Thanks to Clive Whittingham of Loft for Words who compiled the minutes.
Present from QPR:
Lee Hoos, CEO (LH)
Ian Taylor, head of media and communications (IT)
Paul Morrissey, press and media manager (PM)
From the sites:
Steve Sayce, IndyRs (SS)
Paul Finney, QPR Podcast (PF)
Bethan Lang, Not606 (BL)
Saffa Michail, Dot.Org (SM)
Hud Saunders, WATRBs (HS)
Clive Whittingham, LFW (CW)
Eusebio, QPR Report (EQR)
Neil Dejyothin (ND)
1 - Introduction
LH began the meeting by running through his background prior to arriving at QPR.
- Been in the UK for 19 years, originally from Maryland in the US with a background in legal and HR. Starting to understand cricket.
- Started at Fulham when Mohammed Al Fayed had taken over and was given a remit to build the infrastructure of the club one-step ahead of its progress on the field so that when it got to the Premier League the set up was of sufficient standard for the highest level. Looked at the way major clubs in other sports in the UK, US and Australia operated and incorporated it into a blueprint he has used at the clubs he’s worked at. LH said, when he first started in football, oddly, he found in the UK a lot of the innovation, creativity and dynamism was coming from clubs lower down the chain because they had to, and the higher up you went the more static and stuck in their ways they were.
- Spent a shorter period at Southampton post relegation from the Premier League and after their parachute payments had ended. Regretted not being able to stay there longer and have more effect. Said the board situation was complex at the time and that made it difficult to make progress.
- Milan Mandaric called him a week after he left Southampton and took him up to Leicester just after their relegation from the Championship. Integral to taking Nigel Pearson there following his departure from Southampton. Mandaric subsequently sold the club to current Thai owners after promotion back to the Championship and LH departed.
- Attracted by the stable board and presence of Eddie Howe at Burnley. Subsequently Howe went back to Bournemouth and Sean Dyche came in. Hoos, Dyche and the board focused on crafting a “one club mentality” which had key messages and aims – number one of which was ‘be financially sustainable’. Dyche bought into this and worked within it very successfully. Planning permission just granted for a training ground development which will enable them to move up from category 3 academy to category 2.
- Says the QPR owners are brilliant people, desperate for success, who have learnt some expensive lessons. Rather than spend big to get back to the Premier League the aim is to run the club more rationally and that is LH’s remit – build a solid platform from which to grow in a sustainable manner . Not a short term thinker.
2 - Club values, strengths and weaknesses
LH said he is keen to get a broad cross section of opinions, not just hear from one specific interest group. He wants to hear from people from all over the ground, season ticket holders and casual attenders, people who work for the club and play for it so he can get to grips with the DNA and the fabric of the club and build a blueprint from there.
LH asked those in attendance to say what the club meant to them, what they felt it should be and where they thought it was at the moment. From that a list of strengths and weaknesses/opportunities was produced which, by and large, tallied with what he’d been told by other QPR supporters he’s spoken to so far.
- The stadium, the location, the proximity to the pitch
- History, the flair and style of the 1970s team
- An active and pro-active fanbase, which has previously fought off mergers and collected money in hard times.
- The current media output from the club, behind the scenes access, reconnecting with supporters.
- The Community Trust
- Feels like we are moving now in the right direction.
- Loss of loyalty. The club used to be known for its long serving players and staff.
- The lack of legacy that was left owing to a couple of seasons of spending in the Premier League
- Naivety. Past decisions were not informed decisions. Heart ruling the head.
- False promises, often through the chairman’s social media.
- The debt, and lack of clarity on who holds the debt, who’s responsible for it, what happens if the backing is withdrawn.
- The bad press we attract.
- Lack of consultation, often not realising a decision being taken really matters to supporters.
- Lack of consistency in messaging has resulted in good ideas being poorly executed (Family Stand). Skewed expectation levels as a result.
3 - Question and Answer
New Stadium/Training Ground:
LH said he’s here to make the club sustainable. He said that even standing still would be falling behind, because other clubs are moving forwards all the time. The new stadium was a long term aspiration, but it is important to do it in a staged way. The first stage of that is to grow the fanbase to demonstrate there is a need for it, because it was difficult going from 10,500 season ticket holders and suddenly having a 35,000 seater stadium. LH says the training ground and infrastructure is – in his view – a key priority because improving the football is the best way to grow the fanbase.
“I would urge if it comes down to a choice, which isn’t what I am suggesting is the case at the moment, between investing in the training ground or investing in the stadium, do the training ground because that’s where the players spend all their time and that’s what will help make the difference on the pitch on Saturday at three o’clock.”
The club remains in dialogue with the Football League and whilst this issue is ongoing, the club is not in a position to comment publicly.
How the roles divide up between Les Ferdinand and LH
LH says he does not “try and play FIFA or Football Manager in real life, it’s not my role.” LH says he knows the market but the model he wanted at Burnley was the one we have now at QPR with a DoF with a CEO as a back-up and support. Les Ferdinand and Chris Ramsey calls the shots, he and Chris Ramsey are the football experts. LH says he works to enable them to do their job. He has no input on the players coming in other than how it affects the budget. They’re trying to integrate the whole operation into the ‘one club’ mentality.
Les is in charge of the playing side. LH says Les knows what financial position we have to get to on the playing side and it’s everyone’s jobs to help Les to get us there in a balanced manner.
“My job is to enable experts in their jobs and make sure they have everything they need to be successful.”
Family Stand/Lower Loft
LH asked about the potential take up for selling season tickets in the Lower School End, trying to build a regular following there and partially addressing that lack of vocal support behind the goals. The group agreed there was potential for it to be ‘occupied’ and made our own.
LH said from what he understood the idea of the Family Stand was a very good one, but poorly executed due to the lack of consultation.
LH said he saw it as part of a wider picture. He likes managers who are into their ProZone and Opta stats but doesn’t believe football works in the same way as Baseball and the famous Moneyball example. There is a place for it, it doesn’t replace the eyes and ears of a guy going out and watching a player but can raise interesting players to watch and target. Can also help reinforce what you think you saw.
Our licence to sponsor foreign employees has been restored having initially been suspended after the Sandro situation transpired. Sandro has applied for his permit to return and the club is confident he will return before the close of the transfer window. But he has conditioning work to do having missed pre-season and will not be able to return straight to the first team.
LH said the official relationship with Viagogo will not continue. That’s not to say we won’t use them to occasionally sell tickets in the future, but the current relationship is discontinued. The only way we’d consider using them is to fill the Lower School End for certain matches. We want to fill the stadium for every match, we want to move casual attenders up to members and embers up to season ticket holders. We want to market to the supporters we have data on ourselves.
LH says the club is looking into other ticket re-sale options, possibly in-house. He says there were 2,600 “no-shows” in the Premier League (people who have bought tickets but don’t turn up) on average at QPR home games. Says that the family stand rules affecting midweek attendances may skew that average. Barcoded tickets it makes it very easy to manage and it’s one of the first things LH is looking at.
LH has previously operated a ‘Supporters’ Consultation Committee’ at other clubs with a cross representation of supporters from different stands, supporter associations, disability associations and so on to meet regularly and provide feedback and get answers to key issues. The websites were asked to nominate one individual, or run it on a rotation basis, to meet with LH as part of that. First meeting early September.