Glenn Moore: Tony Fernandes will need new fans for bold move
It has happened. On 9 January 1932 41,097 watched Queen’s Park Rangers play Leeds United in an FA Cup third-round tie. That must be the latent support Tony Fernandes hopes to tap into with the new 40,000-seat stadium proposed for Old Oak Common.
Having transformed Air Asia from a failing company with $11m debt and two ageing Boeings into a successful 132-plane operation, Fernandes has earned the right to have his dreams respected. But turning QPR into a club capable of filling a 40,000 stadium is going to take a generation of success.
When citing record club attendances it is customary to suggest that fans were “packed in”, but there was plenty of room on the White City terraces to watch QPR win 3-1 81 years ago. At the time the Olympic venue was pulling in 90,000 crowds to watch boxing.
QPR, meanwhile, were averaging 13,000 in the Third Division South. That figure is QPR’s historical average, roughly on a par with Huddersfield and Bristol City.
Rangers soon gave up on White City and, aside from another poorly-attended season three decades on, have stayed at Loftus Road, their main home since 1917. Their best season was 1975-76 when Dave Sexton’s superb team of Stan Bowles, Gerry Francis et al attracted average gates of 24,000.
Fernandes is right to argue that Loftus Road, now constricted to 18,439 often cramped seats, is too small to sustain a Premier League club, especially with Financial Fair Play restricting owner subsidies. But it has taken Fulham (historically a marginally larger club) 12 years in the top flight, and a European final to edge their gates up to 25,000. Only now are they planning to expand to 30,000.
In a sane world Fulham and QPR, instead of planning separate developments, would investigate ground-sharing. It happens overseas, but given the antipathy shown in Bristol and on Merseyside it appears to be a non-starter in England.
So Fernandes plunges into a £200m gamble on a continuing boom in English football, and a surge in popularity for QPR. Realistically, as with West Ham’s move to the Olympic Stadium, the only way he can fill the ground is with cheap tickets and the hope of ancillary income from merchandising and catering. If that allows those excluded by modern prices a chance to see live football, good luck to him. He will need it.
Latest in Sport
Manchester United's David Moyes may have more joy if he drops the frustrated Robin Van Persie
Tim Sherwood rules out being No 2 at Tottenham Hotspur following embarrassing Chelsea defeat
England 29 Wales 18 match report: Stuart Lancaster's men enjoy their day in the sun at expense of weary Wales
England 29 Wales 18 player ratings: Who was the star man at Twickenham?
FA Cup semi-finals: Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger confirms Lukasz Fabianski will start in goal against Wigan Athletic
- 1 International Women's Day 2014: The shocking statistics that show why it is still so important
- 2 Australian man Rod Sommerville reacts to bite from deadly snake by reaching for cold beer
- 3 Singapore sting: Sky-high prices are pushing locals to the edge of affordability
- 4 Russia has made 'big miscalculation' over Ukraine warns Hague
- 5 Swarm of killer bees sting woman 1,000 times
Britain's top vet sparks controversy with call for ban on slashing animals' throats in 'ritual' slaughters for halal and kosher meat products
If you're horrified by a flame-roasted dog, you should be shocked at a hog roast
Poor 'live like animals' says Boris's privately educated sister after going on 'poverty safari'
Exclusive: Impact of immigrants on British workers ‘negligible’
Vince Cable: Teachers 'know absolutely nothing' about the world of work
Ukraine crisis: Russia pledges to 'retaliate against sanctions' as Ukrainian president says Crimea vote will not be recognised