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From The Socialist newspaper, 4 October 2007

QPR buy-out - Reclaim the game!

AT LONG last Formula 1 moguls Flavio Briatore and Bernie Ecclestone have revealed what Queen's Park Rangers fans can expect from their takeover. Under the deal, the pair will pay £1 million for the club's shares and take on £13 million in club debts. They have promised to loan the club £5 million, partly for new players, and are aiming for Premiership football within four years. The future is looking bright for the R's, or so it would seem…

Jacqui Berry

To go and see Chelsea vs. Manchester United this season at Stamford Bridge will cost fans up to £427 at the official online ticket shop. What do they charge for a pie and a pint!?

Even the less glamorous fixtures are now priced out of many fans' league. With the average cost of a ticket to a Premiership fixture now £35, the closest many fans get to their teams is a two minute round-up on Match of the Day. QPR fans can expect price rises following the takeover as well.

But given the events of recent years (FA probes, loans allegedly from a convicted tax-fraudster, and the chairman being held at gunpoint and told to sign over the club!), it's not surprising that many fans welcome Briatore and Ecclestone with open arms.

However, when asked if he was interested in buying QPR Ecclestone replied: "I am interested in anything if it is cheap enough"! Now that's commitment!

The sporting press frequently reminds us that takeovers are what every 'true' fan is longing for, but, as Sepp Blatter, President of FIFA put it: "The source of wealth is from individuals with little or no history of interest in the game, who have happened upon football as a means of serving some hidden agenda."

On the international big-business circuit, football, particularly English football, is becoming well known for its lucrative opportunities and high prestige. In recent years, the overwhelming majority of takeovers have been from foreign businessmen, who see our clubs as no more than money-making opportunities.

As more fans are priced out of the game, more seats are allocated to corporate sponsors. This is a worrying trend, which shows no signs of changing.

Fewer young people can afford to go to regular matches and many clubs have stopped or cut down on "Kids for a Quid" days. This, coupled with cries from Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon for a European Super-League, based almost entirely on TV rights, could mean that for future generations, going to a match is reserved for every other birthday.

Ultimately, a few clubs will dominate, fewer than before; the rest will struggle to build on anything stable. (Another part of Peter Kenyon's 'Master Plan' involves League 1 and 2 clubs becoming semi-pro feeder clubs for the elite teams.) At the same time, clubs entering into administration will become much more common as billionaires scramble to swallow another piece of the cold meat pie.

Formula 1 may have saved QPR from impending administration but until we kick big business out of football and establish democratic fans' control over our clubs, working-class fans will face greater alienation, instability and ultimately distance from the clubs they love.

Read Reclaim The Game by John Reid Extracts on this website.

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