The vice chairman of QPR plans to turn the minnows into the Manchester United of India. In an exclusive interview with ‘Eastern Eye’, Amit Bhatia explained his short term, three year plan. Lakshmi Mittal’s involvement in the Championship side in December, when he bought a 20% stake in QPR, has helped raise the English club’s profile in the Indian subcontinent.
He said: “Most definitely, we want to take the club to India. Of course, we have a little harder time in doing that than the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal as they have such a huge profile.”
“But QPR’s profile is getting bigger because there are Indian shareholders and people in India have heard of the club. They don’t get to watch us on TV, so the Indian public are far less exposed to the club. We would like to change that. We hope maybe next season we can take the team to India to play a couple of games, maybe in pre-season. That is something that has been discussed with the team, the management and the shareholders. And long term, we also hope to set up an academy in India. We want to expose QPR to the Indian market and will do that when the time is right.”
The club received a windfall when they were taken over by motor-racing supremo Bernie Ecclestone and the flamboyant boss of the Renault F1 team, Flavio Briatore, earlier in the season. And the arrival of Lakshmi Mittal, who is the richest man in Britain, further increased their financial muscle. Promotion to the Premier League is also vital to realise Bhatia’s aim, especially as TV sports channel ‘ESPN-Star’ regularly shows matches from that league in India. Bhatia said: “QPR represents a lot of things we are looking for in a club. It’s a London based club, it has a fantastic stadium at Loftus Road. I love the fact that QPR has a rich tradition, it has fantastic support. And with Flavio and Bernie, I don’t think there are more successful people in sport. QPR was perfect.”
Eastern Eye – 4th April 2008