspire to win the prem again or a 1st champions league oh hang on Barcelona dont abide by ffp can you complian to platini about this or try and beat them. As any football supporter out there wants the best for the club and yes i think pompey fans have lost pretty much everything and i wouldnt want that for qpr but if the owners say hey were in it for the long haul and want a 40-50k stadium to assist then so be it after all is Romans millions or Hardings legacy that set Chelsea on the road to success or both, either way they romped the league last year. Or do you have a beef with them too as they were too good over 38 games for you.

    Football is not a closed shop top 4 game or business you have no given right to deny ambition or long term vision not just of qpr but any team out trying for a little bit of glory

  11. Walter,

    Well it’s not 4 articles in a little over a week about QPR is it? By the way, are you still basking in the reflected glory of Arsenal’s balance sheet and passing it off as your own work?


    “Football news from an Arsenal perspective” isn’t the same as “Football news that involves us slating QPR” is it?


    As a City fan, I agree to a large extent. I’m not averse to some financial regulations in football but one that severely restricts investment by sincere owners that just want to grow their club over the long-term smacks of short-sightedness and it comes across as clubs having to accept their place in the food chain forever. Anyone with half a brain cell can see that Tony Fernandes is a decent bloke and is as far removed from an unscrupulous owner/chairman as you can get – he’s hardly a Gaydamak. All he wants is for QPR to grow as a club. He’s not an asset-stripper or someone who wants to run the club into the ground. Yet in some quarters he’s the equivalent of the devil incarnate. Yet if anyone wants an example of the worst type of football club owner you can possibly get, then you only need look at a club that is in no danger whatsoever of failing Championship FFP but is in very grave danger of going out of business completely. That’s because the owners of that club are seemingly hellbent in running it into the ground because it’s widely suspected that if they liquidate it, a more lucrative business opportunity awaits on the land that the football club stands. That football club has been in existence for 128 years and is called Blackpool FC. Yet I don’t ever see an article on here about their plight.

  12. Neil

    Thing is, and leaving aside the very top of the league, when it comes to long term vision and glory the outstanding example of this in modern times is Swansea. They prove just what’s capable for any club with good committed owners who make a series of superb decisions over a number of years.

    A series of superb decisions over a number of years in the competitive football environment is an incredibly difficult thing to pull off, but just one example disproves any suggestion it is an impossible thing to achieve (i.e that without an owner pumping in his cash no club can grow significantly).

    One interesting way to look at whether ffp has any justice to it is to try imagine an alternative history where Swansea’s momentum, as they fought to enter the premier league, was checked for a couple of years on the bounce, and then promptly disappeared, by clubs spending vast amounts of their owners cash. What a shitty result that would have been and what a loss to the league.

    No doubt football history is littered with such tales- a team building for a while, getting close, and then being pipped by a club who have benefitted from a timely injection of cash. I don’t think there’s anyone who disputes that’s just life. The question is whether there should be any sort of limit to it. One of the reasons it’s such a damn mess if, as an authority, you decide there needs to be is that there’s no obvious magic number (5 million, 10 million, 15 million…)

    You have the principle that it is ok for owners to invest some money to grow their club; the fact that there is no natural threshold of when some becomes too much; the obvious truth that at some point some does become too much (both in terms of being potentially very damaging to the club spending it and bringing down the chances of clubs who aren’t spending like that to an unacceptable level (or at least in the eyes of some). What a big ole f**king mess. Of course it could be avoided if millionaires and billionaires had some inherent sense of fair play; if something inside them said ‘oh I should stop now, I’m going a bit far here’. But that’s obviously a laughable idea, especially as accruing that money in the first place typically involves the exact opposite attitude (f*** em; if they don’t like it, f**k em)

    Clubs who grow more or less organically tend to arrive in the league with a different spirit and feel to them. They also enjoy an advantage in terms of squad unity, though of course it’s touch and go whether or not this can prove enough against the massive effects of money in the premier league. But even when it isn’t, as with Burnley, the club, if managed well, still has a very good shot of returning soon.

    Other great examples of clubs who have pulled off the feat of establishing themselves in the premier league are West Brom, Southampton, Stoke. Maybe they benefited from owners provided cash at crucial times, but never outrageously so.

    Meanwhile, FFP or something like it may well have saved Leeds and Portsmouth from the utter calamities ambitious glory-seeking owners inflicted on their clubs.

    I don’t know what a good set of ffp rules should look like- i.e where the lines should be drawn- but it seems to me they are unquestionably for the good of the game : they should help avoid clubs being ruined; and they should help avoid situations where a club that has been building and growing through sustained excellent work (basically decision making in terms of managers and player recruitment), as Swansea did, sees all they’ve built effectively wiped out in an instant when a very rich person takes a fancy to a club and decides he wants success right now.

    ffp wouldn’t deny a club like QPR the chance to grow; if everyone adhered to it, the path would be clearer for you.

    Those glorious years for you with Les Ferdinand in his pomp- that team, or an equivalent, would have been much much harder to put together in the modern football environment : a player starts making a huge impression for a smaller club, zip, off he goes; in the pre-oligarch days that was a harder decision for a potential buyers- their wealth advantage wasn’t nearly as great, and they still had budgets. Now, different story, but at least with some ffp constraints those clubs have to think a little longer on whether or not to buy someone. The chance of those smaller or mid-sized clubs, in prem terms, being able to build a side increases a little.

    Mind you, I never expected ffp to have even this level of success, and I do not expect it to survive. It’s out of keeping with the times and, as the reaction to the worldwide crash shows, the times aren’t changing for a while. The world doesn’t currently have a viable alternative to money being king, and a king who should be free to do as he pleases (a bit like in Braveheart where the guy’s entitled to sample Mel’s new bride). It seems remarkable to me that football even attempted to go against that.

    We will probably be watching completely unregulated spending alongside our new privileges of paying for our health treatments in about ten years time.

  13. rich,

    Some good points and the Swansea model has been a good one. However, they’re now at a point where they cannot realistically break through the glass ceiling of being a top 6 or top 4 club based on their current model. Like Southampton, they’re now at a stage where their best players (and their managers) are being taken away by bigger clubs, no matter how well they’re run. The only thing that could ever stop that happening is if they had the financial might to keep the elite clubs from their door and that could only come with a wealthy benefactor (interestingly, there was a story doing the rounds several months back that Swansea were looking into doing just that and trying to secure extra investment from overseas: http://www.walesonline.co.uk/sport/football/football-news/swansea-city-could-set-stunning-7861429). So they have to effectively accept their place in the food chain as things stand and frankly, I find that somewhat unpalatable.

    I’ll also add that the FFP rules don’t do much to stop another Pompey or Leeds happening. This is a commonly held misconception – in fact, both Leeds and Portsmouth would’ve passed FFP at the time they ran into difficulties. City were heading over a cliff into administration under Shinawatra’s ownership and if had indeed gone into administration we too would’ve passed FFP, mainly due to the healthy profit we made in 05-06 due in no small part to the money we banked from the sale of SWP to Chelsea. In any case, the situations at Leeds and City saw the people running both clubs mortgaging them up to the hilt in terms of taking out loans that were almost impossible to surface, yet the likes of UEFA’s original FFP rules don’t restrict clubs taking on extra borrowing – someone could still come in and cripple a club in that way without falling foul of FFP. FFP rules also don’t do anything about the Oyston family who are sytematically destroying Blackpool FC while the rest of the football world watches on and does nothing about it.

  14. Rich

    Yes id love our values to be off southampton and develop kids but if im brutally honest they aint upto the mark. We get thumped by teams we should be better than. Our grass roots needs overhauling but thats at least 5 years developing something Chris Ramsey will improve we should use Rio to develop and encourage kids to sign. We had Raheem but his ego took him away

    Next season weve gone to youth signings and i applaud us at last and the renegades have departed i think with sir les now back we look to be heading out off turbulant sea i just get hacked off by people with a blind sighted cheap shot at us rather looking at a bigger picture of a game sadly corrupted at the top

  15. ” In any case, the situations at Leeds and City saw the people running both clubs mortgaging them up to the hilt in terms of taking out loans that were almost impossible to surface”

    I meant to say service, not surface of course!

  16. M18CTID

    Interesting territory when you get into what the height of a club like Swansea’s ambitions should be. Offers me a powerful reminder of just how difficult, impossible even, to go the whole way and put yourself into another’s shoes. Or in this case the shoes of supporters of another club.

    I think I’m a fair-minded person and that my beliefs about what’s right for the game exist outside of my desire (desperation more like) for my club to succeed, but I’m aware that- what a coincidence!- everything I advocate benefits the club I support. As with you. As with 99. something per cent of fans I encounter.

    In my defence, so to speak, I could be like a large number of Arsenal fans who, if they do support ffp or decry the work of ambitious billionaires, clearly do so inconsistently and don’t really give a toss about any principles behind it. I’d be surprised if there’s a single Wenger outer who doesn’t fit that mould. Similarly, every one of the fans who, by their actions, insists we try to match the spending of the highest spenders is surely the same, whether they’re fully aware of it or not.

    I’d guess about half our fans would be instantly delighted if we had a Sheikh Mansour, and many others would quickly follow. Some wouldn’t even believe arguments and justifications are needed. Others would find they came naturally.’ If you can’t beat em, join em’ being the most obvious one

    So, my being a staunch defender of Wenger and of the way we’ve spent in the last decade or so at least suggests my beliefs could be authentic, but there’s no getting around the fact those beliefs of mine exactly align with the clubs interests. So long as the regulations are strong and hold, it wouldn’t give us the best chance- the best chance would be no ffp and Arsenal being owned by a free-spending billionaire- but it’s a strong next-best chance.

    In the end I can’t get definite proof of how I’d react (if we had our Sheikh, oligarch)…unless we had our own free-spender. I hope that I’m not full of shit, and find it hard to believe I could be, but that and only that is the only way I could find out for sure.

  17. in this town (Northampton) we have very few butchers or greengrocers – some do survive but most have been forced out of business by the corporate giants. There is very little ‘local’ anymore,just multi-national. Perhaps that’s a good thing, perhaps it isn’t and maybe its got nothing to do with this stream of comments. Financial doping allows rapid growth and expansion in football but without roots the edifice is likely to topple over one day. Personally I think City are trying to do their level best to invest in the grassroots and I admit to some jealousy at their ability to achieve league success with oil money. QPR are perhaps different – it seems a bit of a mess. Chelsea are a pariah club; no class, no attempt at playing on a level pitch – simply shameless greed, urgh.

    I like the Arsenal way but then again I would I suppose. Interesting thread though, shows why Untold should look wider than simply Arsenal fans.
    BTW £9m for Sterling will help ease Rangers’ problems anyway 🙂

  18. rich,

    Seriously, that was an enjoyable read and I agree with pretty much everything you say. Your post highlights the problem of double standards that afflict the vast majority of football fans. Most of us have an in-built mechanism that sees us defend our clubs on pretty much any issue – that’s understandable and I’d be lying if I hadn’t been guilty of something similar in the past. Self-interest I think plays a large part in this but I look at FFP now and think City have established a position of strength where ironically a relaxing of the rules could be more damaging to us as it means another club could be taken over by a rich owner and do what City have done (though I guess it’s unlikely even if FFP rules were scrapped altogether). Of course, as you know, Arsenal have their own billionaire shareholders but only one (Usmanov) appears to be willing to put money in should he ever be given the chance. If that were to happen, I’m not sure how many people would turn their back on the club even if it was something they weren’t in favour of previously. To your credit, you’ve not made a cast-iron statement regarding this should it happen – a wise move. I remember Forest fans when we played them at home in the FA Cup in 2009, a match they won 3-0. It was just a few months after our takeover and virtually to a man they were singing all manner of songs criticising our new-found lottery win. Fast forward a few years and Forest are taken over by a Kuwaiti businessman. I couldn’t resist a peek at their forums in light of this news and yep, you guessed it, the responses were universally positive with many pinning their hopes on Al-Hasawi doing what City had done. They were even asking whether it would be a possibility to take some of our fringe players on loan, given that their and our owner came from roughly the same part of the world. I would be surprised if Mansour and Al-Hasawi don’t even know each other!

    I would add that if I was an Arsenal fan, I’d be pro-Wenger too simply because I’m a “back the manager” kind of person, even when it was someone who was clearly crap like Alan Ball. I do think the board at Arsenal could’ve loosened the purse strings ever so slightly previously (note I’m not pinning this on Wenger as for me he doesn’t have overall responsibility for that), even if it was just to try and keep some of your better players from joining other clubs but you’re pretty much through those difficult years now.

    As for Swansea, it’s a good point. They were almost out of the league about 10 years ago so in that sense, their fans ought to be grateful for what they have now but football fans being football fans, many of them will want an improvement on where they are now. Fans’ expectations tend to change with how a club performs on the pitch. I’ve seen enough “self-entitlement” jibes thrown at the direction of our fans in recent years but as someone who followed the team in the third tier of English football, I can say that there were plenty of self-entitled idiots among our support back then – the only difference is, they were expecting us to smash the third division up rather than the Premier League or the Champions League!

  19. Sorry, I meant to say I WOULDN’T be surprised if Mansour and Al-Hasawi don’t even know each other, not would!

  20. Some fine arguments here , thanks guys , really enjoyed it. Here is a joke about choices at the barrel of a gun. A farmer named Paddy had a car accident. He was hit by a truck owned by the Eversweet Company.
    In court, the Eversweet Company’s hot-shot solicitor was questioning Paddy.

    ‘Didn’t you say to the police at the scene of the accident, ‘I’m fine?’ asked the solicitor.

    Paddy responded: ‘Well, I’ll tell you what happened. I’d just loaded my fav’rit cow, Bessie, into da… ‘

    ‘I didn’t ask for any details’, the solicitor interrupted. ‘Just answer the question. Did you not say, at the scene of the accident, ‘I’m fine!’?’

    Paddy said, ‘Well, I’d just got Bessie into da trailer and I was drivin’ down da road…. ‘

    The solicitor interrupted again and said,’Your Honour, I am trying to establish the fact that, at the scene of the accident, this man told the police on the scene that he was fine. Now several weeks after the accident, he is trying to sue my client. I believe he is a fraud. Please tell him to simply answer the question. ‘

    By this time, the Judge was fairly interested in Paddy’s answer and said to the solicitor: ‘I’d like to hear what he has to say about his favourite cow, Bessie’.

    Paddy thanked the Judge and proceeded. ‘Well as I was saying, I had just loaded Bessie, my fav’rit cow, into de trailer and was drivin’ her down de road when this huge Eversweet truck and trailer came tundering tru a stop sign and hit me trailer right in da side. I was trown into one ditch and Bessie was trown into da udder. By Jaysus I was hurt, very bad like, and didn’t want to move. However, I could hear old Bessie moanin’ and groanin’. I knew she was in terrible pain just by her groans.

    Shortly after da accident, a policeman on a motorbike turned up. He could hear Bessie moanin’ and groanin’ too, so he went over to her. After he looked at her, and saw her condition, he took out his gun and shot her between the eyes.

    Den da policeman came across de road, gun still in hand, looked at me, and said, ‘How are you feelin’?’

    ‘Now, wot da fock would you say?’

  21. I don’t think I would say Moooooooooo.

    On the corruption front, …

    I don’t believe referees in England are having their houses bombed, but I believe that happened in Cyprus. There is a new news article out, about a referee who is running to be FA president, and who has been a whistleblower.

    In the article, is this:

    > “Some of the refereeing instructors today…are former referees who were failures. How is that possible?”

    I think 😈 Mike Riley knows.


  22. Untold on dangerous ground calling something that breaks no rules or laws illegal had to have a double check of that slander should be in shock but given the author i am not sadly

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