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Monday, January 18, 2010

QPR Chairman Briatore Responds: Saved The Club...Axed Only One Manager

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Mirror - Oliver Holt - Flavio Briatore interview exclusive: I have only sacked one manager - without me QPR would be bankrupt
17/01/10 - Interview by Oliver Holt

- The tell-tale signs of an owner with the itchiest trigger finger in football are absent from Flavio Briatore's Knightsbridge office.
- There are no pictures on the walls of managers with bullseyes painted on their foreheads.
- No blood-spattered training ground tops to commemorate the men who have ended up face down in the street outside Loftus Road.
- Not even any Garry Cook-style graphs with lines on them that the coach must not dip under.
- Football's newest cartoon villain has been through nine managers in less than three years at QPR.
- But after what he's been accused of in the last four months, taking a bit of stick because Paul Hart walked out after five games counts as light relief.
- To be notorious in two high-profile sports is quite something but Briatore appears to wear the burden lightly.
- In his manner, he does not seem diminished by anything that has happened to him in either Formula One or football.
- The panache is still there. The old bravado is still there. The former Renault boss and current part-owner of QPR swaggers into his office near Harrods.
- All around him on the walls are magazine covers. Him with Michael Schumacher, him with Bernie Ecclestone, him with practically everybody who's anybody.
- In the reception, there's a glossy brochure with the words Billionaire printed on almost every page.
- There are more pictures of Flavio in that. Flavio with Francesco Totti, Flavio with Gianluca Zambrotta, Flavio with lots of pretty women.
- A lot has happened since those pictures were taken. He was labelled the most reviled man in sport after being accused of persuading Nelson Piquet Jr to crash his Renault deliberately during the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix.
- And even though it's small beer compared to the F1 scandal, he's been going through managers at QPR so fast he's been accused of turning the club into a laughing stock.
- A fortnight ago, he confounded his enemies in Formula One when a French court overturned his lifetime ban from motor sport.

- In his first interview since he was enveloped by the Crashgate scandal, Briatore said he would never go back to Formula One as a team owner.
- "It was a great victory for me in the French court," Briatore said. "I still feel bitter about what happened and for three or four months it was very, very difficult.
- "I will never manage another team in Formula One in my life, this is sure, but I have got my dignity back which is important after 20 years in the sport.
- "We had the report of FIA and the report of the stewards and there was not evidence that I was involved in the accident. This is official. Done by FIA. Simple."

- But if Briatore insisted his involvement with F1 was over, he denied recent reports he was looking to sell the Championship club.
- And even though Hart left suddenly last week, leaving assistant Mick Harford in charge, Briatore scoffed at the idea he had the itchiest trigger-finger in football.
- "Nobody wants to sell the club," Briatore said. "Everybody wants to keep going and we are looking for the play-offs. We need enthusiasm, we need to believe it and I believe we have the players to do it. I am 100% committed to the club for the long term.
- "Don't forget, QPR now have the kind of players they couldn't have dreamed of having before.
- "Don't forget, too, that without us, QPR would have gone bankrupt. We have improved the stadium and we are doing the best for the club.
- "We have to take it step by step. I believe we have the talent and the players to get into the play-offs. Mick will stay in charge until the end of the season.
- "People forget very quickly what I did for this club. Some fans, because they pay £20, they want to criticise.
- "It's very easy for me to walk away. I don't have any problem with that. We want to keep the club but somebody needs to remember QPR three years ago and look at it now. Some people are jealous. There's a lot of jealousy

- As for the itchy trigger-finger, he mentioned a hit-list in a newspaper and got it from his desk. It had nine names on it. The QPR Nine.
- John Gregory, Luigi De Canio, Iain Dowie, Gareth Ainsworth, Paulo Sousa, Jim Magilton, Steve Gallen, Marc Bircham and Paul Hart.
- These are the men who have been and gone since Briatore and Ecclestone took over the club when it was on the brink of bankruptcy in August 2007.
- Briatore scanned the list. "People say I have not had a great run with managers but it's not true," he said. "I have only sacked one of them."
- He went through them.
- Gregory? Inherited him from a previous regime, Briatore said. Can't say he was fired.
- De Canio? Left at the end of the 2007-08 season because his pregnant girlfriend wanted to go back to Italy. Can't say he was fired.
- Dowie? "We had a...we didn't feel that...well, we sacked him," Briatore said.
- Ainsworth? Only a caretaker. Can't say he was fired, Briatore said.
- Paulo Sousa? He disclosed confidential information to the press about Dexter Blackstock being loaned out to Nottingham Forest and contract was terminated for breach of confidentiality. Can't say he was fired, Briatore said. It was Sousa's own fault.
- Magilton? He left by mutual consent after a dressing room fracas with midfielder Akos Buzsaky. "I feel very sorry about what happened," Briatore said. "I had a fantastic relationship with him. I tried everything to keep him but it was difficult because everybody else was against him. I didn't feel good about what happened. We decided together to release the contract. He was a very good guy and he did a good job for us."
- Gallen and Bircham? They were caretakers, too, and they're still at the club, Briatore pointed out. So they hardly counted as victims.
- And finally, Hart, who, to general amazement, walked out last week. He wasn't fired, Briatore said. He quit.
- "We had a meeting on the day before he resigned here at the office and it was a normal discussion," Briatore said. "There was no suggestion then that he was going to resign. Absolutely not. Not for me. I feel sorry because he is a good man."
- This is the revolving door that has earned Briatore almost as much notoriety in football as he gained in Formula One.
- That's why some joker texted the BBC website on Saturday night during Manchester City's defeat to Everton.
- "City are shipping too many goals," the text went. "Mancini has had his chance - time for him to go." The texter signed himself 'Flavio - London'. Mirror

- Three Past Pieces/Interviews by Oliver Holt re Briatore and or Ecclestone and QPR

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