Flavio Talks To Us!
For those of you who have been away on planet Mars recently, there has been quite an upheaval at our beloved Club in the past couple of weeks, or so, starting, it seems with the Blackstock loan to Nottingham Forest and culminating in the sacking of manager Paulo Sousa for breach of confidentiality. Here are the more salient points:
Apparently, according to Mr Briatore, Sousa was not actually sacked:
"Paulo`s contract was terminated after he - without authority - divulged highly confidential and sensitive information. The Club, with legal advice, responded in this way to protect its position."
There have been many rumours as to what the nature of this confidential and sensitive information was - and, indeed, I have recently heard that it may have been because he divulged the names of players that QPR were going to purchase in the summer. And we all know how careful the Club has been over transfers, because they have felt that, if a selling club got wind of our interest, they would charge an over-inflated price for their player!
Briatore went on to confirm that neither Mick Harford nor Luigi De Canio had been sacked, or had their contracts terminated.
"Mick was offered improved terms to stay on the backroom team but chose to move on. . . we were happy for him to stay on as Assistant, on improved terms. He chose to decline that role. Mick has already stated that this is the truth.
"Luigi had to return to Italy for personal reasons, and he has also confirmed that is correct. . . I was disappointed about it, because I wanted him to stay on."
I have to say that, on this particular point, I think people have made too big a deal of Luigi De Canio`s departure. I cannot recall how many times the Club, and even Mr De Canio himself previous to this weekend, have said that Mr De Canio left - he was not asked to leave.
Flavio Briatore did confirm that Ian Dowie was sacked and that they terminated the contract of John Gregory, who was at the Club before the new regime took over.
Regarding the thorny issue of who picked the team, Flavio Briatore had this to say:
"Paulo picked the team all the time. As a Board, we spoke about wanting to see QPR play a more attacking, aggressive brand of football, in a 4-4-2 formation, and he promised us he would do that."
Briatore did admit that, having beaten Preston 3-2 at home, the Board were most disappointed to see Sousa make 6 changes for the subsequent game, away to Charlton, which we could only draw (2-2). The Board also "became very disappointed" with the state of affairs after we were humbled by Ipswich at home a few weeks ago.
"I was very surprised to see Damion Stewart on the bench and Radek Cerny not involved for that match," he added.
"But I`d like to repeat, I never once told Paulo, or any other Coach for that matter, which team to pick."
Briatore was then asked about the loaning of Dexter Blackstock to Nottingham Forest, and whether it was solely Briatore`s responsibility and if Sousa did know. Briatore responded by referring us to Blackstock`s agent`s statement (Eric Walters), and added nothing else!
The topic of conversation then turned to the Board`s 4-year plan for QPR. How happy was Mr Briatore with the progress so far?
"We`re progressing very well," our Chairman confessed.
"On the pitch, we`re already up to the 60 point mark this season, which hasn`t been achieved by QPR for many years at this level." (I have referred to this particular fact many times recently when trying to show how far QPR have come in the short space of one season - seems I am not the only one who does not think it all "doom and gloom" at Loftus Road these days!)
"People seem to have very short memories here. Just this season alone, we have taken points off all the top eight with the exception of Burnley," and Briatore went on to list our successes on the pitch against these teams. I have to say, I agree with him on this point, too!
"… anyone at Loftus Road on Easter Monday could see that we not only have a great team spirit, but we can also play some very exciting, entertaining football in a 4-4-2 formation." Again - nothing controversial there!
"Off the pitch, the infrastructure is improving all the time. We have invested over £34 million into the Club," and Briatore then listed the 17 players (including Gary Borrowdale!) we have purchased since the arrival of the new Board.
He was proud of the achievements of the "very strong Youth team" who have just won the Fair Play Cup in Sardinia. It must be said that, before the arrival of Briatore et al, these types of opportunities were not as widely available to the Youth team as they are now. That is my own, personal observation, by the way, not a comment by Flavio Briatore!
Briatore then went on to discuss the role that the QPR fan-base has in helping the Board make decisions, such as the reduction, by 5%, in season ticket prices:
"We have taken this decision (i.e. cutting the ticket prices plus extending the deadline for renewals by one month) following detailed discussions with fan groups and supporters in general. The QPR fan-base plays an integral role in the decision-making process. . .
"We want to attract fans to Loftus Road and we believe our new prices offer an affordable option to them," he acknowledged.
He also discussed the importance of children to the future of the Club and the improvement of the commercial side of the business, claiming that the sponsors that have backed QPR are:
"financially, amongst the best in English football, let alone the Championship."
Importantly, whilst discussing the constant improvement of facilities both at Loftus Road and at Harlington, Briatore confirmed that there would be a new pitch laid at Loftus Road this summer:
"the re-laying of the Loftus Road pitch over the summer months (is) integral to our plans going forward next season.
"We are looking for a 360 degree improvement in all areas and whilst we admit it will take time, with the support of the whole QPR family, we are progressing well and as a Board, we are confident we will reach our goals."
Briatore confirmed that, following the repayment of the ABC Loan, it is the Board which now owns the Loftus Road ground. And then he went on to talk about the minority of supporters who chose to boo him and his fellow Directors on Easter Monday, as they took their seats in the Directors` Box:
"It was only a small minority of supporters who booed, but naturally it disappoints me.
"If we were fighting relegation, I could understand the booing. But we are making positive strides in our four year programme. This was the first full year and we are a comfortable top half side and have a very strong squad, which is improving all the time, ahead of next season.
"The fact is though: we saved the Club when it was within minutes of going under. . . When we arrived here, we had nobody behind us, but now we are only looking towards the top."
"No-one likes being booed, but we know we are doing the right things for the long-term future of this Club and we, the Board of Directors, are unanimous on that."
Admitting that they enjoyed the times when the supporters showed support of the "adventures", Briatore confessed: "That is why we are involved, to bring joy to the fans."
He also called on us, the fans, to show support:
"If the supporters don`t support us, the project won`t work, so all I can ask is you come out and show your support. . . With your support - both home and away - we believe we can keep progressing and one day reach the Premier League."
Then, teasingly, this little nugget:
"If we see that support, we will, of course, do our part by investing more in the future." (told you it was a tease!)
Finally, Mr Briatore was asked about the appointment of a new First Team Coach. He confirmed that Gareth Ainsworth would remain in charge of the First Team until the end of the season:
"and we will assess the situation once the campaign finishes."
He then called on all fans to enjoy the final games of this season.
It now remains to be seen whether both fans and the press will take on board, and importantly, accept Mr Briatore`s comments - or whether this statement will be viewed critically and with cynicism. For the sake of our Club, and for the sake of our sanity, I sincerely hope people will try to accept his comments positively and look forward to the continuing progress which I feel we are making. Rome wasn`t built in a day - QPR can`t be fixed in one season!
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