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Thursday, February 16, 2012

QPR's New Training Ground In Peril

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From The Evening Standard
The battle for Warren Farm
Vivek Chaudhary
16 Feb 2012

A dilapidated west London sports ground is at the centre of a battle between Queens Park Rangers and their multi-billionaire owners and a non-League side with their own wealthy investors.

The Premier League club and Southall Football Club, who play in the Middlesex County Premier League, will submit their proposals to Ealing Council tomorrow to take over Warren Farm, a neglected sports ground on the border between Osterley and Southall.

QPR's owners Tony Fernandes and Lakshmi Mittal,
who between them are worth an estimated £20billion, have identified Warren Farm as the site for a new training ground and academy and are planning to spend around £6million on bringing it up to Premier League standards.

Warren Farm is currently made up of 30 football, cricket and netball pitches many of which Ealing Council admits are "not fit for purpose."

The changing rooms and other buildings have changed little since the 1960s, when the site was taken over by the local authority for use by schools and clubs.

The Southall proposal is to develop Warren Farm into a state-of-the-art community sports complex specialising in football, cricket and rugby.

Despite the fact the club are up against two of the Premier League's richest owners, those behind the Southall bid insist that they too can draw upon some serious finances and are backed by a group of wealthy Asian businessmen who are willing to invest almost £20m into Warren Farm.

The Southall plan has also secured the support of some high-profile names from the world of sport.

Former international cricketers John Emburey and Alvin Kallicharran are set to oversee the development of a cricket academy while former Tottenham manager Peter Shreeves and ex-Liverpool striker David Johnson will be involved in football
development and coaching.

Southall, the club where Les Ferdinand began his career, are located in the heart of the capital's largest Asian community.

Officials claim that their plans for Warren Farm could increase the popularity of sport and increase general fitness levels among people living in the area.

According to Government statistics, the district of Southall suffers from widespread deprivation and lower levels of life expectancy and sports participation than other parts of the country.

Charanjit Singh Gill, vice-chairman of the football club, said: "Generally, British Asians have not fully embraced sporting culture and suffer many health problems because of bad fitness. Our plans for Warren Farm could help to change all this and make a real difference to the Southall community. We are also confident that a new facility will help us develop top-level Asian
sports stars.

"QPR are not interested in the people of Southall. Why should they be, they are a professional
football club?

"If they take over Warren Farm, do you think ordinary people will be allowed to use the facilities there? We want to create something that will benefit the people of Southall and the surrounding area."

Ealing Council is offering a 200-year lease on Warren Farm and insists that it will carefully evaluate all proposals before making a decision in June. It admits, however, that the needs of the community must be taken into consideration.

A spokesman said: "We will look at all bids equally and investigate them fully to ensure that they can deliver. The winning bidder will have to meet a certain number of criteria for Warren Farm, the facilities they will create and what they can offer.
"For us it's about getting the best deal for the residents of Southall and the rest of the borough."

QPR, who are 10 levels above Southall in the League pyramid, have refused to be drawn into a row with the club and were unwilling to reveal any plans they may have for the local community should they secure Warren Farm.

A spokesman said: "It's very early days and we cannot comment in detail at the moment." Standard

- Photos of Warren Farm

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