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QPR’s Tony Fernandes to fight fair play sanction

Victorious QPR celebrate after their play-off final victory over Derby County on Saturday. Picture: PA

Victorious QPR celebrate after their play-off final victory over Derby County on Saturday. Picture: PA

  • by SEAN TAYLOR
 

QPR co-owner Tony Fernandes has vowed to fight the prospect of a ­Financial Fair Play fine and plough much of his side’s promotion windfall back into the club.

Rangers returned to the Barclays Premier League at the first attempt by defeating Derby in the Sky Bet ­Championship play-off final at Wembley on Saturday.

The victory, courtesy of Bobby Zamora’s 90th-minute goal, is reported to be worth in the region of £120 million to QPR, but the Londoners are now facing a fine of up to £50m for failing to comply with financial guidelines.

Earlier this year, Rangers recorded a loss of £65.4m for the period ­ending May 2013. Clubs are only ­entitled to be no more than £8m in the red under FFP rules.

However, Fernandes has been seeking legal advice and has confirmed he will fight the sanctions in court.

“Will we fight the fine?” said the Malaysian entrepreneur. “What do you think? After all we’ve been through, it’s my middle name – ‘Fight It’ Fernandes.

“My view has been consistent, that it is very unfair for a club that has been relegated as the wage difference ­between the Premier League and ­Championship is impossible. There should be a time period for clubs to rectify their salaries.

“If we were in the Championship in two years with that wage bill it wouldn’t be right. I’m in favour of FFP but it is unfair for a club coming down.”

QPR will not be punished for their financial results during the 2012-13 ­season, when they were in the Premier League, but they will for the current campaign – during which they have ­carried a debt of £177m and a wage bill larger than that of Spanish ­champions and European Cup finalists Atletico Madrid. It would not be surprising if the threat of financial sanctions plays a significant role in the club’s transfer plans this summer.

But Fernandes, the chief executive of AirAsia and the team principal of Formula One team Caterham, has invested heavily in Rangers since becoming the club’s majority shareholder in 2011 and he has hinted he is willing to spend again in the coming months ahead of the Londoners’ top-flight return.

“Harry Redknapp and me are very close and the manager is already talking about new players and next season,” said the 50-year-old.

“He never stops. After the whistle he was mentioning a couple of players. I think he is relishing being back in the Premier League. There is a massive gulf between us and those at the top of the Premier League but we have a great manager who has been up there. We are smarter owners and we will take our time over the summer.

“Nobody is perfect. We will still make mistakes but we will be wiser and smarter.”

As for the game itself, in which QPR triumphed against the odds following Gary O’Neil’s red card with half an hour still to play, Fernandes said: “I feel honoured to have experienced that, privileged. It feels great after all we went through in three years and the way we finished it, nobody can say the players didn’t play their hearts out.

“When Gary was sent off there was 70 per cent of me that thought the dream would end – but too much had happened to us for the fairytale to end.

“This is stuff that movies are made of, Roy of the Rovers stuff. When I was eight years old I was reading books where players were sent off and in the last minute someone scored the winner.”

Meanwhile, Derby goalkeeper Lee Grant believes captain Richard Keogh is strong enough to put his heartache behind him and lead the club on another promotion challenge next season.

Keogh, outstanding alongside Jake Buxton in central defence during a record-breaking campaign for Derby, was at fault for Bobby Zamora’s 90th-minute goal which gave QPR victory.

Junior Hoilett managed to wrestle possession away from Buxton down the right-hand side of the penalty area. His cross was poor but so was Keogh’s touch and he knocked the ball straight into the path of Zamora who beat Grant with a left-foot shot into the far corner.

Keogh, understandably, was in tears after the final whistle and was consoled by several of his team-mates and manager Steve McClaren.

Grant, an ever-present this season for Derby, insists his room-mate has the strength of character to cope and expects the experience to make him – and the whole squad – stronger.

“Obviously it’s very difficult for him right now but he hasn’t let us down this season, quite the opposite,” said Grant.

“Richard Keogh has led the team on and off the field, you don’t really get much better. He’ll recover from this in time, we all will, and Richard will be right there when we return in the summer eager to help the club hopefully go one step further next season.”

 

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