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Saturday, September 30, 2006

One Year Ago: QPR's Paladini Profiled in The Times & Announcing Legal Action Against London Evening Standard

Alex Wade/The Times - September 30,2006
Chairman sees himself as agent for QPR revival

- GIANNI PALADINI was in typically expressive form. The former Fifa-registered agent had just been appointed as chairman of Queens Park Rangers and the phone would not stop ringing. Call after call came in, from well-wishers, QPR fans and, yes, one or two agents, with congratulations.
Paladini — who looks at least ten years younger than his 60 years — talked animatedly in English and Italian. Loftus Road has rarely echoed to the language of Dante, but the club’s long-suffering fans would not be surprised if a scene from The Divine Comedy appeared in the programme for Monday’s Coca-Cola Championship fixture against Crystal Palace. QPR have become the club at which anything can happen.
Confirmation of Paladini’s appointment yesterday comes on the back of events straight out of a soap opera. “Not a month has gone by without someone trying to get rid of me,” Paladini said of his 18-month involvement with the club.
An acrimonious boardroom dispute turned nasty when, minutes before an early-season home match against Sheffield United, a gang burst into the inner sanctum at Loftus Road, held a gun to Paladini’s head and allegedly forced him to sign a letter by which he would resign from the board. Four men have since been charged with conspiracy to commit blackmail and joint possession of a firearm with intent to commit grievous bodily harm.
This week, fresh controversy surrounded the affable Italian. It has been alleged in the press that he is using QPR to line the pockets of various agent friends with deals that the club cannot afford. Typical is the suggestion that one recent acquisition — Marc Nygaard, on a free transfer from Brescia — is said to have resulted in a £60,000 payment to Brian Hassell, an agent.
Similarly, it is claimed that £40,000 was paid to Mel Eves, a Midlands-based, for the transfer of Ian Evatt.
“These allegations are stupid,” Paladini said. “They are made by people with no understanding of how football works. If they want to paint a picture of me as a crook, they should find something I have done wrong. In fact, I have done nothing wrong, and they have no idea what they’re talking about.”
The phone rings again, and it is Nygaard’s agent. The tall striker’s stock is high, with two goals in the past two matches, including a header against Millwall on Tuesday night. His agent is chasing payment. “The first payment is due, but I haven’t had a chance to sort it out. There has been so much chaos here,” Paladini said.
First payment? “Yes, the first payment — the deal was for four payments over the term of Nygaard’s contract.” So there was no £60,000 lump sum? “Not at all,” Paladini said, clearly exasperated. “Contracts are never done like that. The deal is for four payments and I haven’t paid a penny yet.”
This, according to Paladini, is how all the deals for which he has been responsible have been structured. He adds that he has overseen only three signings. “The others were all signed off by either the ex-chairman or the chief executive,” he said. “I am angry that I have been dragged through the mud like this. They have called me a thief with no evidence at all.
“What does it prove, that I know other agents? I have spent my life in football. If you a solicitor, you know other solicitors. I need to know all the agents in the game, and knowing them means I can do a better job for QPR. I understand how transfers work. Football is a business and you need to know this side of it as much as the passion.” The phone rings again, and afterwards Paladini is coy. He alludes to a deal, nearly complete, in which QPR’s £10 million debt to the Panama-based ABC corporation — arranged when the club came out of administration — is renegotiated. The ABC loan costs the club £1 million in interest each year, but Paladini hopes to cut this in half.
“People must think there is some kind of mafia involvement here, but I want the best for QPR and I’m putting together the right people to achieve this,” he said. “The moment I came here I felt an affinity for the club, its fans and its history, and I wanted to get involved. I want to be part of the team that takes QPR back to the Premier League.”
Between 1958 and 1967, Paladini was on Napoli’s books wearing the No 10 shirt that, thanks to Stan Bowles, Rodney Marsh and Tony Currie, has iconic status at Loftus Road. It would be some joy for him — and QPR fans — if this thread had more than merely symbolic resonance.
The Times

GIANNI Paladini today began legal action against the London Evening Standard after the paper published yet another libellous and factually inaccurate article about QPR.
The QPR Chairman has instructed one of the country's top libel firms, Carter-Ruck, to commence legal proceedings immediately by formally requesting an immediate apology and retraction of damning statements made by the paper.
Paladini will also be writing to the Press Complaints Commission, urging them to conduct an immediate inquiry into the unprofessional way the Standard has conducted its so-called investigation.
"I held detailed talks with Carter-Ruck yesterday," Paladini confirmed. "It is their belief I have been libelled by the paper and on that basis I have instructed them to commence legal action. This will be on a strictly no-win, no fee basis so it will have no financial impact on the club.
"I am demanding an immediate apology - not just for me, but for everyone who works for, and who loves, QPR.
"I am deeply saddened that this is happening but enough is enough. The Standard has chosen to mount a witch-hunt against QPR and are clearly being fed a string of deceitful lies, inaccuracies and misleading information by individuals who have their own axe to grind against the club and me.
"These individuals cannot possibly be true fans - how could they harm us by pedalling such rubbish?"
Once again, the Standard is falsely claiming the FA are investigating how much QPR has paid agents to bring players into the club.
Paladini added: "Let me state this clearly and categorically. I have spoken to the FA and there is no probe or investigation into our finances - or how much we have paid agents. Yes, they ask to be kept informed of how the club is being run - as they do with all clubs.
"That is right and proper and we have always co-operated. But we have nothing to hide and there is nothing that has caused them any concern. I have their assurance that we are not under suspicion.
"Anyone reading the Standard right now would think QPR is being run by the mafia. Let me tell you the only crime being committed at the moment is by the Standard. Every club, no matter how big or small, has to deal with agents - there's nothing I can do about that.
"If I tried to by-pass them, players would simply refuse to come to QPR. Is that what the Standard wants? A club with no players? What would our fans think of that?
"The Standard has made me look like someone out of the Godfather and that's why I will also be writing to the Press Complaints Commission, urging them to launch their own investigation into the journalistic standards of this paper.
"Not only have they printed lies about the club, their columnist David Mellor has launched a particularly nasty and deeply personal attack on me - even though we have never met.
"It is my belief the Commission will want to seriously reprimand this paper for the way they are conducting themselves."
QPR Official Site

Following these QPR statements on the QPR Official Site

30 Sept: 2005 "The Real Story - No investigation, no probe and nothing but nonsense from the Evening Standard

23 Sept 2005 "No FA Probe" - Gianni Paladini tells qpr.co.uk that the FA are NOT investigating Queens Park Ranger

22.09.2005 Latest ANGER & DISTRESS Gianni Paladini has reacted with anger and distress regarding allegations made in the press on Thursday

December 7, 2005 -
QPR OFFICIAL SITE "Today the Evening Standard issued an apology to QPR Chairman Gianni Paladini.

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