|Queens Park Rangers 0 v 1 Huddersfield Town|
Saturday, 13th March 2021 Kick-off 15:00
The curse of the QPR shirt sponsor – Preview
Friday, 12th Mar 2021 15:07 by Clive Whittingham
For the second season in a row, a predatory gambling company our club had no business being in league with in the first place has gone belly up, leaving QPR without a shirt sponsor and presumably out of pocket, ahead of the visit of Huddersfield.
QPR (12-10-12 WDLLWW 12th) v Huddersfield (10-8-17 LWLLDD 19th)
Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Saturday February 13, 2021 >>> Kick Off 15.00 >>> Weather – Bright, extremely windy >>> Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium, Loftus Road, London, W12
Let’s be honest here, if I could do maths, and finance, and accounts, and spreadsheets, I’d have a proper job, and a proper house and a proper salary. But I can’t, so I don’t. Is there a therapy group for people who secretly can’t use Microsoft Excel? Maybe I should start one. In the meantime, you’re stuck with me here, mixing Moneyball, Airplane and Futurama references with graphic sexual imagery in Championship football match reports. Lucky you.
Sadly, annoyingly, you cannot cover football in 2021, and you certainly couldn’t have covered QPR for the last decade, without the ability to read a set of accounts and decipher some semblance of idea about what it all means for the performance on the pitch.
Rangers have gone from the highest payers in the division, the highest payers in the history of the division, in 2013/14, with a wage bill kicking around the £80m p/a mark, to one of the bottom five budgets at this level, with salaries now knocking around between a more manageable £15m-£20m p/a. They’ve done that partly because it wasn't working. The club was haemorrhaging a ridiculous amount of cash – some £60m in losses for that 2013/14 play-off year – and not showing any signs of being able to cement a permanent spot at the £150m-a-year Premier League pig trough for that outlay. They’ve also done it because the rules of the competition have changed, from being able to spend what you like, to a ridiculously draconian limit on how much you were allowed to lose in a single season under which Rangers were levied the biggest fine ever in world sports for their 2014 excess, to the current situation where P/L laws forbid a loss of more than £39m over any three year rolling period.
It's important, I think, to have some sort of a slim grasp of all of that (and that's all I have), and keep a check on where QPR’s accounts place them on that £39m rolling line, to be able to form opinions on the team we’re able to put on the field. It would be very easy, for example, to use many years of experience playing Football Manager and lament how we’ve gone from Danny Simpson to Todd Kane, Richard Dunne to Geoff Cameron, Bobby Zamora to Lyndon Dykes, Matt Phillips to George Thomas and say that this is a disgraceful, managed decline, borderline asset stripping, from disinterested owners. When QPR balk at a multi-million pound fee and highly lucrative three-and-a-half-year contract for 30-year-old, out-of-contract Nahki Wells and he goes to Bristol City instead it’s easy to be frustrated, and stamp your feet, and lament our club’s lack of ambition. That is, until and unless you look at what QPR bring in revenue each month, what the club costs to run day to day, and the rules of the competition we exist in. Factor that in, and for QPR to be steadily improving over the last two seasons in the way they have, while having (and they do have to) let the likes of Smithies, Freeman, Eze, Manning, Osayi-Samuel, Wells, Hugill, Luongo, Bidwell, Furlong, Wszolek and others leave, is actually a pretty admirable achievement. Could we be doing better? Are other clubs in similar binds doing more with less? Absolutely. But still…
The club’s CEO Lee Hoos has been very clear in his public statements that his five-year cleaning house mission at Loftus Road hasn’t simply been about the FFP rules. QPR’s losses, even with the dramatic reduction in wage bill, weren’t shy of £1m a month at the last set of accounts. Even with this team, with the wage bill below £20m, and with supporters in the stadium, the limitations imposed by Loftus Road, the ongoing situation with rented training grounds, and the day to day realities of running a club in a division that is a bonfire for owners’ cash like few others in the sport, mean that it costs the Tune Group nearly £1m a month just to run QPR as it is now. The current owners’ mistakes have got us here, sure, although QPR has been a lossmaker for 25 years now, but were they to pack up and walk away we’d be one month and £1m away from being broke by next pay roll. That is, unless somebody bought it from them, and any prospective buyer would be in for £12m for the first season, a £20m training ground development, and a £17m FFP fine payable over ten years before they’d even set foot through the door – one to consider next time we’re on a bad run and the Twitterati are demanding Fernandes/Bhatia/Gnanalingam’s head on a stick. That’s the circle Hoos has been trying to square; a more sustainable club, not one running at a loss just shy of the FFP limit.
It is nevertheless frustrating to see other clubs in this division bending, subverting, circumnavigating and/or outright ignoring the profit and sustainability rules of this league without what we would consider adequate punishment. Birmingham’s repeated breaches, including the aggravating factor of spending another £2m on Krystian Pedersen from Union Berlin while they were supposed to be under a transfer embargo, eventually saw them hit with a points deduction that moved them from one bit of midtable to another in a season long since over. Derby have been allowed to sell their stadium to themselves at an enormous mark up, something that wasn’t open to QPR in 2013/14 but is now actively encouraged by the way the rules have been reworked since then. Sheff Wed’s six point deduction this year is as near as we’ve come to a punishment that actually matters, but even with those points back they’d still be in the bottom three now and likely relegated.
This week Nottingham Forest’s latest set of accounts showed a loss of £32m for the 2019/20 season – the one before Covid hit – to go with a £34.5m loss the year before. There’s some suggestion that a mixture of player sales - £14m for Matty Cash will help – and exemptions such as the cost of the academy somehow keeps them under the £39m FFP limit. But if you can lose £34.5m one year, £32m the next, and be under a rolling £39m three-year limit, that’s a hell of a fucking academy you’ve got there. Where is it, outer space? Forest, of course, continue to freewheel through the transfer windows like somebody who found themselves on Supermarket Sweep during a bad acid trip regardless. They brought in 14 players last summer, complained bitterly that a fifteenth, Kamil Grosicki, was refused after not making the deadline, and then went out in January and added Glenn Murray, James Gardner and Filip Krovinovic as well. They’re doing that while QPR are (rightly) walking away from one indulgent deal to sign Nahki Wells, refusing to bend a strict wage ceiling even a little to secure Bright Osayi-Samuel, and it feels unfair. It certainly feels unfair to Warbs Warburton, who has repeatedly referenced the disparity between present day QPR spend and most of the rest of the league. FFP has done nothing to level football’s ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ situation - in fact its exacerbated it by rewarding the bigger richer clubs and adding in a new tier of those who ‘have not’ but do anyway. Forest’s £8m sale of Arvin Appiah to Spanish second division side Almeria after just three first team starts (now on loan at Spanish third division luminaries Lugo) particularly fucking shameless when you think Rangers only got £5m for Luke Freeman.
Forest’s latest loss, which as I say doesn’t even cover the 12 months of lockdown the league has just endured, and transfer activity this year conducted regardless of it, would suggest they’re banking on FFP simply not being a thing on the other side of the pandemic. How can you punish clubs for losing more money than they thought they would in a year when suddenly, at literally two days’ notice, all their ticket revenue was taken away from them for more than 12 months? You can’t. The situation has materially changed. Of course this formed part of QPR’s defence to their previous breach – contracts had been committed to in the Premier League before the rules had taken affect, and couldn’t just be torn up upon relegation. The situation had materially changed, and the rules QPR were being punished under were subsequently abandoned as unworkable and re-written. We’ve always said QPR cheated that year and deserved their fine – the contracts line doesn’t really wash well against a further 16 signings being made that year, including big money spent on Charlie Austin and Matt Phillips; a January trolley dash for the likes of Mobido Maiga, Will Keane, Aaron Hughes, Yossi Benayoun, Kevin Doyle; full internationals like Oguchi Onyewu and Javier Chevanton brought in just to cover on the bench – but legally the points they made could have held water.
Rangers also chanced their arm with the Covid situation pre-Christmas when CEO Lee Hoos put it to a meeting of EFL owners and CEOs that the historic fine should be reduced or written off altogether, such were the exceptional situations now being faced by all clubs at this level of the sport. Exactly the sort of cheeky, cap in hand, opportunism you’d expect of our American CEO, but actually something quite a lot of the EFL were more amenable to than you might expect. After all, how can a fine deemed proportionate in pre-Covid times still be proportionate now? Sadly, it foundered on the rocks of one particularly firm “no” which I understand came from Preston North End CEO Peter Ridsdale, would you believe, which must take some serious fucking brass neck given his back story.
One of many unintended, troubling consequences of FFP is emblazoned on the front of QPR’s otherwise rather fetching kits this year, and that one has come home to roost this week. Ironically, also a sponsor of Forest - when you're looking for workarounds, you look in the same place.
Football Index’s collapse, brilliantly exposed and covered by the often excellent Joey D’Urso at The Athletic, is a particularly egregious example of modern societal, and modern football, cuntishness. Little more than a pyramid scheme, reliant on more and more people piling their money in to pay the ones already there, hiding behind some not-worth-the-paper-it’s-written-on rubber stamp from the unfit-for-purpose Gambling Commission. A ruse built around the all-conquering allure of an immoral modern sport and this too-good-to-be-true idea, enforced by blanket marketing of which our shirt sponsorship is a part, that there’s money to be made from your drunken, dribblesome, slurred late night pub opinions about who should be playing right wing for Spurs, who’s going to win RED MONDAY on Sky, and who should and shouldn’t be in your mental, mental acca this weekend. Football Index, like every gambling advert, asked if you knew about football, which we all like to think we do, and then promised that knowledge was key to a fortune. There have been stories of punters investing £25,000 into this obviously synthetic marketplace, all of which is now gone, leaving the poor saps in a queue of creditors for the administrators to fob off.
Anybody with local knowledge should have been hauling their cash out of Football Index the moment its QPR shirt sponsorship was announced. Having your name on the front of the QPR kit in recent years has been akin to signing the wedding register with Henry VIII: Football Index, collapsed into administration; Royal Panda, ceased UK trading; Dryworld, ceased UK trading; Air Asia, crashed into the sea; Air Malaysia, crashed into the land. QPR, for a second successive season, left with a collapsed sponsor two thirds of the way through the campaign, presumably still owed money, company logo still all over their shirt and official website, no doubt about to be taped over, probably by another bookmaker’s logo.
Hoos says: “As a club we entered into a one-year agreement with Football Index in good faith. In light of recent events, the front property of QPR’s home and away strips will no longer sport the Football Index logo.”
The simple fact is, neither Football Index, nor Royal Panda, had any business whatsoever being on the front of our shirt in the first place. QPR rightly prides itself on its Community Trust, its work in Shepherd’s Bush and the surrounding area, its Grenfell campaign, the work with the Kiyan Prince Foundation, being a good neighbour in W12, and much else besides. Our last two shirt sponsors stand for the opposite. They stand for drawing in the young and impressionable, drawing in the vulnerable, getting them good and hooked, and exploiting them. The poorer the area, the more betting shops you find, and the more fixed odds terminals you find within them. From all walkable points north, south, east and west of our stadium there are exactly the sort of areas in which these leaches thrive most. ‘When The Fun Stops Stop’ proudly paraded the same way the friendly neighbourhood paedophile often has a cute dog. They love you when you’re losing, get funny about paying out on the rare occasions you do come out on top, and when it goes south like Football Index has this week, it takes your money with it and spits you out.
The vast majority of clubs now carry gambling sponsorship – some, like Everton and Wolves, companies based in the Far East you can’t even use here – because they pay more than anybody else. That’s the market, if drill-bit manufacturers paid more we’d all be sponsored by drill-bit manufacturers. Nevertheless, that a club going out of its way to be a responsible, valuable community asset, in an area like ours, is driven to promoting these scumbag charlatans by simple, bottom line, zero-sum economics of FFP is a shame. Literally, a shame.
Links >>> Opening day flier – History >>> Season of two halves – Interview >>> Salisbury in charge – Referee >>> Huddersfield Official website >>> Ground Guide >>> Down at the Mac – Forum >>> And he Takes That Chance – Podcast
Geoff Cameron facts No.136 In The Series - Geoff’s got enough on his mind without worrying about times when things weren’t so good
Below the fold
Team News: QPR were unchanged for the midweek win against Wycombe, and presumably would like to be so again after two victories and two clean sheets already this week. There’s another Wednesday-Saturday coming up against Millwall and Reading next week before a fortnight off for the internationals. Lyndon Dykes was benched during the week, emerging only briefly to fall over a presentable chance and smash his ankle into a thousand pieces – he’ll have a scan today. Luke Amos, Charlie Owens and Little Tom Carroll are the long term absentees.
Huddersfield are likely to stick with the same team that held Cardiff last week, with fit again trio Danny Ward, Jonathan Hogg and Warbs’ best boy Alex Pritchard back to the bench. Hogg, so impressive in the first meeting this season, has been struggling with a hip injury but could push for a start here.
Elsewhere: The Mercantile Credit Trophy bursts back to life tonight with wildly erratic Blackburn facing probably the best team they’ll play all season, Justice League leaders Spartak Hounslow, at Ewood Park. With no points awarded for xG, the Bees have slipped to fourth of late with three defeats in five, allowing Swanselona to steal a three point march into third ahead of the Saturday lunchtime trip to Lutown, and Watford to ascend to second prior to the game of the Championship weekend away to in form Cardiff. Borussia Norwich look home and hosed, ten points clear, seven wins in a row, and away to a fairly shambolic Sheffield Blue Stripe on Sunday lunchtime.
The play-off picture is made up by fifth-placed Reading, who travel to face Nottingham Florist’s cast of a thousand footballers, and Barnsley who are now seven wins and a draw from eight in sixth. The Tukes travel to one of the more serious chasers, Bournemouth, this weekend, with Cardiff awaiting slips with their Watford game. The Thirteenth Annual Neil Warnock Farewell Tour, for so long looking like yet another Championship promotion push, has waned with just three wins from 11 games and they now find themselves eight points adrift of the six after fine runs by Reading, Barnsley, Cardiff and others. A win looks fairly vital for them to keep hopes alive at home to Stoke.
At the bottom, Wycombe are now 12 points adrift, four straight league defeats, and game in hand spent. I think we can call them, prior this weekend’s home match with Preston Knob End. Sheff Wed are next, five straight defeats and seven points adrift, also pretty much dead on arrival. Third bottom Rotherham suffering a third postponement in a week for Covid-19 positive tests, this time at home to Coventry, leaves them with 14 league games to play and six weeks to play them in, with two games already booked in for the Friday-Monday over the Easter weekend. Birmingham have played three more games than the Millers, and are three points better off for it, ahead of a home game with Bristol City.
Coventry, who were supposed to be playing Rotherham, and Huddersfield who we’ve got, are next up, before you get to Wayne Rooney’s Derby County, who you may not have seen publicly fellated for a while because they haven’t won for four matches prior to the home game with Miwwlllwawwwwlll (fackin’ ‘ell Wawll). And that’s every game mentioned. God we’re good.
Referee: Michael Salisbury for this one, a relative newbie on the Championship list and somnebody who made rather a hash of his last QPR appointment against Watford before Christmas. Details.
QPR: Having won just four times all season up to January 12, QPR have now won eight of 12 matches – 25 points from 12 matches, a record bettered only by Norwich and Swansea since the turn of the year. Eight wins in 12 games and 57 days compares to eight wins in the previous 36 matches and 321 days. They’ve kept six clean sheets in those dozen games, including the last two, which as many as they managed in the whole 46 game season in 2019/20. Rangers have kept 11 clean sheets overall this season, only three shy of the 14 they managed in 2018/19 and fast approaching the 17 from the 2013/14 promotion season. The R’s have conceded 39 goals overall, 20 fewer than the 58 they’d shipped by game 34 in 2019/20. QPR have three more points than they did after 34 games last season – 46 to 43 – despite scoring far fewer goals – 35 to 51. Ilias Chair’s tap in during the week moves him clear as top scorer with seven. After 34 games last year Nahki Wells had 15, Jordan Hugill and Ebere Eze 11 each. Tjarron Chery scored for Rangers last time they beat Huddersfield, in West Yorkshire in August 2015. Since then the sides have met six times with four Huddersfield wins and two draws.
Huddersfield By contrast, nobody in the Championship has taken fewer points since the turn of the year than Huddersfield. Twelfth on New Year’s Eve after an impressive home win against Reading, they lost five in a row immediately after that and have now only won one of their last 14 matches. Having started the season with two wins and a draw from the first five away games, including impressive 3-0 and 2-1 successes at Millwall and Swansea respectively, it’s now 12 road trips without a win of which nine have been defeats including the last three. No team has won fewer than their two on the road, only bottom two Sheff Wed and Wycombe (both 13) have lost more than their 11. Since a surprise 4-1 home win against promotion chasing Swansea in February, Town have won two and drawn two, but failed to score in three of those games. Their 0-0 against in form Cardiff last time out – a first clean sheet in 16 games - was a decent result, that could have been so much better had Yaya Sonogo not skewed a late penalty horribly wide. Town are yet to score from the spot this season but have conceded from five. A 2-0 lead at home to bottom side Wycombe did look like providing some respite from the bad run, but they conceded three second half goals, including another penalty, to lose 3-2 – 24 points have been surrendered from winning positions by the Terriers this season, a division high.
Prediction: We’re indebted to The Art of Football for once again agreeing to sponsor our Prediction League and provide prizes. You can get involved by lodging your prediction here or sample the merch from our sponsor’s QPR collection here. Last season’s champion Mase offers us this…
“Another game I think we should just edge. I expect it to be the opposite of a classic - there have been signs in the past week that the miles in the legs are showing - but the three points would be very welcome. Not convinced Charlie Austin will start here - if he doesn't this looks a degree harder.”
Mase’s Prediction: QPR 1-0 Huddersfield. Scorer – Chris Willock
LFW’s Prediction: QPR 2-0 Huddersfield. Scorer – Charlie Austin
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Letters from Wiltshire #44 by wessex_exile
So here we are, as the nation mourns the passing of His Royal Highness, Duke of Edinburgh, the U’s face the first of two season-defining moments, with our late kick-off match at home to Walsall. Before then, no doubt many will have been focused on events elsewhere, not least the early kick-offs for Grimsby (at home to promotion-chasing Bolton Wanderers), and particularly Essex rivals Southend United, who faced a tricky visit to Exeter City – still very much in the hunt for at least a play-off spot. As I finalise this blog, I know that Grimsby have beaten Bolton 2-1, and Southend earned a credible 0-0 draw in the West Country. More to the point, the U’s will know this too. Whilst I can’t help but feel that will ought to be to our advantage, it surely must also put additional pressure on a squad whose confidence is paper-thin. We must hope that Hayden Mullins, assisted by Paul Tisdale, get their heads right, and send the lads out this evening fired up with self-belief.
Letters from Wiltshire #43 by wessex_exile
Well, that has been a lively week for Colchester United in the press, and not least for Robbie Cowling, with not one, or two, but kind of three club announcements in rapid succession to try and put the record straight. First, we had Tribunalgate, which certainly looked very poor according to the initial press reports, but which on closer inspection when some of the ‘fact gaps’ were filled in wasn’t anywhere near the story that some would have us believe. Then of course we had the ‘leak’ that the U’s were about to go into administration, despite all the reassurances we’d been given in previous statements from Robbie. Not so said Robbie again, and particularly angry at what he believed to be the source of the story. Hence statement #3, repeating his assurances, but this time after passing through the lawyer filter to remove his thoughts on the source. To paraphrase Robbie’s conclusion to that statement, let’s hope we can all have a day off from this sort of media shenanigans and enjoy our game at Oldham tonight!
Letters from Wiltshire #42 by wessex_exile
Well, these sure are strange times at Colchester United, particularly for a club (nor a Chairman) not usually associated with the ‘managerial revolving door’ approach. With results not matching expectations or even minimum requirements, and a brief spell after being appointed Interim Head Coach, Wayne Brown has been released to return to the Jammers, for whenever their pandemic-interrupted football restarts. In comes not one, or two, but three new ‘appointments’. Hayden Mullins steps up as Head Coach to the end of the season, Joe Dunne apparently comes back to the U’s in a sort of unofficial coaching/ team-spirit sort of role, and exceptionally experienced lower-league former Exeter City manager Paul Tisdale arrives to provide Hayden with advice and support – crikey!
Letters from Wiltshire #41 by wessex_exile
This afternoon the U’s take on Bradford City in a bid to gather sufficient points to stay clear of the bottom two. It’ll be a tough gig though, even if (as I suspect) Bradford City have left it a bit too late to challenge the play-off spots. They were on a decent run of form, that is until defeats at Newport, Carlisle, Scunthorpe and a goalless draw at home to Oldham put paid to any lingering promotion hopes. For us, it’s simple, to stay out of the bottom two, for all intents and purposes we only need to gain half (or more) of the points that Grimsby or Southend do. Sounds easy, just wish I felt more confident we will…
Letters from Wiltshire #40 by wessex_exile
Today we learned the sad news that Peter Lorimer has passed away, aged 74, after a long-term illness. Love or loathe Revie’s Leeds, no one can deny that “Hotshot Lorimer” was a truly magnificent footballer, and his passing is a sad day for the global football family.
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