QPR owner looking to leave Loftus Road

 

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The Independent Football

QPR owner Tony Fernandes has revealed he is now actively searching for a venue in west London to replace Loftus Road.

Fernandes, who has been in charge of the club for just over three months, is determined to relocate given the hemmed-in nature of their current ground in Shepherd's Bush.

With a capacity of just 18,500, it is the smallest ground in the Barclays Premier League, and despite its "intimidating" atmosphere, according to Fernandes, he believes the club need a bigger arena.

Speaking to Press Association Sport, Fernandes, who also owns F1's Team Lotus and budget airline AirAsia, said: "It's still premature at the moment.

"The key this season is to survive, but we would like a bigger ground, and we are looking.

"It has to be in the area. It makes no sense to move out from where you have spent most of your life, and where the fan base is.

"So west London is where we are and where we'd like to be.

"I've built airlines and Formula One teams, but building a stadium is not the easiest thing in the world. There are opportunities in west London we are looking at.

"The first thing we are going to build is a new training ground, and there are two sites in west London, so hopefully we'll announce that soon.

"The current training ground is really not up to the mark. It has great grounds and we've tarted it up ourselves and got more equipment there, but it's not something for the future."

The key question for Fernandes is deciding on the capacity of the new stadium.

"Some fans are saying 'We don't have a fan base bigger than 20,000'," said Fernandes.

"My gut feel is 40-45,000. That's double where we are right now, but we're in London and there's a strong catchment area.

"Of course, there is nothing worse than a half-empty stadium, but I'm the king of sizing.

"If you start an airline with two planes, and then you buy 150 planes, the same question can be asked.

"As I say, it's just a gut feel, but we'll do some studies first.

"We can find the space, although it's not easy, and there are lots of things that have to be put into place."

Of primary concern for Fernandes is ensuring QPR survive, with the Malaysian entrepreneur promising manager Neil Warnock up to four new players when the January transfer window opens.

In an effort to find fresh talent, Fernandes recently sent out a tweet on Twitter asking for fans to come up with the suggestions, with the response overwhelming.

"That was superb. Without blowing my own trumpet, I have to say it was inspired by me," said Fernandes.

"You effectively have 100,000 scouts out there for you, and there is no way QPR could know every single player.

"Suddenly we have players we've never heard of, and Neil is looking at videos and thinking 'not bad'.

"It was seen as another mad Tony Fernandes moment, but there was no harm, no downside."

Fernandes believes strengthening the defence, attack and finding another goalkeeper are the priorities.

"We have to strengthen our squad. It's just not deep enough," said Fernandes.

"I feel we maybe need three, four. We could end up with none if we don't find anyone.

"We had six or seven in the last transfer window, which is way above what I thought we'd get.

"It depends. At the last minute some things come up. It's very hard to tell."

PA

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