Don’t blame Harry Redknapp or Mark Hughes for QPR’s ocean of debt. Give any manager an open wallet and they would have done the same

Managers are forever telling chairmen this or that player is ‘the last piece of the jigsaw’

A cursory glance at social media made it clear who most people thought was the villain of the piece when Queen’s Park Rangers’ eye-watering financial results were released this week. The results revealed Rangers lost £65m in a season, had a £68m wage bill that exceeded their entire turnover, and were £177m in debt.

 “The Redknapp effect”, “‘Arry just keeps bankrupting these clubs. #saintsfc #Bournemouth #portsmouth #QPR”, “unlike Harry to saddle a club millions in debt!”, were some responses.

Harry Redknapp, the man who said, soon after arriving at QPR, “I don’t really want to see the owners have their pants taken down like they have in the past,” was fingered as the guilty party. It seemed the arch wheeler-dealer had dealt QPR a very bad hand.

This is wrong, for two reasons. One is that as the financial results referred to 2012-13, a lot of the expenses were incurred under Mark Hughes, who was not replaced as manager by Redknapp until November 2012. It was Hughes who spent £22m-plus on players such as Park Ji-sung and Esteban Granero and sent the wage bill past Borussia Dortmund’s by bringing in Julio Cesar and Jose Bosingwa on frees. Redknapp did lay out £20m on Chris Samba, Loïc Rémy and Jermaine Jenas, but got most of Samba’s fee back after relegation last year while Rémy is on loan to Newcastle, who will be paying most of his wages.

The other misconception is that the spending was Redknapp’s fault. It was neither his nor Hughes’. Their judgement of players’ ability, character and value can be called into question, but it was chairman Tony Fernandes who agreed the fees and wages. Redknapp has a reputation for carefree spending but at Tottenham, where chairman Daniel Levy keeps a very tight rein on transfer budgets, he roughly broke even. At QPR he and Hughes were allowed to run wild, so they did. With perhaps one exception (Arsène Wenger) managers will spend whatever their owners allow them to. Who can blame them? Their job depends on results, the better the squad the better the results (in theory at least). Managers are forever telling their chairman this or that player is “the last piece of the jigsaw”. It is up to the chairman to say “no”.

Fernandes came into football with his enthusiasm outweighing his knowledge. It did not help that he immediately appointed a chief executive, Phil Beard, who though able in many ways also lacked contacts and experience in the industry. Fernandes subsequently took advice from the wrong people, much like Venky’s at Blackburn, and has been chasing his losses ever since.

Fernandes is not the first owner to be taken for a ride by agents and will not be the last. Football is an unusual business, still loosely regulated in many aspects, and its workings often take newcomers by surprise. Not that experienced football men are immune from error, look at the huge debts built up at Bolton under Phil Gartside, and the mess that developed at Sheffield Wednesday while overseen by David Richards.

Fernandes has been highly successful in the airline industry and since he promised yesterday he is at Loftus Road for the long haul one would imagine at some point he will start to exert stricter control over his managers. The relationship between owner and manager is the most important in a football club. For a club to prosper there must be trust and transparency on both sides. The chairman needs to lay out his aspirations at the start, clearly indicate the manager’s parameters in the transfer market, and then stand by him when budget constraints impact on results. 

This is what has happened at Aston Villa. After bankrolling an unsuccessful push for the Champions League places under Martin O’Neill, Randy Lerner took stock and decided to reduce his losses. O’Neill left, prompting a period of instability but under Paul Lambert Villa have begun to settle. Inevitably his mix of medium-profile foreign recruits and lower-division English discoveries have had difficult spells, but Lerner has stuck by his manager and they should survive again.

It is a similar story at Newcastle where Alan Pardew has had his autonomy and spending restricted. He has been prepared to work within these limitations, and owner Mike Ashley has backed him through the bad times.

At other clubs the compact has broken down. West Bromwich Albion fired Steve Clarke in part because he pushed the club to spend more heavily than usual in the summer, but the £14m investment on Victor Anichebe and Stéphane Sessègnon has not been a success. At one stage in January rumours began to surface that Tony Pulis felt promises made on his arrival at Selhurst Park were not being kept, then came the deadline-day arrival of a quintet of players headed by Joe Ledley.

It is a difficult balancing act for Palace’s owners. They desperately want to stay up, but having bought the club from the administrators are well aware of the consequences of over-spending. Financial Fair Play (FFP) is there to help owners like them, who want their club to be competitive but not to the extent they risk its future.

It is thus worrying that some Football League clubs (including, it is thought, QPR) are attempting to challenge FFP in the courts. A better way would be to use the league’s structures to reform it because the current model is necessary, but has a fundamental flaw.

Some form of FFP is required to save clubs from owners who are incompetent, over-ambitious, or using the club as a vehicle for their ego. The problem with FFP as practiced by Uefa and the Football League – and to a lesser extent the Premier League – is that its restrictions on owner investment reinforce the status quo; only the big revenue-generating clubs can afford to spend heavily. The regulations do not just stop anyone repeating the example of Roman Abramovich with Chelsea or Sheikh Mansour at Manchester City, they also prevent a local-boy-made-good from boosting his home town, as did Jack Walker at Blackburn and Dave Whelan at Wigan.

A personal view is that owners should be allowed to put as much money as they want into a club, but only if it is in equity, not loans. QPR owe Fernandes £114m – their viability as a going concern depends on the Malaysian’s continued support – as does Hull City’s on Assem Allam, and Cardiff City’s on Vincent Tan.

At least, in its current form, FFP should force owners to restrict their  manager’s spending, effectively saving  them (and perhaps their club) from themselves.

Five asides

1. Cup keeps Blades sharp

Regardless of how they perform against Charlton tomorrow Nigel Clough’s Sheffield United have done the FA Cup a service by proving progress in it is not incompatible with league form. Since winning at Fulham they have taken 18 points from 18 to climb to safety in League One, and beaten Forest in the Cup.

2. Macheda stretches belief

Federico Macheda joins the “bash Moyes” bandwagon. Given three league games in Alex Ferguson’s last two seasons, he still says his ex-boss “believed in me so much” while David Moyes “did not give him a chance”. Four goals in 71 matches for various clubs over four seasons prior to this campaign may explain why.

3. When country came first

Jack Wilshere’s injury has re-ignited the perennial club v country row. Hard to believe clubs once played without their internationals, as still happens in cricket and rugby. On 2 October 1965, for instance, George Cohen and Bobby Moore played for England in Cardiff while their clubs, Fulham and West Ham, met in London.

4. Youngsters need pitches

As football and government procrastinate and pass the buck, pitches remain water-logged. The mini-league I’m involved in (500 kids aged 6-16) last played in mid-December. The pitches are still too wet even to mark lines. FA, Premier League and the coalition, get on with providing more 3G pitches – many more.

5. Pulis’s fine line on diving

Well done to Tony Pulis for fining Jerome Thomas after the Palace player was booked for diving. David Moyes once did the same to Phil Neville. But we still await a player being fined by his club after successfully conning a ref and winning a penalty through diving.

twitter.com\GlennMoore7

Sport
sportGareth Bale, Carl Froch and Kelly Gallagher also in the mix for award
News
Japan's Suntory Beverage & Food has bought GlaxoSmithKline's Lucozade and Ribena
news
News
A tongue-eating louse (not the one Mr Poli found)
newsParasitic louse appeared inside unfilleted sea bass
Life and Style
Out and about: for 'Glee' character Bert Hummel, having a gay son was a learning curve
lifeEven 'cool' parents need help parenting gay teens
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Money
Anyone over the age of 40 seeking a loan with a standard term of 25 years will be borrowing beyond a normal retirement age of 65, and is liable to find their options restricted
propertyAnd it's even worse if you're 40
Arts and Entertainment
Perhaps longest awaited is the adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road with Brazil’s Walter Salles directing and Sam Riley, Kristen Stewart and Viggo Mortensen as the Beat-era outsiders
books
Arts and Entertainment
theatreSinger to join cast of his Broadway show after The Last Ship flounders at the box office
Life and Style
fashion'To start singing with Pharrell is not that bad, no?'
News
news
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible