Still sweet FA on the outcome of the QPR inquiry
On Saturday, 72 teams will take to the field for their final league fixtures of the season. Most can enjoy their games without a care, jostling between themselves for a slightly greater degree of respect amid mid-table mediocrity. Others may choose to rest players ahead of play-off duty. Still more have been promoted or relegated already. Barnet and Lincoln City will both scrap to avoid joining Stockport County in tumbling out of League Two.
And then there is Queen’s Park Rangers.
No decision will be made on QPR’s fate until after 4pm on the eve of their Championship title homecoming. So much has already been written about their predicament and – confession time – these words will offer nothing more than one person’s thoughts on the wider implications of the situation.
Give me a football pitch, 22 willing participants, a ball and some fans and I would generally be able to write about the transpiring events with a certain degree of confidence. I’ve seen enough of these things before to form an opinion about such trivial issues.
In recent years, however, it has become handy to have a sound knowledge of financial matters when writing about football with any authority. Leeds United, for example, might have blown their play-off chances in the final weeks of the season, but the really juicy story concerns their refusal to release details about the club’s ownership. In comparison, an opinion piece on their failure to reach the top six seems weightless.
At this stage of the season, attention across the Football League should be turning to the play-offs. Can Reading return to the form that propelled them into the mix in the latter part of the season? Will Huddersfield Town go one better and reach Wembley this time around? Can Stevenage gain two successive promotions? Instead, the main focus is on a team that have already been established as champions – a club that has packed its bags, but which is currently waiting impatiently in the departure lounge.
And, inevitably, a delay is announced.
It is still unclear at present whether QPR will discover the verdict of the inquiry into the signing of Alejandro Faurlin tomorrow. Before the season, Neil Warnock would have dreamed about QPR heading to Wembley in May. It is now their waking nightmare.
The length and breadth of this marvellous invention we know as the internet, football fans are doing two things: speculating wildly about the outcome of the FA inquiry and desperately seeking some sort of official confirmation. Sadly, even the best football writers in the country are at a loss to predict the end result.
It is all very intriguing, but it also makes me long for the finality and absolute nature of the game itself. When Barnet come off the pitch at Underhill on Saturday, they will know their fate. A few miles to the southwest, QPR’s players may be leaving Loftus Road not knowing when they will return, nor which division their next league fixture will take place within.
Initial reaction – from both the media and supporters of all clubs – to the announcement today that there would be no announcement until tomorrow was, it goes without saying, damning. If the FA have been investigating the Faurlin case since September, how on earth can there still be no conclusion? It is an understandable question, but here are two more:
From the perspective of the authorities, is this not the most unpalatable current scenario you could have presented as future reality back in the second month of the season when these investigations are believed to have commenced?
If the FA could have done anything at all to prevent the situation unfolding at the moment, why has this not been achieved?
For those of us who take a keen interest in these things, the timing of the decision seemed bizarre from the outset. And for many of us, this delay is no surprise either.
One argument, with considerable support, suggests it is now too late for QPR to be deducted points, given that their players, staff and fans will celebrate winning the title this weekend. Again, if that is true, surely the FA would have ruled out the spectre of a points deduction at an earlier stage than this? And who is to say that the FA “cannot” deduct points? Remind me, where does the real authority lie here? With the governing body of football in this country or elsewhere?
All of these thoughts can be dismissed with one single notion – that the FA are a ragtag bunch of incompetents, with whom our precious national game should not be trusted. It is a popular view. Within a matter of hours, depending on the outcome, it may gather more weight.
In many ways, the damage has already been done. A thrilling Championship season will end in controversy at the very least. Perhaps even chaos.
And still we wait.