By the end of this week, we will know what – if any – sanction has been levelled against Queens Park Rangers with regard to the Alejandro Faurlin affair. The club itself (and by this we mean the senior management and/or the owners of the club) will get whatever it deserves, should it be found to be guilty. This, however, is not the place to discuss what sanctions may or may not be levelled against the club just yet. It’s a subject that we can return to at a more appropriate time. It is also worth remembering that, although many different people have made claims stating that they can look into a crystal ball and predict exactly what will happen at the end of this week, no-one knows at present and those that run our game can be somewhat flighty in their decisions. Queens Park Rangers could be deducted fifteen points. They could merely receive a fine. All stops between these two extremities are possible, if not likely.
Certain sections of media have already pronounced the club guilty of the charges brought by the FA and, while it is fair to say that there is a certain degree of presumption going on here, not many people or organisations that are charged by the FA are completely exonerated of said charges. These particular rules, however, have not been tested before (it is somewhat ironic that the Football League passed the case to the FA because it currently has no rules regarding the third party ownership of players), so assumptions of guilt or otherwise would appear to be misplaced until the verdict has been given. Reports that the Football League have already advised Championship clubs that the play-offs may be delayed by a week, however, are hardly likely to settle the nerves of the club’s supporters over the next couple of days.
None of this, however, answers a somewhat more pressing question, which is that of why it is to take until a couple of days before the end of the season for a verdict to be reached over this matter. This is not a matter of whether QPR have done anything wrong or not and, if they have, what punishment they should receive. It has been reported that the FA first became aware of irregularites regarding Faurlin’s transfer to the club several months ago. If we presume this to be correct (and it hardly seems unlikely – after all, the FA’s charge against the club was first publicised more than two months ago), why could this not have been dealt with at the time? Whatever happens to Queens Park Rangers – the ownership and senior management thereof, at least – should they be found guilty of the charges lain at their door seems unlikely to be something that too many people will shed many tears over. It would seem, however, profoundly unfair on the supporters of the club and the rest of the club’s players – all innocent parties to whatever may or may not have been going on at the club – that they should be treated in this way.
It seems fairly universally acknowledged that Queens Park Rangers have been the best club in the Championship this season, and what has been notable about the reaction of the supporters of other clubs has been, broadly speaking, supportive of the supporters of Queens Park Rangers. It seems – and this, of course, is merely anecdotal – that there are relatively few that will be furious should the club be promoted to the Premier League at the end of this season. There were one or two quizzical looks at the Southern League a couple of weeks ago when a points deduction set up – whether accidentally or deliberately – a championship deciding league match in one of the league’s divisions on the last day of the season. There are similarities with between that case and this and, to an extent, delaying the verdict until this point in the season has shot the FA in the foot. No matter what verdict is reached later this week, certain assumptions will be made concerning the motives for whatever decision is reached and those responsible for the lengthy delay in reaching a verdict will only have themselves to blame for whatever conspiracy theories are thrown around once it has been announced.
In one respect, the FA are in a fortuitous position. Queens Park Rangers’ lead at the top of the table is big enough and the rewards of promotion into the Premier League are sufficiently great for a large points deduction and a hefty fine to be administered without any significant damage being done to the top of the Championship table. Alternatively, sanctions may be suspended until next season. However, their tardiness over making a decision and – if appropriate – passing down a punishment which may or may not fit the crime means that it is quite possible that any of Queens Park Rangers’ misdemeanours will be dwarfed by discussions regarding the failure of the Football League to have any meaningful rules regarding third party ownership and of the FA to be able to reach a conclusion over the matter before the very last possible moment. Queens Park Rangers may well come out of this affair badly, but that the Football League and the Football Association may do as well is not a very positive reflection upon the governance of English football at the moment, either.
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