Queens Park Rangers' new owner, Tony Fernandes, has vowed to review contentious ticket price rises before the club's next home match and to reconnect with disenfranchised fans after taking control in a £35m deal.
Neil Warnock hailed the deal, which ends the turbulent tenure of Bernie Ecclestone and Flavio Briatore, as "momentous", the manager saying it would give him the platform to keep the club in the Premier League. "It's a fantastic day for me personally. As a manager, results determine if you get the sack. You hope you are given a fair crack of the whip and have an opportunity to try."
Warnock will now target players including West Ham United's Scott Parker. "Up to today I did fear if we had enough structure to progress. To be on a level playing field with a third or two-thirds of the Premier League is a great opportunity for me, my staff and my players."
Fernandes, with a personal fortune estimated at more than £200m, underlined his support for Warnock and promised to back him in the transfer market, with a renewed bid for Parker already under consideration. The Malaysian, a lifelong West Ham fan who has failed in two attempts to buy the East End club and in the process fell out with David Gold and David Sullivan, said he had always had a "soft spot" for QPR, having lived on the Uxbridge Road for "many years".
But although the AirAsia chief executive pledged funds to invest in the long-term development of the club's academy and infrastructure, and is believed to have promised Warnock around £10m for players, he said fans should not expect a benefactor with limitless funds."I don't believe you can run any venture that isn't profitable. You have to build a proper structure for the business to develop," he said.
Fernandes, the co-owner of Formula One's Team Lotus, pointed to his experience in that sport in controlling costs and exploring the potential for exploiting social media and new ways of engaging with fans and sponsors.
"My whole life has been building things. At AirAsia I bought the airline for £250,000 and it was two planes and losing lots of money," Fernandes said. "In the first year we did 200,000 passengers and 10 years on we're doing 32 million. I think football is a fantastic business if run well and it's a fantastic brand-building business for the things that we do."
His long-term business partner, Kamarudin Bin Meranun, has also invested in the deal and will join the board. Fernandes said QPR were a "rough diamond" in a "fantastic location" and had "huge potential to develop into something special".
Despite winning promotion to the Premier League, disgruntled fans have been concerned by huge ticket price rises and a lack of investment in the team. Fernandes said they would "definitely" review ticket prices.
"We will seek views from the management and fans. Talk is easy but implementation is much more difficult. My view is that this is a club for everybody and, if we have to make changes, we will. If we are to make an announcement, it will be before the next home game."
Amit Bhatia, who resigned as chairman in May after clashing with Briatore over issues including ticket prices, will return to the club as vice chairman. Lakshmi Mittal, the Indian steel magnate with a £17.5bn fortune, has retained his 33% stake in the club. Phil Beard, who was director of marketing for London's successful 2012 Olympic bid and oversaw the Millennium Dome's conversion into the O2 arena, will be the club's new chief executive.
Fernandes said that he and Bhatia would explore the possibilities for exploiting QPR in Asia and India and said his AirAsia and Malaysian brands would be "heavily involved" in the club. One of them is likely to be emblazoned on QPR's shirts.
Fernandes, an avid Tweeter, said he hoped to use social media to make bring the club closer to fans. "The power of social media is to be as close to the fanbase as you can. They can interact with you and tell you good and bad. That's the way I want to run the club, I want to be open and transparent." He said he had already received hundreds of messages from fans.
Warnock, who saw his team beaten 4-0 at home by Bolton Wanderers in their first Premier League match for 15 years, said it was unlikely any new faces would come in before Saturday's match at Everton but he would be "disappointed" if there were none before their match against Wigan Athletic on 27 August.
"We have got to look to the future now. It gives me a fighting chance to bring the players in that I think are needed to stabilise us at the top level," Warnock said.
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