November 28, 2011 / 1:17 PM / 6 years ago

QPR eye new recruits and stadium, says Fernandes

<p>Malaysia's AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes speaks during a news conference at Forbes Global CEO Conference in Kuala Lumpur September 14, 2011. REUTERS/Bazuki Muhammad</p>

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Queens Park Rangers could be after three or more players in the January transfer window but are unlikely to revamp the squad at the end of the season if they stay in the Premier League, according to owner Tony Fernandes.

The Malaysian aviation entrepreneur, who runs Team Lotus in Formula One, also told Reuters at the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix that QPR were looking at sites in West London for a new stadium and training ground.

“We have to strengthen our squad. (On Saturday) we had so many injuries, we just don’t have a deep enough squad,” he declared.

“I was given 10 days to buy players (at the end of August) and we picked up six or seven in that period and did pretty well. We need to keep building the squad, and we also need to keep building the youth squads, which is important as well.”

Fernandes, previously a committed West Ham United fan who failed to buy that club, bought the West Londoners in August from Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone and former Renault team boss Flavio Briatore.

He immediately brought in highly-rated men like Joey Barton, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Armand Traore, Luke Young and Anton Ferdinand.

Asked what he would be looking for, Fernandes replied: ”That’s really (manager) Neil (Warnock)’s call, but we need to keep strengthening the back, we are short of ‘keepers for a start, and up front we could do with a bit more firepower.

“We’re having a meeting in the first week of December to discuss that with the shareholders,” he added when asked about the budget available.

”It could be maybe three, four (players), I don’t know. You could end up with none if you don’t find anyone. We had six or seven in the last transfer window, which is way above what I thought we’d get.

“It depends. At the last minute some things come up. It’s very hard to tell.”


A keen user of social network Twitter, Fernandes recently asked QPR fans to recommend potential transfer targets and he hailed his ‘mad Tony Fernandes moment’ as an inspired one.

“You effectively have 100,000 scouts out there for you, and there is no way QPR could ever know every single player,” he said. “Suddenly we have players we’ve never heard of and Neil is looking at videos and saying ‘not bad’.”

Come the end of the season, the club should be more settled.

”I think you can see from my life in Formula One that I‘m not a revamper,“ smiled Fernandes, wearing his familiar red AirAsia cap. ”I like stability. I don’t make decisions and chop and change. That’s bad.

“We’ve a great manager, we’ve the nucleus of a great team, so I don’t see a wholesale change.”

Loftus Road, hemmed in by residential streets in West London and with a capacity of around 18,500, is another matter.

“The key this year is to survive, but we would like a bigger ground and we are looking,” said Fernandes.

”It has to be in the area. It makes no sense to move out of where you have spent most of your life, and where the fan base is. So West London is where we are and where we’d like to be.

”Building a stadium is not the easiest thing in the world but there are opportunities in West London.

“The first building that we are going to do is a new training ground, and there are two sites we are looking at, also in West London, so hopefully that will be announced soon.”

How big a stadium is needed remains open to debate.

“Some fans are saying ‘We don’t have a fan base bigger than 20,000’...My gut feel is 40-45,000. That’s double where we are right now, but we’re in London and there’s a strong catchment area,” said Fernandes.

“We’ll do some studies on that. The beauty of Loftus Road is that it’s so intimidating.”

The Malaysian also joined in criticism of FIFA president Sepp Blatter for recent comments on racism in soccer.

“His comments were said without a lot of thought, and with a little bit of nonchalance that shouldn’t be there for someone who is FIFA president,” said Fernandes, whose defender Ferdinand is at the centre of a police investigation after Chelsea’s John Terry was accused of racially abusing him.

”He (Blatter) probably didn’t mean it the way it came out, but he’s the president of FIFA so he’s got to be gooder than good.

“Football administration has to sort itself out. It’s too big a sport, there is too much money around,” added Fernandes.

“When countries are changing and asking for freedom and democracy, and you have organisations such as FIFA, there just needs to be more transparency. The world demands it, and the world should get it.”

editing by Mark Meadows

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
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