(13/12/13) - QPR break new ground with huge stadium plan

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(13/12/13) - QPR break new ground with huge stadium plan
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Sport
Friday December 13 2013 | the times
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SPORTS NEWSPAPER OF THE YEAR
QPR break
new ground
with huge
stadium plan
NIGEL FRENCH / PA
Exclusive Rail hub key to £10 billion project
Matt Dickinson
Chief Sports Correspondent
Tony Fernandes has revealed Queens
Park Rangers’ plans for a new 40,000capacity stadium at the heart of the
most ambitious development attempted by an English football club.
The new ground would be part of a
vast £10 billion regeneration over
hundreds of acres of West London, with
Fernandes predicting that the project
can turn the Sky Bet Championship
club into an established force in the
Barclays Premier League.
“This isn’t just building a stadium but
virtually a whole new community,”
Fernandes told The Times. “The
football club gives us the anchor, the
huge number of eyeballs which come
with the attention of being in the
Premier League. It is a huge project and
the stadium gives it focus and impetus.”
QPR have already started investing
in land on the Old Oak Common site,
which is just over a mile north of Loftus
Road, the club’s home for almost a
century.
They have made a reported bid of
£21 million for a site close by, have an
agreement in place with Network Rail
for large tracts of land and are ready to
put £15 million into securing outline
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planning permission. The £200 million
for stadium construction is a fraction of
the overall cost, but Fernandes insists
that the club will benefit long term from
doubling the capacity and some fans
could even enjoy cheaper tickets.
Fernandes has made his estimated
fortune of almost £400 million through
transforming AirAsia. “I feel we can sell
40,000 seats because we are building
new homes next door,” he said. “I’m a
big believer in flexible pricing and it’s
one of my dreams with a better stadium,
and London’s corporate hospitality, to
reduce the cost of some seats.”
Fernandes and his partners,
including Lakshmi Mittal, the billionaire Indian steel magnate who owns a
third of QPR, are seeking to draw in
global investors for the site, which
could also include 24,000 new homes,
offices and an indoor arena.
Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London,
gave his backing to the project in the
hope of also pushing through proposals
for a new rail hub, Old Oak Common
station, which would link Crossrail with
the troubled HS2. The Mayor said that
the new hub had the potential to spark
regeneration “on a scale not seen since
the Olympics transformed Stratford”.
QPR have partnerships with local
councils and the Greater London
Authority, the biggest hurdle being
securing hundreds of millions of
pounds in government funding to
improve infrastructure — with that
money dependent on the new rail hub
being agreed. If it comes together, QPR
hope to be in their new home in 2018.
Vision of home, pages 94-95
Roberto Soldado glances in the first of his three goals in Tottenham Hotspur’s 4-1 win over Anzhi Makhachkala last night
Done to perfection: lethal Soldado helps
Spurs make it six out of six
Europa League, pages 92-93
94
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Friday December 13 2013 | the times
the times | Friday December 13 2013
95
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Sport Football
Fernandes’s
vision for a
new home is
taking shape
despite risks
Football Sport
GRAPHIC: RODDY MURRAY FOR THE TIMES
Shape of things to come
QPR plan to build a new 40,000
all-seat stadium as part of a vast
regeneration of the Old Oak Common
area in West London
Stadium construction costs are
estimated at £200 million. The entire
£10 billion scheme covers several
hundred acres of land involving
24,000 new homes, a 5,000-capacity
arena, hotel, shops and offices
1
Old Oak Common railway station has
been proposed as a new hub
connecting Crossrail, the new HS2
between London and Birmingham, and
other mainline routes
“My biggest worry is that it is a
complicated project.” For once, the
famously exuberant Tony Fernandes is
understated. The scale of the proposed
development by Queens Park Rangers
and their property partners is not just
complex, but breathtakingly ambitious.
If all goes well, an industrial area
larger than Canary Wharf will be
transformed into a mini-city in West
London including one of the capital’s
largest rail hubs, 24,000 new homes,
shops, offices, a 5,000-capacity arena
and, at the heart of this regeneration, a
new 40,000-capacity stadium for QPR.
There has long been talk of
transforming a deprived area notable
only for Wormwood Scrubs prison.
Government has been locked in
discussion for years over a rail hub in
NW10. QPR’s hope is that driving
through the stadium project, with the
backing of Boris Johnson, the Mayor,
will create unstoppable momentum for
the recasting of hundreds of acres.
The dream is of flats overlooking the
Grand Union Canal in what is being
described, optimistically, as “Willesden
meets Little Venice”. For Fernandes,
that vision becomes perfection when
those new residents walk to a new £200
million stadium to cheer on a QPR
team established as a serious force in
the Premier League.
After a turbulent baptism in English
football, including relegation and
losses that Fernandes says halfjokingly “sometimes make me feel
suicidal”, this is the long-term plan for
QPR imagined by the club’s billionaire
Asian owners. “If I said we want to be
Chelsea or Manchester City, then you
would ask what drugs we are on,”
Fernandes says. “But what I will say is
this is fantastically exciting for QPR
fans, and for London.”
The site of Old Oak Common, or
New Queens Park, is little more than a
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QPR hope to be in their new home in
2018 but depend on Government
backing for the wider regeneration
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20
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Loftus Road
QPR first moved into Loftus Road in 1917, but the present four stands were built
between 1968 and 1982. It was home to the first artificial surface in British
professional football, from 1981-88. It was also home to London Wasps, has staged
international football and rugby league, concerts by bands including Yes, and
Barry McGuigan’s WBA featherweight title win over Eusebio Pedroza in 1985
mile north of Loftus Road so should be
welcomed by fans. Transport links will
ensure the ground is well served,
especially if the site does become the
proposed hub for Crossrail and HS2.
The risks? Are there really 40,000
QPR fans out there when Chelsea must
work hard to sell out as an established
club in the Champions League?
Fernandes
claims
the
new
community, which will include 7,000
homes in the first phase, already
guarantees more bums on seats.
As for gambling on QPR, at present
second in the Sky Bet Championship,
establishing themselves in the top
flight, Fernandes says: “There is no
guarantee QPR will have a purple
patch but we think we have enough
Agricultural
Society
1904–1907
Kensal Rise
Athletic
Ground
HARLESDEN
1899–1901
1902–1904
London
Scottish
Ground
1888–1889
Kilburn
Cricket
Ground
WILLESDEN
1888–1889
Site of
new stadium
Welford
Fields
1886–1888
Park
Royal
Ground
1907–1917
Crossrail
route
ACTON
1.5 miles
A40
(Westway)
Loftus
Road
1917–1931
1933–1962
1963–present
Gun Club
1888–1889
Home
Farm
1888–1889
Latimer
Road
1901–1902
White
Westfield City
Shopping 1931–1933
1962–1963
Centre
SHEPHERDS BUSH
QPR have called more grounds home than any other British professional club.
Before playing at Loftus Road and White City Stadium, they had played at 15 other
grounds, including ten years at Park Royal and three at the Royal Agricultural
Society Showgrounds
Fernandes says he has learnt lessons
about,” Fernandes says. “If I was a coldhearted businessman, and I wish I was,
then I wouldn’t have gone through the
pain I have. Many people still ask ‘why
QPR?’ You could buy a bigger club but
that success isn’t yours. My whole life is
about creating.”
QPR say the only way to make a new
stadium development pay is with
ancillary
property
development,
including the conversion of Loftus
Road into more than 500 properties.
Fernandes insists that the vast project
will not affect the funding of the team
under Harry Redknapp. “We will split
this into several ventures,” he says.
“There is a property company, a
stadium development company and
the football club. It’s not all in one pot.
“My first step is to ensure we are a
long-term occupant in the top division.
One of the most impressive things I
have seen in my travels is a poster at
Everton saying 20 consecutive years in
the Premier League. That’s what we
aspire to. It is very hard to compete at
that level with just over 18,000 seats.
That’s untenable, even more so with
Financial Fair Play.”
There are many hurdles to cross,
most significantly the hundreds of
millions of pounds in Government
backing necessary to improve
transport links including at Willesden
Junction, the nearest station. That
funding is almost certainly contingent
on Old Oak Common becoming a hub
for Crossrail and HS2.
For QPR, there is promotion to be
secured and the prospect of a large fine
from the Football League for declaring
huge losses in breach of FFP rules,
though Fernandes believes those
regulations may be challenged by many
clubs as unworkable. There are huge
areas of land to be bought, though that
task will be made considerably easier if
Johnson
creates
a
Mayoral
Development Corporation at Old Oak
Common, providing planning, land
assembling and compulsory purchase
order powers. QPR have already made
Inside today
Woe for sorry Wigan
but Swansea through
Europa League, pages 92-93
24
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Across
History Some of the grounds QPR called home
‘We have been working
incredibly hard to keep
QPR where its soul is’
nous about us that we should be able to
rise up in football. We have learnt some
hard lessons. I came from an oldfashioned background that, if you pay
someone a salary, they are going to
work bloody hard for you. That didn’t
happen for us. We attracted a lot of
people who were the wrong sort. We
screwed up but we won’t make those
mistakes again.
“If we miss this opportunity, we may
never have a stadium, certainly not in
this location. We could look to move
out of the area but we have been
working incredibly hard to keep the
club where its soul is.”
To use Fernandes’s business
parlance, QPR plan to “sweat the asset”,
ensuring the new ground is not just for
football
matches
but
all-year
entertainment. So should fans worry
that this is all about a bigger agenda,
using the football club to make a
fortune out of property development?
“I think QPR fans know what I am all
2
9
QPR hope stadium project overcomes hurdles
Matt Dickinson
Chief Sports Correspondent
Times Crossword 25,657
bids for sites, and have an agreement
with Network Rail for large areas of
land.
Fernandes, his fellow QPR investors,
and Stadium Capital Developments,
partners who previously helped
Arsenal with the Emirates Stadium,
must attract investment while putting
together
an
outline
planning
application by September next year, in
the hope that the club can be in their
new home for the 2018-19 season.
There is much to do. “We aren’t just
building a stadium but a community,”
Fernandes says.
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(9)
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draught (7-7)
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(4,4,4,2)
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time (5)
Yesterday’s solution 25,656
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recitation (4)
26 A number of socialists having
fled gather in different places
(3,3,4)
Down
1 Verity’s following routine (4)
2 Never apparently eat, as it happens, before broadcasting (4,2,3)
3 The work shy to punish so
severely? (5,3,4,2)
4 Pressure on shroud damaged
engine component (7)
5 City gent borrowed money, lacking a position in society (7)
7 One often wasted current round
top of lightning conductor (5)
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9 Opponent entering at Man
United surprisingly not fouled
(14)
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fine — except here? (7,3)
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for dips? (9)
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around Woman’s Hour (7)
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our star pupil! (7)
21 Wader steeped in detergent after
being pulled up (5)
22 Thus having been treated by
stretcher, perhaps, die (4)
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