Most of the national newspapers covered the news last week of the biggest sponsorship deal outside the Premier League but the most positive and re-assuring article for me was written by Yann Tear. It appeared in the local Gazette on Friday and follows in its entirety. What do you think ? You can leave a comment below. For me, apart from addressing many of the concerns we have been voicing, what also excites me is the possibility of having the Academy back again and the investment in the local Community – Steve Russell
The new owners of QPR have pledged to safeguard the identity of the club – even though they want to transform it into a club of Premier League standing. Fans will be eager for re-assurances that the potentially exciting times ahead for their club and the understandable ambitions of the men who saved the club from debt, do not mean a gradual erosion of everything they value about life at Loftus Road. That includes the club’s name, location and even the famous blue and white hooped shirts – all aspects of the club which are non-negotiable in the eyes of even the most casual of supporters.
Both Flavio Briatore and Amit Bhatia – respectively chairman and vice-chairman of QPR Holdings – claim supporters have nothing to fear. “The most important thing for us is that we maintain what is quintessentially QPR,” said Bhatia on the day the club announced an unprecedented five-year kit sponsorship deal worth £20m with sportswear manufacturers Lotto Sport Italia. “We want to keep the club’s identity intact and the fans have nothing at all to be worried about. They should be excited like we are. I most definitely hope the Rangers of the future is one that fans would recognise.”
Bhatia, the son-in-law of billionaire steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal, whose almost limitless resources led to Rangers being dubbed ‘the richest club in the world’ added: “What attracted us to QPR is everything about it’s identity and I don’t see any benefit in trying to change it. There’s a history behind this club and why damage that ? When the stadium becomes a concern, we will address it but it’s really not a concern now. We love the area, I love the stadium. We don’t want to move and if we have to move in the future, we’d want it to be in the vicinity.”
Briatore said: “We want to stay in this area. This is very important, for respect to the fans. We want to be 15 minutes from London. This is the big plus of QPR. We don’t know where the club is going yet. We are just trying to go step by step. Our goal now is just to stay in the Championship. I’m sure next year we will try to improve. We want to consolidate the club and create a good base in the sports side and in the marketing and commercial side.” Briatore this week gave more insight into his vision for Rangers and why he opted for a club in a lower rather than a top division. “Everybody asks me ‘Why did you buy QPR ?’, I say it’s because you want to start from the bottom and create a new club,” he said. “This is much more exciting. This is good adventure, starting at the bottom to build up a good football club.”
“QPR was a good deal,” he added, saying he was a fan of English football because it was “not an excuse to fight” as it often is in his native Italy and was enjoyed by children and families. “It’s a club in the centre of London. The location of the stadium is the best location. QPR have a nice story behind them and it’s a club with a lot of potential. We are a bunch of friends together who want to do something in football and we want to start from this kind of division.” Briatore refused to be drawn on the type of player he wants at the club or have their eyes on and agreed with Bhatia’s assessment that: “We’re very happy with what we have now.”
“Gigi has done a fantastic job in the last three months,” the Italian said. “The club is alive. We play some of the best football in this league and this is recognised by everybody. Sport is complicated with luck involved, Briatore said. “Nothing is guaranteed, but we will try to do the best as possible. We will not throw away money. We are talking about QPR, we’re not talking about Chelsea. It’s completely wrong to compare the clubs. We want to do it our way. Whenever somebody arrives in a new business, people think this is the new blood to suck, but there is nothing to suck here.”
Rangers deal with Lotto looks like it may be followed by shirt deals and other sponsorship tie-ups. Kingfisher – the Indian lager brand – is one expected soon, although Briatore denies it for now. The cash will help lay the foundations for promotion next season and may even be used to re-establish a youth academy. The club lost its set-up a few years ago and it would cost at least £1m to set up the facilities and coaching staff for such a project but talks are apparently in progress. “The aim is to bring this club back to the heights of the past and even beyond that,” said Lotto president Andrea Tomat. “It’s an important investment for our company, but we know the plans for the club are to go to the highest possible levels and I believe the strengths of the people involved will certainly provide that.”