So QPR have been declared champions following a steady drip-drip of poorly-timed information today from the FA that, no, there would be no points deduction; and then, oh actually, there’ll be an £875,000 fine. Bearing in mind that the club is owned by Bernie Ecclestone, Lakshmi Mittal and a further billionaire whose name escapes me offhand, the fine is very small indeed: akin to a mugger leaving you with your spanking new smartphone but nicking your small change to make a phone call.
Fair enough, QPR have been a decent side this season, and worthy of promotion on the basis of the on-the-pitch stuff, even if they’ve been pretty average over the second half of the season. And I really don’t know whether they’re guilty or not over Faurlingate.
Of the seven charges they faced, to be found guilty of using an unauthorised agent and of bringing the game into disrepute, with the rest of the charges not proven, is pretty small beer compared to the points deductions that were being spoken about, and from serious sources too. Conspiracy theorists might well debate the role of the depths of the pockets of the FA and of the owners of QPR in the decision, as well as the role of the apparent leaking of the FA’s view as to what might happen if the club were guilty, and conclude that football wants to have in the top division those clubs whose owners have deep pockets, especially given the treatment of Luton for a similar offence (although the two situations are not really analogous). Money talks – and welcome to the money game that football has become.
But here’s what I don’t understand – bringing the game into disrepute is surely a back-up charge: it follows on from the others. Being found guilty of only that is, in the context, a little like being charged with shoplifting from Tesco but only actually being found guilty of stealing the carrier bag you took the goods away in. Surely, there can be no question of the club having brought the game into disrepute unless they were actually guilty of having committed at least some of the other charges on the sheet. Publicising having spent £3.5m on a player but with the player’s club not having received a penny seems to resemble ‘Entering contracts assigning rights to or making payments to a third party in connection with a player transfer’ pretty closely.
Otherwise, the inescapable conclusion is that the only organisation having actually brought the game into disrepute in this whole sorry episode is the sweet FA itself.