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Called to account - Preview
Friday, 3rd Mar 2023 17:57 by Clive Whittingham

The release of the latest set of QPR accounts this week told us everything we already knew about the damage done by the stalled promotion push in 2021/22, and the long road to recovery from it has to start with Gareth Ainsworth's survival mission which hopefully starts in earnest at Rotherham on Saturday.

Rotherham (8-13-13 DDLLWD 20th) v QPR (10-9-15 LDLLLL 18th)

Lancashire and District Senior League >>> Saturday March 4, 2023 >>> Kick Off 15.00 >>> Weather - Punxsutawney Phil, the seer of seers, prognosticator of prognosticators, emerged reluctantly but alertly in Punxsutawney, PA, and stated in groundhog-ese, “I definitely see a shadow.” Sorry, folks. Six more weeks of winter >>> New York Stadium, Rotherham, South Yorkshire

The latest set of QPR accounts, released this week and covering the 2021/22 season, show exactly what they should show, what we knew they were going to show, and what we’ve been saying on LFW for the last 18 months they would show.

Last season was expensive. Not necessarily for transfer fees, of which we paid out a modest £2.8m on the likes of Jimmy Dunne, Stefan Johansen, Jordy De Wijs and Andre Dozzell, but certainly in regard to recruitment, retention and wages. The club signed Dunne, Johansen, Dozzell, De Wijs, Jordan Archer, Charlie Austin, Sam Field, Sam McCallum, Moses Odubajo, Andre Gray, Dion Sanderson, David Marshall, Jeff Hendrick, Kieran Westwood and sold essentially nobody — Todd Kane and Liam Kelly’s moves to Coventry and Motherwell respectively fetched in £250k. That is a considerable chunk of salary to be adding to the wage bill, and the myth that free transfers and loans are in any way free, or even cheap, is laid bare in the numbers. Watford pay Andre Gray north of £50k a week, they are not going to let you borrow him without a contribution to that. Wolves want Dion Sanderson playing games, they are not going to give you him for free without guarantees and financial penalties to ensure he does so. Rangers’ wage bill increased by 10%, from £24m (which was already too high) to past £27m.

Revenues were up, substantially, from £14m to north of £22m, as fans returned to the stadium and replica kits flew out of the door in the wake of the pandemic lockdowns. But still, a £27m wage bill on income of £22m is not something that would be tolerated in any other business in any other walk of life other than professional sport, football in particular, and football in this country especially. Businessmen lose all their acumen, knowledge and brains that got them to where they are today the moment they buy a football club. QPR now pays £124 in wages for every £100 it gets through the door, and if that was true of any of Tony Fernandes’ airlines or hotels, Ruben’s shipping company, Amit’s hedge funds, they’d do a big belly laugh and close the thing by the end of the day, because of course fucking not.

For all of that, the £24m loss was easy to predict because the club lost £24m in the previous set of accounts as well, except that was reduced to more like £4m because they sold Ebere Eze. This time, no Eze sale, stick that £20m back in the loss column, and you get your £24m. We called this months ago. I’m sorry to keep saying that, it’s turning into Alan Partridge’s autobiography this preview, but the amount of people who still don’t, won’t or can’t get it despite LFW running matinee and evening finger puppet performances week after week, month after month, season after season blows my mind. QPR is a going concern only because a group of rich people write a cheque each month to keep it going, and that cheque has now increased from £1.8m a month to £2m. Bare, straight facts.

The owners are paying for their mistakes and incompetence. Please do not mistake my “be careful what you wish for” with me sticking up for them, saying they’ve done a good job or anything remotely like that. But they are, currently, paying for it. Without somebody doing that, the club is insolvent as of its next payroll date — this is what happened with their F1 team Caterham, which was also run incompetently, costing a fortune, and dead the moment they turned the tap off, which was a lot easier to do from a PR standpoint because there weren’t 20,000 angry Caterham fans ready to storm the palace for them doing so. Ideally you want better, more clued up, astute owners like those at the clubs currently passing us on our way down — Brentford, Brighton, Palace, Luton, Millwall etc. But to “sack the board” as the Twitter meme enthusiasts like, you need another rich guy to take this on and, again, as we reported a couple of weeks back the amount it would cost you just to get the keys to the door at QPR is now enormous. The latest set of accounts show £8.5m has been paid of a £20m training ground development so plenty still to go there, along with a £6m outstanding loan to the EFL for the Covid bailouts, £10.2m of the historic FFP fine, £2.1m on player transfer instalments, and a whopping £68m in loans by the ownership. You’d be taking all of that on to buy the club, before you even began funding its £24m annual running cost.

Currently the debt isn’t a big problem. The owners, for all their failings, pay it off and convert the debt into equity periodically. Again, don’t mistake this for me saying they’re doing a good job, it’s very much can’t live with them but can’t live without them. The myth that our location would have a queue of buyers round the block desperate to buy a football club trapped in this stadium, with that debt, and that annual loss, is exactly that. It’s a fantasy. If there was even one, the current lot would have sold to them and bailed out a long time ago. This is currently a bonfire for their money, they’re just tipping it into a flaming hole in the ground.

The more pressing concern for the supporters is the FFP implications. You are allowed to lose £39m over any rolling three-year period, and if you breach that amount then it’s fines, transfer embargoes, agreed business plans, and points deductions as we’re now seeing at Reading — not you Stoke, you don’t count, apparently, for some reason. QPR look to have breached that already with three-year rolling losses of roughly £14m, £4m and now £24m, but there are lots of exemptions and costs that don’t count against it — our man Simon Dorset always allows around £4.5m a time for these, so £13.5m over the three-year period — which would put us comfortably back under. Comfortably, in fact, to the tune of about £13m remaining headroom before a breach. So, nothing to panic about just yet, especially with the relaxations in FFP rules agreed around the Covid seasons as well, which are still in the system. The Eze sale and space it created allowed us to ‘go for it’ to the extent we did last season, and try to win a promotion which would be transformative for the balance sheet and cure a lot of our ills overnight.

However, things will potentially start to get tricky moving forwards if losses are not brought under control. You certainly can’t be posting £24m losses every year and hoping the deductions will solve that for you. As the three-year period rolls on, the Covid allowances, and the Eze sale, will roll out. Again, referring to Simon Dorset’s numbers, if we’re counting a £20m loss this season after disallowable costs, then even if we shave costs by £5.5m this season, we would still need to find another £10m in savings in the 2023/24 season to comply across that three-year period. This is the £10m shortfall figure that has done the rounds this year and been reported previously. It would most easily be made up by another significant player sale(s), or a promotion. There are other savings being made, no longer paying £1m a year to rent Harlington for instance, but fundamentally with the team certainly not looking like it’s going up and the assets within the team tanking in value for various reasons, the only answer is we’re in for another period of austerity here. The team needs a substantial rebuild, and you’re going to have to do that while cutting its wage bill by at least a third. One positive is a start has hopefully been made to that already — Austin, Gray, De Wijs, McCallum, Sanderson, Marshall, Westwood, Hendrick (though I understand he was totally free), and Odubajo have all already moved on, representing a significant chunk of that ballooning wage bill. So the £5.5m saving Dorset estimates being required this season might be possible - though, again, people like Leon Balogun, Jake Clarke-Salter and Tyler Roberts don’t grace you with their presence for free, or for cheap. We’ve also gone through this process once before, and stayed in the league, so there’s nothing to stop us doing it again. Nevertheless, £10m next year on top looks tall without a player sale. Suddenly that decision to change tack and go for Gareth Ainsworth makes a lot more sense doesn’t it, with his experience at Sow’s Ear Silk Purse Incorporated over the last decade.

Personally, as somebody who rolls his eyes at the “sign a striker” brigade anyway, I’ve found this week deeply, deeply frustrating. We went through a prolonged, painful period of house cleaning before. It took years. I got sick of saying… we halved the wage bill, then halved it again, while maintaining our Championship status, which wasn’t easy to achieve, pleasant to be part of, nor conducive to a lot of good times on the pitch. But we did it, the wage bill dipped below £20m p/a from a high of £80m, we got a genuine superstar to sell. It felt like we were getting somewhere. And then, basically, we decide to stick it all on black because Stefan Johansen and Charlie Austin had good three-month loan spells. For all the words about how the club had changed, wouldn’t make the same mistake again, the facts are now laid bare that the moment they could go and spend daft money on footballers again they did so. For Lee Hoos this week to be saying “we decided to retain our players and buy some more to push for promotion”, basically chucking the previous plan out of the window because they thought they could get up, when we sat in front of him last August and said “is this what you’re doing? Are you sure about this?” and he denied it is… dispiriting. We’ve essentially now got to start all over again, and all we have to show for it is one magic night in Middlesbrough.

The task would be a lot easier if, eight years into Les Ferdinand’s tenure as director of football, any of the pathways and player development he’s preached about since he got here were materialising any players at all from our academy. He is right to point to EPPP robbing him of 13 youngsters for barely £750k including Alfie Gilchrist (Chelsea), Bradley Ibrahim (Arsenal), Luca Gunter (Spurs) and Harvey Elliott (Liverpool via Fulham). Another promising U18s prospect, Kosovan Lorent Talla, is now, we gather, training with Randers in Denmark having also asked to be released. But much like talk of how hamstrung we are by FFP falls a little flat when you see Luton and Millwall wiping the floor with us in every regard despite all the same issues we have, so it grates when Bristol City are bringing so many boys through their system (Antoine Semenyo recently sold for £10m, Alex Scott set to fetch twice that, Sam Bell and Tommy Conway both scoring league goals this season) that they’re able to release Chris Martin midway through the season. We lose Lyndon Dykes to pneumonia and don’t have one boy, anywhere in the building, after eight years, capable of standing up front and doing his job for a dozen games, so have to go and pick the 34-year-old up on a free. The accounts this week show staff levels ballooning with the wage bill — 136 players, managers and coaches on the books, up from 113 the previous year, 191 employees in total up from 171, some 40 more football staff than Millwall operate with — what are these people doing? There’s little sign of their impact anywhere in the first team squad, whether it be through performances, results, player development, or prospects coming through. You have to go and get Chris Martin to try and save you. That’s the most damning indictment of Les at the moment, for me.

For now, the priority is simply surviving in the Championship. A victory at Rotherham tomorrow, just a second in 20 games, would go a long way to achieving that. After that, it’s going to be about rebuilding this squad entirely, on a wage bill reduced by a third (and already at the lower end for a Championship club), presumably with much more focus on culture, togetherness, underdog spirit and getting value out of free transfers and young players as Ainsworth did at Adams Park.

A bleak week, but not an unexpected one.

Links >>> Kieran Maguire and Simon Dorset - Patreon >>> Rowly’s Millmoor winner — History >>> Familiar faces — Interview >>> Mr Bond I presume — Referee >>> Rotherham United official website >>> Sheffield Star — Local Press >>> Millers Banter — Forum

Below the fold

Team News: Ilias Chair collapsing with what looked like a bad hamstring injury, leaving the field in tears and limping away from Loftus Road last Saturday night barely able to walk, added to the gloom around the place. A frustrating player at times, but the difference in us when he went off last week was plain, exactly as it was a few weeks ago when Lyndon Dykes departed a 1-0 lead at home to Swansea. With Chair and Willock sidelined there were big shades of the 2000/01 relegation year when Richard Langley and Clarke Carlisle suffered season ending blows at the same time. Good news this week though, with Chair’s scan coming back relatively clean, and so one of our most durable players should in fact be back relatively quickly. After that it’s wait and see which of the Beale babes - Tyler Roberts, Ethan Laird, Leon Balogun, Taylor Richards and Jake Clarke-Salter — fancy sticking their hand up for a little run about this week.

Conor Washington, Jordan Hugill and Grant Hall form quite the QPR connection within this Rotherham United side however — guys, try to look surprised alright, it’ll hurt his feelings if you don’t — Hall has been ruled out for the season injured. That isn’t, however, going to lead to a recall for club skipper Richard Wood who hasn’t made the squad for six weeks as Matt Taylor continues a new-broom approach following the departure of long serving Paul Warne. Watford loanee Domingos Quina, who in many ways started the year-long slump at QPR with his surprise winner for relegation-bound Barnsley against us last February, has only made one sub appearance since joining from Vicarage Road in January and that won’t be changing tomorrow thankfully. Ben Wiles has had surgery and is out until April. Shane Ferguson, Lee Peltier and Ollie Rathbone are all nursing a variety of groin and hamstring complaints.

Elsewhere: Friday night is Sky’s West Brom night, so you can watch them at Hull while you eat your chips.

All other 11 fixtures take place tomorrow and there’s plenty of good news about the teams we’re seemingly now relying on to keep us in this league. Reading, who have a horrible trip to Middlesbrough, are now facing an imminent points deduction of anywhere between six and 12 points for not sticking to the agreed business plan set out when they were docked six points last year for FFP breaches. In a way, this shows what a ball ache it would be for QPR if we were to breach FFP again — sell everything you’ve got, free transfers in only, and further points deductions to come without significant wage bill hacking. I’m not sure even QPR would be stupid enough, however, to come out of such a hearing in the morning and by the afternoon have added Andy Carroll to the wage bill mind. Given that Reading’s signings all have to be signed off by the EFL as part of the plan, it’s difficult to see how they’ve worked themselves into such shit again, but it’s good news for us because anything north of six points puts them back below us. And, let’s be honest, it’s Reading, and Paul Ince Is A Wanker, so it’s also hilarious.

Rough goings on too at Birmingham who could face punishment of their own for running an illegal ownership structure (if you can call it a structure) at St Andrew’s. An EFL investigation is about to bring charges there. On the pitch the enterprising start made by John Eustace to life in the second city has given way to another very typical losing run of two wins from ten (show offs), and a lot of criticism for boring, long ball football. One point and one place behind us, they take four league defeats in a row on the road tomorrow to play Wigan who are bottom, on 31 points, four adrift of the safety mark which is currently Cardiff City on 35 ahead of their lunchtime derby against Bristol City.

Between those two are second bottom Blackpool, who have one win in 17 (show offs) and are already apparently thinking of joining the trendy three managers in a season crowd with Mick McCarthy’s tactics of trying and failing to draw every game 0-0 not buttering many Bloomfield Road parsnips. They’ve got Champions Burnley at home, which is a bit of a nightmare. The Fifteenth Annual Neil Warnock Farewell Tour, meanwhile, continues with a home date against Coventry — they, too, have a four point gap to Cardiff to make up.

Of the teams immediately above us, should you be that way inclined, Stoke are one place and one point north of QPR ahead of a feisty trip to Sunderland where 40,000 Wearsiders are keen to show Alex Neil what he could have won. Hull have slipped back in just above them after a brief bounce under Liam Rosenior, and Russell Martin is properly clinging on now amidst open revolt in the valleys as Swanselona head to Lutown.

Couple of big games up at the irrelevant end of the table — second placed Sheffield Red Stripe have a lunchtime date at fourth-placed Blackburn. Those two will meet in an FA Cup quarter final meaning a Championship side will contest an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley this year. Sounds fun to me, but all a bit beneath us at QPR apparently — we prefer instead to focus on the important business of losing league games, frequently to Blackburn. Millwall in fifth, meanwhile, host Norwich in seventh and waiting for a slip up from either is eighth placed Watford at home to Preston Knob End.

Referee: Oh Mr Goldfinger, yeh, we’ve got space for you to have a haircut, come in, sit down here. Fucking joking dickhead, I’m not really a barber, I’m Darren Bond, short back and blow your fucking head off. Twat.


Rotherham: Here’s the only stat that matters: Jordan Hugill is yet to score for Rotherham in six appearances so far. He is 7/1 for the first and 11/4 anytime tomorrow, I’ll be in the Sheffield Tap afterwards buying rounds. Hugill has, in fact, only scored one goal in 16 appearances this season (five yellow cards) and none in 13 games since netting in Norwich’s 2-2 League Cup draw with Bournemouth in August. Since leaving QPR at the end of the 2019/20 season he has scored just 11 goals in 89 appearances for Norwich, West Brom and Rotherham. Good God. Conor Washington, meanwhile, has a very Conor Washington indeed six goals in 22 starts and 11 sub appearances this season, and hasn’t scored in five.

Rotherham, unusually for them, pushed the boat out transfer wise in January to try and end their yo-yo existence between this league and the one below. A three year contract for 30-year-old Hugill will likely make him the club’s highest paid player ever. He was joined in Matt Taylor’s squad overhall By Domingos Quina, who scored against us for Barnsley on loan from Watford last year, Brentford’s Tariqe Fosu, Conor Coventry from West Ham, Leo Hjelde from Leeds and experienced centre back pairing Bailey Wright from Sunderland and Sean Morrison from Cardiff which has enabled Taylor to put Richard Wood out to pasture. It has so far made the Millers more difficult to beat, but not yielded a lot of wins — two victories, four draws and two losses since the close of the window, the most recent a 1-1 at Swansea on Monday night with seventh of the season for top scorer Chiedozie Ogbene who scored in the corresponding fixture at Loftus Road and whose retention through January was probably more important than the additions. Rotherham lost badly here to Hull, Norwich and Bristol City prior to Christmas but are now putting together a formidable home run — high flying Blackburn (4-0) and Sunderland (2-1) have been beaten recently while Sheff Utd (1-1) and Stoke (2-2) had to settle for draws, Coventry (0-2) the only side to win here in five games. Overall they’re 6-5-5 at the New York Stadium.

QPR: Ye Gods, just keep adding one. Only QPR, Crystal Palace and Forest Green Rovers remain without a victory in 2023 across the Football League. QPR have lost their last four in a row and have conceded three goals in each of their last three games — the fifth, sixth and seventh times they’ve done that this season. Those results mean it’s now one win from 19 matches and extends the current winless sequence to 12 games going back to December 17. Across the last 46 games, stretching back into last season, QPR have lost more than half of them — 24. After winning four out of five away games through September and October, Rangers have now won one of 11 on the road. They’ve scored just five goals in the last seven, and haven’t scored more than one in a game in eight attempts — that 2-2 at Reading the only time they’ve scored more than one goal in a match in this sequence of 19. Another paltry two shots on target against Blackburn last week means the shots on target totals across QPR last dozen matches now reads 1, 2, 2, 2, 4, 4, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2. Rangers have conceded 24 goals in their last 11 games, keeping zero clean sheets — they have only recorded seven clean sheets in 36 games this season. Only the bottom two, and Swansea, have conceded more goals than QPR’s 49. Rangers and the Swans, with 15 apiece, lead the league for goals conceded from set pieces.

Prediction: We’re once again indebted to The Art of Football for agreeing to sponsor our Prediction League and provide prizes. You can get involved by lodging your prediction here or sample the merch from our sponsor’s QPR collection here. Last year’s champion Cheesy has called both the Huddersfield and Millwall games correctly, let’s brace for the impact of what he thinks tomorrow…

“Another joyous week being a QPR supporter: shite result, Chair’s injury, all topped off with the financial figures being released.

“Other things that really get to me about this club of ours is how their social media is being run at the moment. The B teams cup clash at Fulham hardly got a mention and yet Fulham showed it live. I have to go into opponent’s Twitter feed for live updates of matches. Armstrong goes off with cramp and then disappears for three weeks without a mention. Now we are kept guessing for how long Ilias and Willock are going to be out for. The club just seems like it’s going backwards to me.

“I was way off with my Blackburn prediction last week. Rotherham is a big one. If we lose this one I'm really going to start panicking. I have never been so unsure about a prediction. Nothing would surprise me for this one but I want to try and stay positive and as positive as I can be, so I will go for the draw.”

Cheesy’s Prediction: Rotherham 1-1 QPR. Scorer - Chris Martin.

LFW’s Prediction: Rotherham 2-0 QPR. No scorer.

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Geoff78 added 19:41 - Mar 3
There is no way we can win against a team that has not one but two of our ex-strikers.

Burnleyhoop added 19:46 - Mar 3
Nothing short of shambolic to allow the running costs to spiral to such an extent. You can perhaps understand money being thrown at players and wages, but the number of back room staff is unforgivable for a club of our size and income. At what point will somebody stand up and say enough is enough? Just what is Hoos doing if not keeping a tight hold of the financial reigns?

Time to clear the decks and the hierarchy need to pull their collective heads out of their arses as they are looking utterly incompetent. They are spunking money around we simply don’t have.

Watched Rotherham mid week, they will wipe the floor with us, with our soft underbelly used as the mop.

Embarrassing and pathetic state of affairs.

Marshy67 added 20:06 - Mar 3
The line "don't have one boy capable of standing up front and doing his(Lyndon's) job for a dozen games" was put into perspective having watched"The Big Match Revisited".
Luton away 1979.Playing up front for us that day..Clive Allen and Paul Goddard.Both having come up from the youth set-up.Yep you read that right!
Of course Clive scored the equalizing goal that day.
Watching that and equating it to the mess we are in now would bring a tear to a glass eye.

ThGrimRanger added 21:14 - Mar 3
Very worrying reading. I come from the viewpoint of feeling sorry for the investors who’ve thrown good money after bad backing Les’s sales job which has failed miserably. However they can be held responsible for not sacking him sooner though.

royinaus added 01:54 - Mar 4
Hugill a cert to score then...

maxsmith added 10:14 - Mar 4
A really worrying read. Do you know how our wages and revenue compare with the rest of the championship?

Andybrat added 11:07 - Mar 4
Surely Taylor Richards to get his 1st start? Any chance we could have the Haka guy as part of a back 3? Need to score as no way is there a clean sheet here with Hugill and Washington up front

Harbour added 11:43 - Mar 4
Thanks Clive …it’s so frustrating we are paying loan fees and wages for players to be in the sick room for long periods…Balogun Clark salter Roberts and then losing Lyndon and Ilias we are up against it that’s for sure. Agree it looks like Gareth is the right man regardless of whether we remain in this League or drop League 1.

TacticalR added 14:16 - Mar 4
Thanks for your preview.

'It’s very much can’t live with them but can’t live without them'. This is the paradoxical situation we find ourselves in. Not to mention that any new owners will inherit the constraints brought about by our current owners. What worries me is hearing people saying things like 'if we go down to League One we will sort ourselves out'. Those people are boiled frogs who forget that the owners started off with a premiership club. In League One they will start to say 'if we go down to League Two we will sort ourselves out'.

As we have seen since the financial crash of 2007-08, it is very difficult to austerity your way out of a crisis. And at the end of it all are you lean and mean or weak and emaciated? If you look at the state of Britain the answer is fairly obvious. Listening to the LFW podcast you did with Kieran Maguire and Simon Dorset, it feels like every way we turn there is a dead end. Maybe that's why so many within the club clung to the fantasy of the youth team coming to the rescue (this may happen at some point in the future, but it hasn't happened so far). It seems now they are blaming other clubs for stealing our youth players...last season didn't they blame Warburton for not playing them?

Back to Rotherham. Interesting that they can afford to give a contract to Hugill, which we couldn't afford. I hope that he doesn't come back to haunt us.

stainrodnee added 17:40 - Mar 6
Clive thanks for explaining the accounts. Our financial position is desperate but, is it any worse than the clubs around us who have similar size grounds and attendances and who don’t have parachute payments? Do they also rely on their owners bailing them out each month?

john00 added 22:39 - Mar 11
Always make sure the thread is correctly wound onto the bobbin before beginning any project. This will help to ensure that the thread is correctly placed and that the fabric won’t get tangled up in the mechanism. It’s also important to make sure the thread is the same weight as the fabric you’re working with so that the stitches won’t be too loose or too tight.

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