There was an excellent film on TV last week. Following Queens Park Rangers from the time of the first takeover of the club by Flavio Briatore, Bernie Ecclestone and Lakshmi Mital, the new owners wanted their Four Year Plan (which they referred to as a “project” for Premier League football documented.
The film explained at the start that, although the camera crew was paid for by the new men, they were not exercising any editorial control over what was shown in the final cut. And it was clear to any of those that watched the film that they were as good as their word.
It is fair to say that, whilst it was gripping TV, it was also cringeworthy on occasion and also that no one (barring perhaps the Mittal brothers, who were appointed to the board by their Father and at least had the clubs best interest at heart it seemed) came out of it with any credit.
We saw bust-ups with the Managers, we saw Briatore shouting and swearing at players in reserve games as well as almost picking the team when the mood took him, we saw Gianni Paladini, who was first Chairman and then Consultant, racing up and down corridors and seemingly endlessly on the phone to Briatore informing him of some disaster or other.
The 90 minute TV show led me to think: if it happens at QPR then surely it goes on at other clubs and is it this style of Management that is causing the sort of problems we are increasingly seeing in British Football – and of course the sort that this blog
has concerned itself with in recent weeks?
We all understand two things. First we know that the days of the locally based, philanthropic owner are largely gone at top level (there are some exceptions to this – Dave Whelan at Wigan and Peter Coates at Stoke
spring to mind) and second we understand that the people that buy these clubs are successful businessmen. This is self evident, perhaps, given that they can afford to buy the club in the first place. However, surely, if they have achieved the level of success they have, they haven’t done it running their businesses in the way they seem to be running football clubs?
It is often said that football is a business just like any other, and whilst increasingly that might be the case in the Premier League, surely no business other than football would see such an amount of Senior Managers sacked? Not many other Businesses
have the Directors screaming, shouting and swearing at young staff (as Briatore and Paladini were pictured doing during a Reserve team game – indeed Paladini was told by Mittal to stop doing it the following season) and, crucially no other business could count on the unswerving loyalty and devotion of its customers.
And its these customers – fans – that pay the price when these aborted “projects” go wrong – as QPR was about to before Neil Warnock was appointed to sort things out. Perhaps the cameras should have followed a QPR fan of 50 years standing on his “project.” Because long after The Mittal’s and new Chairman Tony Fernandes have gone, that QPR fan, and those of Port Vale, Portsmouth and countless other clubs that are in trouble, will remain (assuming of course, in the case of the latter two, they survive at all)
Here at Football Business
we reckon there is a simple rule of thumb: the minute the chairman of a football club starts sitting in with that clubs fans, it means he is the wrong Chairman.