Despite the odd dig at newspapers over their coverage of the Alejandro Faurlin affair, Neil Warnock is experienced enough to know how these stories tend to be covered.
Warnock is quick to point out that he isn’t able to comment too much on the issue. There are also limits on how it can be reported.
There are limits partly because, at this stage, it’s a story that’s very difficult to develop and take forward. There isn’t really much that can be added to the statements by the FA and the club. Much of the rest has been based on predictable snippets emanating from QPR this week, or pure speculation.
In some ways it’s comparable to the absolute non-story that was the Football League’s supposed threat to remove Flavio Briatore as Rangers owner.
That one took on a life of its own, despite the fact that there was never any chance whatsoever that Briatore’s status at QPR would be affected (at least by the League) because of his Formula One ban. Anyone who suggested otherwise simply didn’t understand how the club’s ownership worked and was structured.
I say comparable only in some ways, because it was another case of the media chasing its own tail and speculation being taken as fact, but the difference is that this time the issue is real, as is the possibility of a bad outcome for QPR if a verdict goes against them.
I’ve followed Faurlin’s QPR career from the very start, having done the first story that ‘Alejandro Damian Faurlin’ was on his way to London to sign for Rangers, which at the time the club were typically unamused to see appear in the press.
From my time putting that story together, I know that the situation with Faurlin was complicated and confusing, although that is often the case with overseas signings.
I also said soon after the signing went through that Instituto de Córdoba, his club at the time, received little or nothing for him, that the cost of the Faurlin transfer was one of a number of issues on which QPR fans have been misled in recent years, and that the ridiculous price tag was the result of the club’s preoccupation with sticking it to their critics.
Clive Whittingham also touched on that in an excellent article on the LoftforWords website this week, mentioning as well Gianni Paladini’s apparent suggestion on a radio programme that QPR had paid nothing for Faurlin.
Jim Magilton, Rangers’ manager at the time of Faurlin’s signing, was unhappy about the bizarre price tag placed on the player’s shoulders. The whole issue was typically badly handled by a badly-run club, and is just one of a host of examples of how poorly the club has operated since 2005.
It’s also another example of the knots QPR can tie themselves in when looking for short-term approval.
Another was the implication that the ever-popular Mittals had ended the Briatore era, which made Bernie Ecclestone’s subsequent buy-out of Briatore hard for QPR to explain. So they didn’t.
But confusion and incompetence is not the same as breaching FA rules. It’s up to the FA to prove QPR did this, and Rangers to show that they did not.
It’s certainly true that the club are very confident indeed that they have nothing to worry about. They have been keen to put out that message via those willing to report it, and it’s also reflected in Warnock’s comments.
Fans might take some comfort from that. However, since 2005 QPR have been involved in a number of legal cases, disciplinary hearings and the like, have sent out a similar message of absolute, overwhelming confidence, and lost.
That said, there is no doubt that Rangers, with the obvious strength of their owners, are now well placed to fight their corner.
The club is arguably more powerful, and certainly wealthier, than the FA and all the Championship clubs potentially affected by any verdict put together.
An outcome that denied QPR Premier League football would doubtless be challenged beyond when next season is due to start, which would be a nightmare for the authorities for obvious reasons.
It’s been speculated that the reference to “no deliberate wrongdoing” in QPR’s statement suggests they will argue that if any rules were broken, it was unintentionally.
If incompetance is to be part of QPR’s defence, the club should have plenty of supporting evidence to hand, based on events of the last few years. In fact they might need the length of the Wembley pitch to set out that argument, not merely a room within the stadium.
Paladini’s enemies, and there are plenty of them, will no doubt see all this as his potential nemesis.
On the subject of his enemies, Paladini and his allies have long suspected supposed friends of those he ousted in 2005 of plotting against him. There have been rumours of League and FA investigations into QPR’s dealings long before now.
Paladini has always argued that this, coupled with new rules brought in by the sport’s governing bodies, mean that every aspect of his work has to be absolutely beyond reproach, and any dodgy dealings on his part would be impossible to hide.
And while some of his opponents feel Paladini is finished at QPR regardless of the outcome of the FA charges, they’ve said that before.
They said it in the build-up to the infamous 2005 boardroom battle, which he won. They said it after the outcome of the Dave Morris trial. They said it after the Briatore/Ecclestone takeover. They said it when Iain Dowie, his recommendation to the board, was at loggerheads with Briatore. They said it when Paulo Sousa, a double Champions League winner, was at loggerheads with him. They said it when Paladini relinquished the title of sporting director last year and his future was assessed. And they’ve said it on numerous other occasions too.
If QPR successfully fend off the FA’s charges, or incur a punishment that doesn’t stop them being promoted, it’s perfectly possible that Paladini will emerge much stronger.
You can be certain his supporters will argue that thanks to him Rangers secured a quality player in Faurlin, paid nothing for him, and the signing was so audacious and skilful it made the FA suspicious, perhaps even earned the club a slap on the wrist, but ultimately the deal was sound, showing just what a brilliant operator Paladini is.
The man credited with saving the club – something that drives his enemies to distraction – could then be credited with getting it promoted.
Whatever else Paladini is or isn’t, he’s a survivor. A notorious survivor in a business notoriously difficult to survive in. The list of people he has seen off at QPR proves that.