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Fernandes interview sparks council spat – Podcast
Friday, 8th Feb 2019 10:02 by Clive Whittingham

QPR owner Tony Fernandes was the special guest on this week’s Open All R’s Podcast, and his comments on plans for a new QPR stadium have provoked a row with Hammersmith and Fulham Council.

QPR have been looking to move out of Loftus Road since the days of Chris Wright’s chairmanship and under the ownership of the Tune Group have focused their attention on alternative sights at first Old Oak Common and more recently the nearby Linford Christie Stadium athletics track on the edge of the Scrubs.

The need has become more pressing as the club feels the pinch of Financial Fair Play regulations and declining parachute payments and Fernandes told the podcast this week: “Of course no-one wants to move but we need a bigger stadium. As a club we cannot compete, the FFP ties one hand and there’s a limited amount of income we can get while we’re here.”

The Linford Christie Stadium is council owned and in a poor state of repair and QPR believe they have a good case to take over the site and redevelop it as a football stadium, community facility and associated athletics track. However Hammersmith and Fulham Borough Council (HFBC) has previously accused the club’s Malaysian owners of demanding a piece of public land for free so that they can “play property developer in White City”.

Fernandes told David Fraser, Paul Finney, Flo-Lloyd Hughes and Chris Charles: “The problem is if we have a council that doesn’t support us and appreciate what QPR does for the community and doesn’t see how important the club is to its voters and the community then what do you do? I’m not saying we move to Doncaster, but we may have to move out of the borough.

“I’ve been really disappointed with the council and the Greater London Authority as well – they have a very different attitude to football stadiums in other countries. It would be a shame, but I don’t want to lie and say we’ll always be here. We’ve worked so hard and we are frustrated. We need a bigger stadium to compete.

“We can’t do it ourselves, the fans need to have a voice to push the council into realising they need to support this club. It has done a lot for the community and the council and we have a lot of fans living here. We’re a local club and we need your voice. We sometimes feel lonely fighting against the mayor, the leader of the council, we would love you to lend us your voice.”

The comments sparked another response from HFBC which again reiterated its reluctance to hand over public land to a privately owned enterprise, and that fan ownership of the club may be a way forward. This time it went further, saying that Fernandes and co not only had designs on developing luxury flats on the Loftus Road site, but also on the adjacent council estate in Batman Close.

A spokesman for the Labour-run authority said: “We’ve had many meetings with Tony Fernandes and his team. He’s lobbied us to turn the current QPR stadium into housing and even lobbied us to add in the nearby council homes on Batman Close so he can become one of the biggest developers in White City – one of the hottest development neighbourhoods in the country.

“We’ve been extremely clear that we will never hand over people’s homes on Batman Close to any developer and cannot give any land away for free. If QPR’s owners won’t put their money where their mouth is and invest in the current stadium we’ve offered to consider other options such as renting other sites.

“We think this is a crunch point for QPR. We call on the owners to put the club and its fans first and consider an FC Barcelona-style fan ownership. We love QPR but don’t see it as our business to help QPR’s owners engage in property speculation.”

Using his Twitter account, Fernandes described the council’s statement as “horrific and disappointing” adding: “The council knows very clearly our heart is in the borough and we have tried everything to give our fans a new home and build affordable homes for our fans and community.

“Regarding Bateman close it was logical as a way to the park. That was suggested by architects. The council said no way and so it was dropped. Unbelievable it was one discussion outside Loftus Road with the leader.

“Our aim is to build a stadium that’s enables QPR to be sustainable in the long term and stay in the borough. We have agreed to a huge amount of affordable housing which will benefit our fans and community. We want to create jobs. We have so many innovative ideas.”

Listen to this week’s podcast and make your own mind up by clicking here or using the embed below.

The Twitter @QPRPod, @DavidEFraser, @PaulFinney1969, @ChrisCharles101, @FloydTweet, @TonyFernandes

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