Supporters’ groups have urged the QPR Board to re-open dialogue with them in the wake of Saturday’s heated demonstration outside Loftus Road. Hundreds of Rangers fans gathered outside the main entrance after their team’s 1-0 defeat by Scunthorpe to voice their discontent with majority shareholder Flavio Briatore and his fellow Directors. Lack of stability on the playing and coaching side, the sale of star winger Wayne Routledge to Newcastle and Briatore’s recent remarks, appearing to dismiss supporters’ concerns, have all contributed to the fans’ anger. Further demonstrations are likely, they say, unless the Board attempt to establish better lines of communication with their fan base – perhaps by reviving the fans’ forums that were held regularly prior to Briatore’s takeover in August 2007.
Paul Finney of the Independent R’s told the Times: “Unless the Board address the lack of communication with the fans, it’s likely there will be more of this during the rest of the season. It isn’t just that they got rid of fans’ forums, they also got rid of the shareholders’ AGM’s as well – those were an opportunity for fans to go along and ask the Directors to explain things. There’s a massive gulf between us and the Board – previously there was always a door open and you could knock on it, now they seem to be slamming the door in our faces. I would like the Board to tell us where they think we’re going. They say they’ve got a four-year plan, yet they don’t even seem to have a four-week plan. They should realise how lucky they are – the fact that fans are protesting is a positive, not a negative. It shows they care about the club and the Board ignore us at their peril.”
Stephen Dedridge, Chairman of QPR 1st, observed: “Basically the fans have been disenfranchised and are asking what option is available other than protests. There is no other forum for fans to make their voice heard. There’s a lot of personal animosity towards Briatore, especially after his ‘£20’ comment, but I don’t think people are calling for the Board to resign – what’s going to replace them? We want to work in partnership with the club, but we don’t seem able to speak to anyone who makes the decisions. They don’t appear to understand the culture of QPR and they seem unwilling to seek the correct support or advice.”
Rangers’ debts are estimated at £50m, which prompted the club’s efforts to reduce the wage bill last week by offloading Routledge and Fitz Hall to Newcastle and Patrick Agyemang to Bristol City. Some supporters have been keen to raise hopes of a buyout by Vice-Chairman Amit Bhatia – a popular figure among fans – and his father-in-law, steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal. But it is understood that Bhatia and Mittal are less than enthusiastic about any attempt to take charge of QPR and are in fact considering investing in another club. Finney added: “I wonder what type of fans this Board really want. It seems they want those who pay their money, watch the football and go home. The fact that some QPR fans are saying they preferred it when we were in a lower division tells you something. But the truth is that QPR fans are quite forgiving and we can move this club forward together.”
Ben Kosky – The Kilburn Times