QPR Fan Thom Gibbs’ Open Letter to Tony Fernandes over his Stadium Plans

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Telegraph Sport’s Thom Gibbs has been a Rangers fan for 23 years. His open letter to Tony Fernandes in the Telegraph today following the announcement of the club’s new stadium plans raises many points. What do you think? – Steve Russell

Dear Tony,

How are you? I am fine. I do hope your airline is well. Sorry about the Formula One season. Maybe next year, eh?

I write after your plans for a new 40,000-seater Queen’s Park Rangers stadium was unveiled on Thursday night. Congratulations, those are some lovely drawings.

As a QPR supporter of 23 years I applaud your ambition and am grateful for the gigantic amount of money you’ve already spent on our club. But I urge you to proceed with caution in this endeavour.

After a decade of decline, English football came roaring back on a tide of cash and European participation in the 1990’s. With the game ascending and hooliganism in remission a spate of new stadiums were built. They are almost all dreadful.

Middlesbrough, Derby, Southampton, Cardiff, Leicester, Reading and Coventry built grounds which are flawed, interchangeable, and only identifiable as their own by the colour of the seats. Coventry’s was such a failure that they’re now playing at the equally grim Sixfields (built 1994), 33 miles away in Northampton.

The anonymous bowls that defined this new era suffer from a uniformly pallid atmosphere, a direct consequence of the distance between the front row of spectators and the pitch. Loftus Road is an unsustainable long-term home for QPR, but it is wonderfully enclosed, intimate and one of the few remaining stadiums in the country where a raucous atmosphere can be generated with as few as 13,000 spectators.

Building a different kind of new stadium that’s geared towards QPR fans being able to help the club win football matches should be a challenge for your architects, not an obstacle to be swerved with another conservative design.

QPR must avoid the divide between corporate guests and the loyal majority whose budget only stretches to cheaper seats. The uninterrupted tier of expensive seats in the middle of Arsenal’s new ground saps noise from a once-loud set of supporters.

The proposed capacity of the new stadium is 40,000, nearly 4,000 more seats than Tottenham’s White Hart Lane. In the past 50 years the highest average attendance posted by QPR was 23,850 in 1975/76, the season we finished second in the top flight. Last season, again in the top flight although not quite as successful, it was just 17,779, not quite hitting the meagre capacity of 18,360 every week.

You have made encouraging noises about prioritising affordable tickets, and harnessing the support of the new community around the Old Oak development. But to assume the people living next door will all want to watch football, or even want to watch QPR, is to wilfully ignore the disturbing number of children wearing Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United shirts around Shepherd’s Bush on a match day.

To regularly fill a stadium as large as is planned, QPR would need to be performing spectacularly above their historic level for a sustained period. This isn’t out of the question in shorter spells, but no club in English football has ever transcended its status so violently that it is able to attract more than double its established number of fans in the long term.

What will a cavernous 40,000-capacity ground be like in the wholly possible event that we are playing at our current level in the Championship? Cold, quiet, and not a pleasant place to be.

I gently recommend that you approach your plans for capacity like you’re adding salt to a recipe. You can always add some more later if it’s required, but if you put too much in now you’re going to end up with something that tastes horrible. I would also gently recommend that you don’t attempt to taste this, or any other stadium.

Remember that what matters to match-attending football supporters is their relationship with their club, the rituals around going to see them play, and a sense of community. You’ve got the chance to build something which serves QPR supporters as well in these ways as Loftus Road. Good luck!

Yours Sincerely,

Thom Gibbs



16 Responses to QPR Fan Thom Gibbs’ Open Letter to Tony Fernandes over his Stadium Plans

  1. I sympathasie,but I warmly welcome this proposal. I have been a Rangers fan since 1967, I live in Southampton, so can’t see as many games as I would like, getting tickets last year was a nightmare.
    I trust Tony; his plans could transform us into a major player; but you are right, we do need an intimidating atmosphere, and I think Tony knows that.
    PS you are so right about Southamptons ground. Utterly horrible.

  2. Tony Clark says:

    I agree with what you say, but am disturbed that a professional journalist should write so poorly:’the plans .. was unveiled’? And you lurch, in Pythonesque fashion, from the pretentious formality ‘proceed with caution in this endeavour’ to the quite informal. I would prefer ‘stadia’ to ‘stadiums’, and eschew the apostrophe in the 1990s, split infinitives like ‘to wilfully ignore’ and a capital ‘S’ in Sincerely’. but I guess that’s because I have been a QPR fan for nearly 60 years, if you see what I mean. I guess if you’ve only been one for 23 years, you are probably quite young and have plenty of time for the reading which should do something for your writing. A for content, C for style. (By the way, how can one become a journalist without being able to write well? Don’t they require exams and things?)

  3. Tim says:

    Thom
    You sound like a bloke who would build a shopping centre with 5 parking spaces
    And complain that no one was shopping their because they could’nt park

  4. Paul Handley says:

    Spot on.
    The distance between people and the pitch on all four sides of the ground must be the smallest permissible. None of the new grounds mentioned achieve this. Result – very little atmosphere.
    Safe standing combined with cheap tickets must be part of the plan. Tony Fernandes and Phillip Beard should take their architects to Dortmund, and stand behind the goal on the largest terrace in European football. We’ll have some of that please.

  5. aser bourne says:

    Well written Mr Gibbs,i am a QPR supporter of 35 years and seen many changes at Loftus road,your comments are spot on,a new stadium with a 30,000 capacity is much more realistic.

  6. dennis smith says:

    I have been a qpr supporter all my life, am now 48,and welcome the vision of what Tony Fernandez is trying to do, but tread carefully, loftus rd has been the heart of this football club for nearly a century.Being close to the action and atmosphere has always been special.

  7. Jon says:

    Spot on! Love the salt analogy.

  8. martin russell says:

    it is also quite conceivable we could be playing
    in a lower level than the championship with even smaller crowds not so long ago we were in the old third divison we could just about raise 30000 for a cup final let alone bournemouth on a tuesday night

  9. Rossnd says:

    Hmmm. Not sure I can agree with all this. I like the sentiment, but to look for a club that has successfully transcended its status by doubling capacities, we only have to look to our noisy neighbours don’t we? Attendances of 13k to 20k in the eightys and early 90′s, and they aren’t short if followers now.

    I think it’s exciting as TF’s plans are clearly based on planning for a successful future for QPR, built on a foundation of premiership football (though if I’m really honest I do sort of prefer the championship!), and I don’t think a London stadium will struggle with attendances they way other city’s will, due to the number of tourists that will come and watch.

    This is slightly worrying in itself as it could, along with the corporate boxes etc, ruin any real atmosphere, and I agree this is incredibly important.

    However the need to move is there and I believe it’s genuinely exciting and I don’t think capacity will be an issue long term, as long as we secure premiership football. You are correct in concerns regarding atmosphere, but over all I believe the plans will take us in the right direction – we’ll just have to sing up!

  10. Oliver says:

    QPR have done well in “bowls” in recent years though – away trips to Southampton, Derby, Coventry, Leicester, Boro, etc going well. So probably that what’s we need. Certainly better than at Craven Cottage, Villa Park, Burnley, Millwall, White Hart Lane. We play in hoops so round stadium suits plus we had a good player called Bowles. Could call it the Bowles Bowl. Agree re home atomos – but Man Utd had this when Old Trafford 42k all seater – that was a bowl shape but fans were near pitch.Plus St James Park when they were a bowl of 36k. Again near pitch. Again QPR did well there then too.

  11. ESSEXURs aka Colin Woodley says:

    Some good points but I think Wigan are one of the few clubs that play in a new stadium before poor crowds.
    They will always be competing with traditionally much bigger clubs and Rugby for supporters in their area.
    In West London we are going to provide a multi-use stadium to rival the O2 and boost our revenue and make the ground sustainable. This will need a capacity to provide a good return for promoters and it must be remembered that the usual concerts remove an end terrace because of the stage etc.
    I am sure we would increase our crowds as Loftus Rd has always deterred many with the limited capacity and poor facilities.
    Obviously it will only work with a successful team as well and I am sure mistakes have been learnt in that department.
    As far as the design is concerned the drawings look good with steep terraces and good roof design retaining the Loftus Rd atmosphere. As far as distance to the pitch is concerned I believe there are now regulations stipulating a minimum distance from crowd to the pitch and that will dictate that aspect.
    With construction costs rising all the time it might be a false move to downsize the ground as we may find we are unable to extend the ground at a later date.
    I also feel that having such a large area of ‘new’ housing around there will be a ‘new supporter’ factor.
    So… I feel they have made the correct decision to set the size at 40,000.

  12. Toboboly says:

    Completely agree with the article. 40k is stupidity of the highest order. Building a sporting venue for multiple purposes is a guaranteed fail, it does not tick enough boxes for whatever you are there for.

    If this goes ahead as is currently being stated I can see us being at best the next Middlesbrough, at worst Coventry.

  13. Kerrins says:

    Well done with these plans and especially well done with the location.

    The sooner we get out of that matchbox Loftus Rd the better. It has become a Stadium suitable only for Hobbits. Squashed uncomfortable seating and no matter where you sit ( and during my 56 years of support I have sat in every part of the ground) you can never see the 100% of the pitch.

    I look forward to having a perfect view(in comfort) of a Rangers home fixture in the not too distant future… Like I get at other modern stadiums when Rangers play away

    OK I take the points raised about the large 40,000 capacity…but personally I can live with that.

  14. Lars Norlin says:

    The new stadium in New Queens Park will be located in about 200 yards from the place one of the founding clubs played their first documented match in 1883. A field near Willesden Junction It was Christ Church Rangers who beat St Andrews with 3-0. St Andrews was later renamed to Fulham. Really back to the origin.

  15. QPRSluger says:

    I remember back in the 70s when we were a great side, we could have filled Loftus Road many times over for some games.
    No a 40K stadium is the way to go.
    My only concern is the ownership setup for the new stadium, when TF was quizzed on it the details were a bit fuzzy.

  16. Martin63 says:

    “I remember back in the 70s when we were a great side, we could have filled Loftus Road many times over for some games.” Really? I’ve been a season ticket holder since 1973. 6 weeks before the end of the 1975-6 season we pulled in 19,731 v Coventry for a 3pm Saturday kick off. Rangers rarely have pulled in more than 25k at Loftus Road. A 30k attendance stadium will be plenty big enough. And let’s make sure that Queen’s Park Rangers F.C. own the stadium please ……. The Club has to progress and Loftus Road is inadequate for this day and age but let’s make sure that the move is well planned and that supporters who know what decent football stadia look (and sound) like are consulted


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