When faced with the realistic possibility of relegation, club owners have a simple choice to make – stick or twist. Like in blackjack when faced with 15, you have to make a decision whether to stay as you are and take your chances against the dealer or twist and hope to land a six. Either decision can end well for the player but equally both can end badly. When it comes to football, the decision the owners face is whether to stick with your current manager and players or to change the setup in order to freshen things up and get the points you need to pull your tem out of the dreaded relegation dogfight. QPR owner Tony Fernandes is not a gambling man but realised the hand he had was not going to win so decided to twist by appointing a new boss in Harry Redknapp and signing a collection of new players. However what he has realistically done is go all in on this hand hoping to win.
Like any owner, Fernandes has realised that he needs to keep QPR in the money laden lands of the Premiership or face financial difficulties. He has the man to keep them there in Redknapp but foolish spending in the summer under Mark Hughes has left QPR with larger than average squad and a hefty wage bill to match. Redknapp took over in December but is still trying to sort out the mess that Hughes left, clearing the dead wood to make room for his own pieces to fit. He has had some luck in this field with several players departing, making way for others to arrive. Djibril Cisse, Anton Ferdinand, DJ Campbell and Rob Hulse have all left the club with more capable replacements coming in such as Christopher Samba, Jermaine Jenas and Loic Remy. Redknapp is confident that these players will be able to help save QPR and keep them in the Premiership much to the relief of Fernandes but staying in the most profitable league in the world may not ultimately save QPR from ruin.
The real problem that QPR face is their growing wage bill. With desperate times come desperate measures which has meant that QPR has had to pay over the odds in wages to attract the best talent. Unfortunately for Redknapp, whoever is negotiating the contracts with these players lacks the necessary negotiation skills to land a good deal for the club, leading to astronomical wages being agreed. Case in point is Christopher Samba, a quality centre half in his own right, the former Blackburn defender was persuaded to leave the cold north of England for the even colder lands of Russia and a lucrative spell with FC Anzhi Makhachkala. Having paid over £12 million to sign the player, they also gave him a wage of around £100,000 a week, which to a club like Anzhi who are backed by Russian billionaire Suleyman Kerimov is a small amount. It was a surprise to them that less than 12 months later, QPR not only repaid the £12 million spent to buy Samba in the first place but also matched the existing wages he was on. Anzhi director German Tkachenko claimed in a newspaper interview recently that QPR were “out of their minds to do so” and that Samba was happy to stay with Anzhi but QPR made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.
Samba joined a squad of 40 professional players, most of which earn a considerable amount of money. Fellow defender Jose Bosingwa is sitting comfortably on the sidelines on £65,000 a week, alongside former Manchester City winger Shaun Wright Phillips on £55,000 a week. Injured striker Bobby Zamora agreed to join QPR from London rivals Fulham but demanded a staggering £90,000 a week salary. Within days the England forward was signed up and starting a new phase of his career at Loftus Road. Departures have not helped with QPR still picking up some or most of the tab for a handful of players. Former club captain Joey Barton has move on loan to Marseille but the French club is rumoured to be only paying 20% of Barton’s £70,000 a week salary. Added into that loan moves for Anton Ferdinand, Djribil Cisse and Alejandro Faurlin, which the club is co financing, it doesn’t look good for QPR.
Even current boss Harry Redknapp has come out publically to talk about the clubs hefty wage bill each week and is baffled at how it got to this level but has stopped short of laying the blame on the owners shoulders, looking more towards greedy players and agents:
“There are a lot of players at this club who earn far too much money. Far too much for their ability and what they give to the club. I don’t really want to see the owners have their pants taken down like they have in the past. A lot of agents made money out of them”
Harry’s reluctance towards blaming the owners is somewhat questionable as despite agents meddling in transfer negotiations, it’s the clubs management that ultimately decides what they do and do not agree to. It could also be the fact that Harry finds himself on the list of QPR’s top earners, pulling in a cool £58,000 per week. Regardless QPR find themselves in a financial mess and are trying to compete in the same league financially as the top 4 clubs in the division without having either a) the financial clout of a billionaire owner or b) the added revenue from a 50,000 sell out crowd every second week. If Fernandes and Redknapp manage to keep QPR up this season, there will be a lot of questions asked in the summer about how to survive next season, not from another potential relegation battle but instead from financial ruin.