QPR, Alejandro Faurlin and the great unknown

In early March, the FA charged Queen’s Park Rangers with seven alleged breaches of rules concerning undisclosed third-party ownership of Alejandro Faurlin, writes Jon Keen. These charges also include allegations of “using or seeking to pay an Unauthorised Agent” in relation to the player’s registration in July 2009, and of the submission of false information in documents submitted to the FA when Faurlin’s contract was extended in October 2010.

The alleged issues had apparently been discovered by the Football League in September 2010, but since they don’t have regulations forbidding third-party ownership they passed the information to the FA, who do have relevant rules over player ownership. These rules banning any third-party ownership were brought in after the so-called ‘Carlos Tevez affair’ — when West Ham were fined (but not deducted points) for improper third-party ownership of Tevez.

Norwich City
Position: 2nd
Points: 83

A fan’s view – Matt Wallace

Through all the accusations and newspaper reports, denials and speculation, the overriding feeling I have towards the QPR situation is relief that it is irrelevant to Norwich going up. But I also have little sympathy for QPR. I’m not one of the fans who believes they deserve to go up because they’re clearly the best team in the league this year (though they are). No team is owed anything, and I suspect that if QPR were lower in the league, there wouldn’t be half as much speculation.

You only deserve to be promoted at the end of a 46-game season if you stay within the rules. That is the choice the FA has to make. If they decide that QPR haven’t broken any rules, then fine. If other teams don’t get promoted because of that, then it won’t be QPR or the FA’s fault; it’ll be theirs for not winning enough games.

If the FA decide that QPR have broken rules, then a punishment has to be imposed, regardless of QPR’s finishing position or the consequences on the play-offs. There is no virtue in winning the title with an illegally registered player who you lied about, if that is what the FA decide has happened.

So I have no sympathy. You either stick within the rules, or pay the consequences, and all teams, Norwich, Cardiff, QPR and the rest, have to take ownership of their decisions and their results and try to be masters of their own fate. Thankfully, Norwich fans like myself can already sit back, relax and enjoy our summer.

The greatest irony of all is that one of the fiercest critics of the Premier League for not imposing a points deduction then was the manager of the team that was relegated when West Ham survived through Tevez’s last-day goal at Manchester Utd.

At the time, Mr N Warnock, of Sheffield, made noises about taking legal action against West Ham, and was quoted as saying “I find it amazing that Richard Scudamore is still in a job at the Premier League. I just find it amazing. I think all along if the facts were known it would have been dealt with sooner.“ I wonder what Mr Warnock is doing these days…

Despite the irony, there are major differences between this and the Tevez case. The FA’s charges against QPR are brought under “FA Rules C1(b)(iii) and E3, and the Third Party Investment in Players Regulations, A1 and A2.” These are new regulations and have never been tested before, so there are no precedents to go on. And whilst the Tevez case was brought by the Premier League (the relevant competition organiser), this case has been brought by the FA, who have greater jurisdiction — and greater powers — than an individual league.

But there really is no precedent in this case — it’s quite unlike any others in the past. For starters, most punishments are imposed by leagues rather than the FA, and as far as I can tell there have only been three significant punishments imposed by the FA over recent years:

  • Spurs being deducted 12 points from the following season’s Premiership campaign in 1994
  • Swindon being initially relegated to Tier 3 despite winning the 1990 play-off final (on appeal, the relegation was cancelled and Swindon stayed in Tier 2)
  • Luton’s 10-point deduction and £50,000 fine for making irregular payments to agents in 2008.

But although these illustrates the range of punishments the FA can impose, all of these offences are very different to those QPR are charged with.

Cardiff City
Position: 3rd
Points: 79

A fan’s view – Joe Harrison

QPR have thoroughly deserved promotion this season and I firmly believe the FA will not deny them this. However, I believe equally firmly that they should. It is a case of obvious interest to me as a supporter of Cardiff City, who before the judgement stand as one of two teams (along with Swansea) who might benefit from any points deduction handed to Rangers, but my opinion would be the same whoever were in this position. QPR signed Alejandro Faurlin in a manner deemed illegal by FA rules. It also appears that they were aware of this and sought to hide it, possibly an even worse offence.

It could therefore be argued that if QPR are found guilty and he was incorrectly signed, Faurlin is an ineligible player. If a team plays an ineligible player in the FA Cup, as Bury did in 2006, they are immediately disqualified from the competition, so logically the extreme argument could even be to dock QPR all the points they gained in matches involving Faurlin, while a ten-point deduction and a fine would match the FA precedent set in their handling of Luton Town.

However, the inevitable appeals, disruption to the play-offs and general uproar that this would cause mean that I expect merely a heavy fine and slap on the wrist, a price well worth paying for promotion to the Premier League.

The biggest talking point about this case — and this is where there are similarities with the Tevez case – is in the timing, right at the very end of the season. The FA Commission’s verdict is due to be announced this Friday (May 6th), the day before the Championship’s final round of matches.

So any points deduction is bound to throw the Championship play-offs into chaos, since it’s inevitable that QPR would appeal against a deduction and this would reportedly take up to ten days to resolve. It’s looking more and more as though clubs in the play-off mix have been warned by the Football League of a potential week’s delay in staging the play-offs.

Swansea City
Position: 4th
Points: 77

A fan’s view – Abigail Davies

In my opinion, a decision on Rangers’ fate should have been reached before this stage of the season. With the initial problem surfacing two months ago, there should already have been a procedure in place to ensure there were no delays when penalising teams in this situation.

I think it would be harsh to strip Rangers of the title with a points deduction. Having watched them play a number of times this season, I feel they have been far superior to the majority of sides I’ve seen and are well worthy of their achievement. Their players and fans have remained committed to the cause for the duration of the season, working hard to gain promotion to the Premier League after a 15 year absence.

I think that, despite any breach of the rules, a much more feasible solution would be to punish the club financially or even deduct points from them at the start of next season.

Everyone is now scratching their heads at how the FA has allowed this situation to develop, and why it’s taken so long to convene this disciplinary commission. The charges were announced on March 9th, so surely this was early enough to ensure that a commission could convene much earlier?

It’s now virtually impossible for the commission to make a ruling without having one eye on the Championship table, consciously or not, and this is a situation no-one likes and one which potentially leaves the FA open to all sorts of legal challenges from other clubs.

This is anything but a simple case of wrong-doing – it centres on the complexities of contract terms and detailed forms of words in these, so it really is one for the lawyers to argue over. But if QPR are found guilty — by no means a foregone conclusion — whatever the FA Commission decides is bound to be open to criticism and possibly challenge. A fine would provoke accusations of the FA “going soft” on QPR, as would a small points deduction that didn’t affect league positions.

The most significant charge is that “The Club and Club Official Gianni Paladini … charged in respect of allegedly false information contained in documents submitted to The FA in relation to the same player signing an extension to his playing contract with the Club in October 2010.”

Position: 5th
Points: 74

A fan’s view – Russell Hammant

Should QPR be docked points? If they broke the rules and this is the punishment, then that’s what should happen – nice and simple, right? No, it’s not that simple, especially when the FA are involved. As they didn’t submit a piece of paper, all the other teams should suffer? Is it really fair that a team as good as QPR drop down from runaway league leaders into the play-offs and then the other teams, who aren’t quite as good, lose to them all over again and miss out on their chance to go up?

As a Reading fan, I can honestly say I don’t want to see QPR in the play-offs. We’ve lost to them twice this season and if we lost again, it would leave a very bitter taste — they shouldn’t be there and we shouldn’t be losing to them again. It’s not QPR that should be taking the rap really, it’s the FA.

Their massive incompetence is showing through once more and they are the ones that should get the blame — either by looking spineless and not deducting points or by deducting points and being dragged through the courts by the other teams. Either way, the FA are in the spotlight and yet again for the wrong reasons.

Should QPR be found guilty, the implication in this charge that they knew about the situation and deliberately tried to cover it up suggests that a slap on the wrist or a small fine is unlikely, and that the FA would want to flex their muscles — even more so in the wider context of the on-going the Select Committee Enquiry into Football Governance. Many witnesses to this have criticised the FA as being unable to govern the game adequately and this, together with a new Chairman in place, may make the FA inclined to demonstrate their strength.

But a larger points deduction would delay the play-offs whilst there was an appeal, and open a real can of worms for all the affected clubs — and potential legal challenges, too. The FA are staying tight-lipped so far — which can only be a good thing and is an indication that they’ve learnt not to make public statements which might leave judgements open to appeal later.

Nottingham Forest
Position: 6th
Points: 72

A fan’s view – Pat Riddell

I don’t have a lot of time for Neil Warnock but, and it pains me to say, that doesn’t detract from the job he’s done with QPR. Fully deserving champions, Warnock has inspired a team to dominate the Championship this season having spent comparatively very little money. Evidently, though, the player in question, Alejandro Faurlin, has played his part…

But rules are rules. And, by all appearances, QPR’s defence of the charges against them is ignorance of the rules. I don’t see that standing up in court and it shouldn’t in front of an FA disciplinary hearing – and an independent QC.

The problem now is that the FA, being the FA, have conspired to create a situation that threatens to derail the whole season – not just for QPR but the five teams below. If they’ve known about the issue for so long, why leave it until now? Dock points when the charges were announced on 9th March and would QPR have dropped points against Derby, Hull or Scunthorpe? Why create turmoil?

Unless they bottle it, fine QPR a few thousand pounds and pretend it never happened? And then they’re accused of being lenient and opening themselves up to lawsuits from all clubs affected. Dock 10-15 points and QPR are suddenly in the play-offs – and which team will be happy about that?

The FA are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. This should have been nipped in the bud very early on and, frankly, it’s a disgrace whatever the result. My guess is that the FA will dock QPR five points, ensuring both QPR and Norwich are promoted without affecting the play-offs. And that will be as much of a sham as any other outcome.

The only potential way out if QPR are found guilty is one that relatively few people have mentioned so far — a points deduction effective next season. That would mercifully leave the play-offs intact, and would punish QPR by massively stacking the odds of Premier league survival against them, but would still guarantee them the Premier League’s bounty as well as four years of parachute payments, so is still an unsatisfactory solution for many.

Really, the FA have painted themselves into a corner with the timing of this hearing, and the internal workings of the FA in this case brings to mind a bowler-hatted Oliver Hardy, wearing an FA blazer, shaking his head…

“Here’s another fine mess you’ve gotten me into.”

Queen’s Park Rangers
Position: ?
Points: ?

Editor’s postscript

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “I’ve read nearly 2,300 words on a seemingly impenetrable subject already, this is no time for a postscript – particularly not one written by that idiot editor…”

In truth, the QPR saga has made me feel like a complete idiot at times. Here, landing right in my specialist subject’s backyard, is an absolute beauty of a subject, about which brilliant observations could be made. Sadly, all I have been able to muster for the most part is a fumbling, head-shaking ball of confusion.

As intimated above, the FA have turned themselves into the bad guys in this scenario due to the timing of the decision… haven’t they?

Then, just as I was putting all these excellent contributions together, I was alerted to a post written by a Cardiff fan that had been posted on a Swansea forum. So, with thanks to @mophead_88, I present to you an unidentified author’s fascinating take on the situation:

There are no more words, promise. Just click this and see what you think.

The Seventy Two
The Seventy Two published an outstanding series of articles about the Football League between 2010-12 and was the brainchild of Leicester City fan, David Bevan. As well as collaborating with The Two Unfortunates on the Football League Blog Network and a mammoth 2011-12 season preview, the site featured a host of leading bloggers and David was rewarded with a nomination in the 2011 Football Supporters’ Federation awards. Latterly, he was joined as co-editor by Joe Harrison and TTU is happy to present this archive of the site’s output.


  1. janebrooks
    May 4, 2011

    as a fan i feel it is very unfair if the Fa do deduct points of the rangers it is not fair on the fans who go each week it would be much fairer to fineand let them go up as champions to the premiership

    • kevind..Leeds fan
      May 4, 2011

      agreed, now can we have our 25 points back please….

  2. normangunston
    May 4, 2011

    Really enjoyed this piece thankyou – and this comment is in part designed to correct its one obvious gap… a Leeds United (7th at time of writing) fan’s point of view.

    When Leeds were down we got a kicking from every club in the league, to the tune of a 25 point fine (10 in one season, 15 in another). So when you ask me whether I feel any compassion for the plight of QPR, I do not. You break the rules you get punished. This whole “punishing the fans” argument is, with respect, rubbish. I don’t recall people caring about us Leeds fans when we got deducted 25 points. Or the fans of Luton when they lost 10 points and their league status.

    The key is making the punishment accord with the crime and the timing of the hearing, day before the final round of the season, absolutely stinks to high heaven. We’re all thinking it so I’ll say it: the FA have given themselves the leeway to punish QPR as much as they can without actually stripping them of promotion.

    I expect a heavy fine and a minor points deduction. You can bet an organisation as dysfunctional as the FA doesn’t want the billionaire owners of QPR taking them to court.

    • theseventytwo
      May 4, 2011

      It did cross my mind to seek a Leeds fan’s view, particularly given your recent history with points deductions.

      I had to draw the line somewhere though as this was a mammoth task to pull together as it was!

      Thanks for the comment, everything I read about this situation shapes my opinion a little bit more…

    • Joe Harrison
      May 4, 2011

      Couldn’t agree more on the “punishing the fans” argument – totally irrelevent and used as an excuse too often (as in the West Ham – Tevez case I believe). Of course it’s unfortunate for fans, it isn’t their fault but the club broke the rules then tried to cover it up so have to face the consequences and can’t use their fans as a shield to hide behind.

      I also think it’s wrong how much impact context seems to have – the FA will do what they like to a team already near the bottom or at the start of the season but as soon as the potential controversy of a team missing out on promotion comes up they seem less willing, as well as clubs with relative political clout of course. We’ll have to wait and see what they end up doing I suppose but if they fail to match Leeds’/Luton’s punishments they’ll be shown up to be as craven as they were over West Ham.

  3. GT
    May 4, 2011

    Why were the football league rules not in sync with the FA? QPR did not break Football League rules, the rules of the competition they participate in. How can you have two bodies with different rules?

  4. Damon
    May 4, 2011

    As a counterpoint to criticism of the FA, where lawyers, rules, regulations and compliance are concerned, a couple of months preparation for a case is very much super quick. You refer to any regulatory body in any sphere of life and a couple of months is not only at the very low end of the spectrum it is not unusual for such things to go on for years.

    Also, the FA’s powers have been eroded by the Premier League to such an extent that they cannot afford f**k ups. If the FA get something ‘legally’ wrong, they’ll get taken to the cleaners, which could put the game in this country in some peril.

    Of course, that is not to say that the FA shouldn’t occasionally grow some bollocks, nor should they be above criticism, but they have to pick their fights carefully and, when picked, they have to deal with them correctly, not swiftly and badly.

    • theseventytwo
      May 4, 2011

      I think this is the point of view that I, and others, have been coming round to as well.

      It’s been a remarkable case in that even the most established, educated and erudite football writers don’t seem to have a clue what will happen. Of course, whatever happens, there will be fans saying “I told you so”, but the reality is that anything could happen.

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    […] QPR, Alejandro Faurlin and the great unknown » The Seventy Two […]

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    • theseventytwo
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