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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Q&A With Former QPR Director & Legal Counsel Nick De Marco

Courtesy of the WeAreRangersBoys Website (www.wearetherangersboys.com ) Interview with QPR's Former Director and continuing Legal Advisor (at least according to Saturday's programme), Nick De Marco


"I would like to thank Nick De Marco for given up his time for this interview

Nick De Marco Interview..

(Q) Some people have labelled the accusation that you are not a True QPR Fan?
(a) My first game was back in 1978, when QPR played Liverpool at home. We lost 2 -1 I think, it was the first game of the season as I remember, and some great players were at the club, Bowles, Francis and Phil Parkes for example. I used to go to school locally in Hammersmith and I was around 11 years old at the time. We used to go as a group of kids to all the home matches standing behind the goal in the loft. As kids going alone we could not go to away games except a few (I remember Watford, Luton, West ham and Chelsea).

(Q) What happened when you left school?
When I was 16, I left school and didn’t really go to many matches, but always followed the club in the papers with results each week. I missed the premiership years and returned about the same time I began to earn a steady income as a barrister during the season we got promoted. I bought my first season ticket the following season.

(Q) You are a Sports lawyer, what was you first case?
I did a case for Swindon Town way before Bill Power was director. In fact, it was in regards to, Razor Ruddock who at the time was on an enormous wage and the club wanted to end his contract. I negotiated between the player and the club, in order a settlement could be reached. Then, David Davies who was at QPR instructed me for a case, not actually knowing I was QPR fan and then I thought I should get involved with the club offering free advice, when I could

(Q) When did the real involvement in the club, start?
I had written to Mark Devlin offering free help and advice. I did not get a reply. I try to always take my dad to the first home game of the season and thought I would try and speak to Mark then, but he was on holiday. Incidentally it was the day of the gun incident at Loftus Road, when I was sitting nearby where all the commotion at the ground was taking place. A couple of weeks later, I wrote to Gianni to offer to help the club and he phone me back and our relationship grew from that point.

(Q) Any involvement in the court case?
No, I am not a criminal lawyer. The crown prosecution service controlled the case. Neither Gianni nor his friends had any access to lawyers or could instruct the CPS lawyers. The CPS is independent. I went for the first few days of the trial, as I knew how distraught Gianni had become over what happened that day. The job of any defence lawyer, is to dissect the evidence of a prosecution witness, Lots of allegations were made, to be fair any defence lawyers would do that, it’s their job and I would have done the same in their position.

(Q) What Role Did You Then Play At the Club?
I built a friendship with Gianni and was able to offer free legal advice- this could be anything from contractual employment details, to players- catering suppliers etc. I advised on the ABC Loan and helped look at ways to get out of it. I was at the club as a non-executive director/giving advice. At no time did I have vote or receive any money or anything like that. Gianni has said I saved the club hundreds of thousands of pounds and that was at a time the club could not afford to throw money at lawyers.

(Q) Have you been involved in the recent takeover?
Yes, it’s been a very stressful time. During the run up dealing with QPR took up at least 2 days a week of my time. I was not the only one; Kevin Steele has done enormous work regarding the takeover. We were able to give time and advice. We had also been involved, in many meetings with other potential investors leading up to the takeover from Flavio Briartore and Bernie Ecclestone. None of the previous business meetings got to an advanced stage, as no one wanted to come up with any money. The only people, who were really genuinely interested, are the ones that Gianni has brought to the club. Frankly, many before that, were just a complete waste of time. Bill Power did show some interest and has also helped us out. Everyone understands he is a very strong QPR fan, and if he wasn’t at Swindon Town things may have been different.
It is my understanding the new board plan a substantial commitment to the club. If the ABC loan has not already been paid when you publish this interview, I can assure you they have a professional firm of solicitors who will be dealing with this issue and it is definitely in the process of being replaced.

(Q) Can we discuss you Splitting the LSA
How? Were you a member of the LSA before?

I joined on the LSA coach on the trip to Southampton; early in that season we drew 1-1. This was before meeting Gianni. I would always write on various message board websites, The Official, Rivals and LSA. I thought I could have rational debate, you might disagree, but at the end of the day we are all QPR supporters. I often defended Gianni and in return I got insults, but that was pretty much part and parcel of a message board. I got the sense many posters had a sense of bigotry, comments like “go back to Italy you Pizza man” were just way over the top.
Anyway, I was never one of these particularly active LSA members; Paul Finney and Steve Russell had recruited me. We had no problems-we disagreed a lot, but that was that. Leading members of the LSA left the LSA because of a daily campaign against Gianni on the message board. That’s what spilt the LSA. I didn’t even know these people when they left and formed friends of QPR. I renewed my membership with the QPR 1st supporters club with no problems, but when I tried to renew with the LSA it caused a huge fuss. I was invited to go and see John Reid and Tommy Collins. I thought it was a bit over the top but I went and answered their questions. The committee agreed I should be able to renew my membership, but this lead to Paul Finney and Steve Russell resigning and forming a new group. It’s obvious too most people that the same people spilt the LSA twice, I just happened to be the catalyst the second time they did so. I got the feeling they would only be in a group if everyone agreed with them.

(Q) What Is The Future Of QPR and How Stressful has Recent Times Been?
Well, it’s been very stressful. The fact Gianni Paladini has managed to stave off administration has been a miracle. He brought major investors into the club, when it was needed. He managed to attract the Monaco Consortium who invested large amounts into the club. He also brought in Dunga, who is now the national coach for Brazil. Now, when the Monaco money ran out, he has managed to bring in even bigger investors. Bigger than anyone expected. Since the Monaco people were unable to put more money into the club last November, we have all been living on a knife-edge, borrowing from one hand to pay another. It’s easy to criticise but the goal to keep the club afloat and attract new investors was successfully reached.
I don’t think it has yet sunk in with most of us how important this new investment really is. For the last ten years we have either been facing, in, or not far off administration. For a large part of the decade we have had a crippling loan many thought we could never get rid of. Even if we managed to somehow get up in the Premiership, none of us thought we had the money to stay up beyond a first season. All that has now changed. We are entering a new era.
Of course nobody should get carried away. It’s about steady growth. The first priority is putting the club on a secure financial footing and getting rid of the ABC loan. But that priority, however difficult it seemed before, is easy now. We can turn our attention to the football and the goal of promotion to the premiership within the next 4 years.

(Q) What about the further 1.3 ABC Million loan taken out this year?
This was one of the hardest decisions, to borrow extra money to stop us going into administration. We knew how unpopular it would be with supporters, but it was the only lender we could turn to (because ABC had security over the ground already). We needed to keep the club alive to buy time to do a deal with new investors. Had we not made that difficult and unpopular decision we would not be where we are today. The deal was struck with lawyers and representatives of the ABC Corporation.

(Q) Some people Say Gianni should leave now?

Well, he kept us out of administration, no other chairman in QPR history has managed to secure such an investor to this club and if the new owners held little regard for him, he would have gone already. He has managed to bring in to the club investors who will set this club on a secure financial footing. The potential we have is enormous, though it’s a results business and we need to start winning football matches. The new investors know how well Gianni did keeping the club going in impossible circumstances without money, why would they want to get rid of him now?

(Q) One Last Question, are you glad we won’t be supporting QPRAFC?
I am sure all those people who said they would set up AFC QPR or criticised Gianni and the Board will be delighted we are now in this position, whatever our disagreements. We all love QPR. People feel very strongly about their Club. We need to put those divisions behind us. Everyone has a right to their own opinion but at last we can look forward to financial security of the club we all support and hopefully move forward together. That’s what is important

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