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Television's riches are not worth the expensive recruitment gamble

At one stage during the final hours of the transfer window, the Queen's Park Rangers media team was filming television crews stationed outside the training ground, who were in turn recording the flow of people, in and out.

QPR have brought in 27 players in the last 17 months. The consequences of such radical purchasing has been all too apparent on the field. Picture: Getty Images
QPR have brought in 27 players in the last 17 months. The consequences of such radical purchasing has been all too apparent on the field. Picture: Getty Images

The self-reference was inevitable, since QPR was the story of the day, and then Peter Odemwingie was denied entry because agreement had not been reached with his club, West Bromwich Albion, and an element of farce was added to the drama. The incident was embarrassing, but pity and mockery was not restricted to Odemwingie alone.

This was the fourth transfer window in which QPR have been the Barclay's Premier League's busiest club, and there has been an accumulation of players rather than a turnover. Three different managers have been allowed to spend vast amounts of money, on transfer fees and wages, and the effect has been to leave QPR on the brink of relegation. Great wealth is always imagined to be the answer to struggling clubs, but it is also capable of magnifying the damage caused by irresponsibility. In the course of 31 days, QPR twice broke the club's transfer record.

Under Tony Fernandes, the majority shareholder, QPR have bought 27 players in 17 months; the combined total costs of Christopher Samba and Loic Remy, over the course of their contracts, is £62.6m. Jose Bosingwa, the full-back, is reportedly paid £60,000 a week but has refused to be a substitute, while Joey Barton, thought to earn £80,000 a week, is on loan at Marseille. Fernandes is a multi-millionaire, while the other owners are the Mittal family, billionaires who made their money in the steel industry, so the sums involved will not make them wince. Even so, the recklessness of the club's recruitment policy invites comparisons with Leeds United and Portsmouth, two clubs that ended up in administration after ruinous spending sprees. The presence of Harry Redknapp, a manager who remains caricatured as an arch wheeler and dealer, is also unfortunate, since he was in charge of the Portsmouth team that won the FA Cup but whose outlay prompted the club's downfall.

The scenario at QPR is different, not least because Fernandes and his fellow shareholders can absorb the expenses, but there is no clearer indication of the consequences of a haphazard recruitment policy. The club's executives are not the first to allow their senses to be skewed by the resources they can wield, while Fernandes himself seems particularly impulsive. Redknapp told the story on Thursday of suggesting two potential centre-back signings earlier in the month, then later finding outthat QPR were signing Samba from Anzhi Makhachkala for £12.5m on a four-and-a-half-year contract reportedly worth £100,000 a week.

Redknapp would never rebuke the man who delivers a Premier League-quality centre-back at a time when QPR are desperate to avoid relegation, but supporters are entitled to be aghast.

At 29, Samba will have little resale value, and the same will apply to the likes of Robert Green, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Park Ji-Sung and Djbril Cisse, who has left on loan to Al-Gharafa. There are few signs of a coherent vision for the club when the sole aim is stockpiling expensive players in the hope that alone will carry QPR into the elite tier of the English game. The strategy is flawed, but understandable, none the less.

The Premier League's new television contract begins next season, with billions of pounds to be distributed among the clubs. At a conservative estimation, remaining in the top-flight could see QPR earn £70m from the TV deal, £25m more than they earned last season. That kind of income will always prompt a gambling instinct, and QPR do have talented and resilient players in their squad. There are also divisions, between the players who earned the club promotion from the Championship and those who then came in, on higher wages. Redknapp is prized for his ability to manage flux, and motivate players to perform beyond expectation, but he is currently presented with a potential crisis.

Even if the fate of Leeds United and Portsmouth is unlikely to befall QPR, a club whose average home attendance is around 18,000 cannot indefinitely sustain the vast outlay. Fernandes will need to bring spending in-line with the Financial Fair Play rules being introduced for next season. Hastiness and impulsiveness have been defining traits of QPR's work so far. The club has grand plans, but not accompanied by rational thinking. They have stockpiled footballers, at vast expense, and the result has only been a stark example of how not to run a club.

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