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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

QPR's Flavio Briatore Speaks

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- Marking Five Years Since First Report of Gianni Paladini Investing in QPR

- Flavio Briatore has spoken exclusively to www.qpr.co.uk to set the record straight regarding the media frenzy surrounding Paulo Sousa's departure from QPR.
The QPR Holdings Ltd Chairman sets the record straight on a number of issues, including team selection and the recently reduced Season Ticket prices.

- Flavio, there's been a lot written and discussed regarding Paulo Sousa's departure - can you set the record straight?

- Firstly, despite what has been reported in the press, Paulo wasn't sacked by QPR. 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.
- Furthermore, despite what's been written this weekend, we didn't sack Mick Harford, we didn't sack Luigi De Canio and, as I said, we didn't sack Paulo.
- Mick was offered improved terms to stay on the backroom team but chose to move on. He was aware that we had lined up a new Coach and he was only a temporary option, but 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. It was very unexpected for me and I was disappointed about it, because I wanted him to stay on.
- For the press to say we've sacked all these people is totally inaccurate and our lawyers are dealing with this.
- We terminated the employment of John Gregory who was already at the Club before we arrived. We had De Canio lined up, but there were complications to get him for the first few weeks.
- But it is true, Iain Dowie was sacked.

The media have reported you told Paulo Sousa which team to pick - is that correct?
- That is incorrect. 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.
There were two incidents which disappointed us. When we beat Preston North End before Christmas, Paulo made six changes for the next match and we only drew at Charlton Athletic, who were bottom of the league.
- And against Ipswich Town, he stuck to a 4-5-1 formation, when we were at home, and that is when we became very disappointed.
- I was very surprised to see Damion Stewart on the bench and Radek Cerny not involved for that match.
- But I'd like to repeat, I never once told Paulo, or any other Coach for that matter, which team to pick.

- It has also been suggested that it was solely your decision to loan Dexter Blackstock. Is it right that Paulo Sousa knew nothing about the striker leaving to join Nottingham Forest?
- Dexter's agent, Eric Walters, has spoken about this. That statement tells the facts.
- He said: 'Dexter was unhappy at QPR for some time, as he had only started six of a possible 21 fixtures.
- 'He wasn't even on the bench for QPR's home fixture against Bristol City and seeing as he was the Club's top goalscorer, Dexter was unhappy about this situation.
'A few Clubs approached me for Dexter, including Nottingham Forest. I spoke with Gianni Paladini and he advised me that we needed to clear this with Paulo Sousa.
'Paulo came back from Portugal on March 26th at lunchtime. Dexter discussed the situation with Paulo, and he didn't say anything to Dexter about the possibility of him staying with QPR.
'At 4.00pm on March 26th 2009, Dexter signed the paperwork to complete his loan transfer to Nottingham Forest.'

- Moving on, when you arrived at QPR, you spoke quite openly about a four-year project to reach the Premier League. Are you happy with the progress so far?
- We're progressing very well.
- On the pitch, we're already up to the 60 point mark this season, which hasn't been achieved by QPR in many years at this level.
- 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.
- We beat Wolverhampton at home; we drew with Sheffield United; we beat Birmingham City at home; we've drawn twice with Reading; we beat Cardiff City at home; and - we've beaten both Preston North End and Swansea City at Loftus Road too.
- That can't be forgotten and anyone that was 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.
Off the pitch, the infrastructure is improving all the time. We have invested over £34 million in to the Club.
- We have signed 17 players - Delaney, Mahon, Hall, Leigertwood, Routledge, Vine, Buzsaky, Agyemang, Gorkss, Ramage, Connolly, Cook, Alberti, Cerny, Ephraim, Helguson and Borrowdale.
- Plus, we have a very strong Youth team, who have just returned from a very successful tour in Sardinia, where we won the Fair Play Cup.
- We have dropped our Season Ticket prices by five per-cent for the renewal period in response to feedback from our supporters.
- We have taken this decision following detailed discussions with fan groups and supporters in general.
- The QPR fan-base plays an integral role in the decision-making process and we were wary that the initial deadline only took into account supporters receiving one pay packet during the initial time period.
- We want to attract fans to Loftus Road and we believe our new prices offer an affordable option to them. Children under the age of eight can come to watch for free - and that is important, because we are always working towards a long-term future, and fans, of all ages, are hugely significant to that.
- Furthermore, we are constantly striving to improve the facilities we have at both the main ground and the training complex, with the re-laying of the Loftus Road pitch over the summer months integral to our plans going forward next season.
- On the commercial side, we are in lucrative partnerships with some major worldwide brands, including Santander, Chronotech, Gulf Air and Lotto Sport Italia. Financially, these deals are amongst the best in English football, let alone the Championship.
- 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.

Speaking of Loftus Road, can you confirm what the current situation is?
- We have sorted the ABC issue, which was crippling the Club, at a 12 per-cent interest rate.
- They would have taken the ground had we not met the deadline, so the fans can be rest assured, that we now own the stadium, which is a great assurance for the future of this Club.
- We would love to see the ground full every week and we are hoping that by introducing the new five per-cent Early Bird reduction, that supporters will follow us in greater numbers, both home and away, next season.

- Speaking of supporters, what are your thoughts on the fans who booed the Board of Directors on Monday?
- It was only a small minority of supporters who booed, but naturally it disappoints me.
- The fact is though; we saved the Club when it was within minutes of going under. If it wasn't for us, this Club would not be here. That is a fact.
- Furthermore, when we arrived here, we had nobody behind us, but now we are only looking towards the top.
- It is similar to at Renault. When we arrived we were last on the grid, and we progressed to the very top. That is what we want to happen at QPR.
- 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.
- This is a very expensive hobby for us and we have already invested significant sums in to the Club.
- But we enjoy the moments when the supporters are behind us in the adventure. That is why we are involved, to bring joy to the fans.
- If we were fighting against 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.
- 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.
- When the stadium is full, there is no better place to watch football. With your support - both home and away - we believe we can keep progressing and one day reach the Premier League.
- If we see that support, we will, of course, do our part by investing more in the future.

Finally, when do you hope to appoint a new First Team Coach?
- Gareth Ainsworth is in charge until the end of the season and we will assess the situation once the campaign finishes.
- In the meantime, I want us to enjoy the last three matches and show the same passion and skill we showed against Sheffield Wednesday on Monday. QPR Chairman Briatore Speaks

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