QPR: The Four Year Plan

There must be something about documentaries about sports – they’re often really rather good. So, on Sunday night the BBC showed a documentary about QPR. It starts in 2007 with the Championship club struggling and taken over by the financial giants Flavio Briatore, Bernie Ecclestone, Lakshmi Mittal and Amit Bhatia. They have a four year plan to get the team back into the Premiership.

Apparently they financed the film but had no say over the edit, and it’s a really candid look at how a, or rather this particular, football team is run. The West London team used to be good! It was in the original Premier League. And the new owners, with their influx of cash, desperately want the team not only to return to the Premiership, but also to European football. They’ve got the money, but have they got the players and the coaching staff to do this?

The star of the film is Flavio Briatore. In cahoots with his Italian “sporting director”, Gianni Paladini, he sacks Iain Dowie after 15 matches because he feels like it. Flavio runs the team like he would if he were playing Championship Manager. He even directs the substitions. He then brings in Paulo Sousa but the team just can’t score goals. They’re also losing money because they haven’t come to a settlement with Dowie. And the fans are feeling alienated. Even Paulo Sousa is not good enough, especially when he starts badmouthing the board in the press. But meanwhile the Italian mafia at the club sit in the stands at Loftus Road swearing at the players and the coach. It’s hilarious.

The arrival of Jim Magilton for the 2009-10 season starts off well with some great goals but soon goes downhill.  Magilton leaves after an altercation and is replaced Paul Hart. He leaves within a month. It’s interesting to have insight into some of the financial meetings. It’s also interesting to see how quickly these managers can be turned around with Flavio branding all previous managers “idiots”. QPR slide perilously close to relegation and attendance is embarrassingly low, with those who do attend just there to shout abuse at the chairman. The airing of this documentary is completely appropriate at this time with QPR’s West London rivals Chelsea undergoing another managerial crisis. But I don’t think Chelsea have ever had 5 managers in one season!

When Flavio Briatore withdraws, and lets Amit Bhatia replace him, there’s a sudden turn around in fortunes. They start winning matches and they appoint Neil Warnock as manager. We see Amit throughout the documentary and he seems to be quite a down-to-earth guy who talks to the fans after matches and in consultations, and also talks to the players. He tells Gianni Paladini to stop swearing at the players. And the 2010-11 season sees success and promotion to the Premiership, not without concern about the legalities of the purchase of Faurlin and a possible points deduction.

All in all, an interesting documentary about the inside goings-on and machinations within a top-flight football club. It wasn’t really advertised and I only caught it on iplayer because someone recommended it. It’s not about the football, it’s about some rich people who act like little boys, and for that it’s worth a look.

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