Queens Park Rangers have been majestic in the Championship this season. Their defeat at Millwall last night was their first fince New Year’s Day, and even after this they sit seven points clear at the top of the Championship table. How long that lead may be there, however, may now be called into question after the club was charged with breaches of seven Football Association rules over third-party ownership and agents. In these cases, the word “charged” tends to have a different to meaning to its usage in legal circles, and it could well be that the decision has already been made that the club is guilty of the offences listed by the FA. The question, perhaps, is that of what punishment the club will face.

The alleged breaches related to the signing of the Argentinian midfielder Alejandro Faurlin, in the summer of 2009. Faurlin was signed from Instituto de Cordoba for a fee of £3.5m on a three year contract and has since made eighty appearances for his new club. A statement on the FA’s website states that the charges, “concern the alleged existence of an agreement between the club and a third party in respect of [Faurlin’s] economic rights, and the alleged failure by the club to notify the FA of that agreement before the player was registered to play in England in July 2009”. In other words, the FA is stating that, at the time that Faurlin signed for Queens Park Rangers un-named third-party retained a stake in his economic rights and that the club concealed this from the FA, in contravention of their rules on these matters.

Queens Park Rangers’ own statement on the subject makes for interesting reading, containing, as it does, the closing line, “QPR and Mr Paladini are confident that there has been no deliberate wrongdoing involved”, which could lead one to wonder if those in charge at the club are already aware of the seriousness of the allegations made, and that their mitigation could be to be plead that, somehow, the club’s transgressions were some sort of accident (even though this sentence is preceded by them stating that they will be, “denying all of the charges and requesting a formal FA hearing to determine them”). This is, of course, mere speculation, but it certainly seems odd that the club’s official statement could be worded in such a way.

Another curious aspect of the case is the way in which it seems to have been dealt with by the Football League. It has been reported that the League found out about these breaches last year, but passed them onto the FA for them to deal with because they didn’t have rules against third party ownership in the same way that the FA and the Premier League do. The FA have since allowed QPR to buy out the third party clause in Faurlin’s contract, making him eligible to play for them this season, but the fact that his eligibility for this season was dealt with in this way may cause questions to be asked over whether he was eligible to play before this buy-out took place.

For all the talk of points deductions, it is worth pointing out that there is no precedent within English football in terms of deducting points from Queens Park Rangers this season. The closest case that springs to mind is that of Carlos Tevez during the 2006/07 season at West Ham United. Tevez, of course, played a season for West Ham United, playing a crucial role in keeping them in the Premier League, before it became apparent that his contract was partially-owned by businessman Kia Joorabchian’s Media Sports Investment company. Sheffield United – then, as Queens Park Rangers are now, managed by Neil Warnock – appealed to the Premier League to be reinstated in place of West Ham, but this was rejected and the matter was eventually resolved with West Ham having to pay United £20m in an out of court settlement.

All of this may shed some light on a story that appeared in the press last week, that QPR are up for sale at present, with a group of businessmen interested in buying the club from the current owners. It certainly seemed as if this was odd timing. After all, none of those that own the 67% majority share-holding in the club could be described as life-long Rangers supporters and, if they were to cash in on their investment, might it not have been wiser to wait until the club actually is in the Premier League? Perhaps the answer to this question lies deep in the charge sheet the the Football Association has been preparing against the club.

In view of the precedent – if such a word is appropriate at present – set by the Tevez case, it seems unlikely that QPR will be deducted any points. It’s not unimaginable that they will by any stretch of the imagination, but it still doesn’t feel, even at this early stage in the story, as if there is any will whatsoever within the game to actually punish clubs for this sort of thing. Alejandro Faurlin is clearly a very talented player and is extremely popular with the club’s supporters. The question of whether the reason he signed for QPR in the first place because they were prepared to play fast and loose with the rules regarding third-party ownership and agents may, however, hang in the air for the time being, at least.

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