Queens Park Rangers’ manager Harry Redknapp has spoken of a survival ‘dream’ throughout his current tenure with the London club. Yet even big Harry had to admit that the dream looked “in tatters” after a disappointing 2-0 loss to Stoke at the weekend. QPR are still in the hunt for survival mathematically, but let’s face it, there isn’t going to be Premier League at Loftus Road next season. With that in mind, the future of the club looks very uncertain indeed.
The most pressing concern for the club will be debt. Reliable wage totals for Premier League sides haven’t been released yet this year, but ever since QPR were promoted to the top flight two seasons ago, they have been synonymous with big-spending. Indeed last season, they spent 91% of revenue on player wages alone. In other words, Rangers had spent over nine tenths of their money, before you take into account maintenance costs, staff wages, transfer fees, logistics and academy costs.
This season, spending has skyrocketed, even by last year’s worryingly high standard. Christopher Samba was bought for £12.5 million, Loic Remy cost £8 million and Stephane Mbia set the club back £5 million amongst other big signings. Indeed, even when taking into account players sold, QPR lost £38 million on transfer fees alone this year – well over half their total revenue from last season.
Cristopher Samba joined QPR for £12.5 million in January
Then we get to the business of wages for the new arrivals. For household names like Park Ji-Sung and Julio Cesar to choose to ply their trade at a non-elite club, serious salaries are likely to have been involved. Christopher Samba’s alleged triple digit wages were the cause of much controversy this season, and with so many accomplished players on the pay roll, the wage bill is likely to be amongst the highest in the league.
Holding on to the big names is likely to prove a near impossibility as well. It remains to be seen if Harry Redknapp will stick around to pilot a non-Premier League side for the first time since 2005-06. This seems somewhat unlikely though – remember it was just last season he was in charge of a European side in Tottenham. Players are the main financial issue though. Of this season’s new signings, seven have played Champions League or Europa League football in the last three seasons. Convincing these accomplished players to stick around in the Championship at a club they have little affiliation with would take a miracle.
Even if that happens, the question of how they would be paid is the next glaring obstacle. Relegation takes away so many financial benefits, and as mentioned, QPR are already spending way above their means. Chairman Tony Fernandes has wiped away the outstanding debt so far, but he will be less and less likely to do so with a decreasing revenue stream. Indeed, it is possible that even he may decide to cut his losses and leave, despite apparently having been a club fan since he was a boy.
There have to big changes at Loftus Road, and the next few seasons will be unbelievably tough. Expecting this debt-ridden club to get back to the top flight any time soon is optimistic at best. Damage control seems to be the only logical step, because a few mediocre seasons would be a small price to pay to avoid becoming the next Leeds, Bradford, Portsmouth or Rangers in terms of financial peril. UEFA’s financial fair play rules are set to prevent scenarios like this reoccurring in the future, but for the mean time, it is obvious QPR have become the latest in a long succession of clubs who were seduced by the allure of immediate spending, without thinking of the long term consequences.