QPR's story highlights the instability of employment in professional football

8 March 2012

Mat Hodgson's documentary film, QPR: The Four Year Plan, has rightly been hailed by the critics for its frank, behind the scenes insight into a particularly turbulent period in the history of the club after its take-over by a consortium of high profile billionaires.  It was compulsive viewing from start to finish and should appeal to viewers with only a passing interest in our national sport (or obsession, if you prefer).

This film has already generated a great deal of cyber comment on blogs, twitter and the like, mainly from football fans expressing delight, incredulity or (in many cases) outrage at the light cast on the management of QPR at the time.  But many would say that essentially it confirmed something we have known for a long time: that professional football can have a transformative effect on the most successful of businessmen, causing captains of industry apparently to take leave of their senses in their pursuit of a dream.  Blinded by the passion of the ordinary fan, often they end up running their clubs in a way they would never dream of running their other businesses.  Sharing the desperation of the most hardcore fans for success at any price, managers are hired and fired at the drop of a hat, and players are bought, sold and loaned in and out at an equally alarming rate.

I lost count of the number of managers at QPR in the first two seasons after the take-over.  I think that at one point they were looking for their sixth manager in a season: surely some kind of record?  It would be unthinkable for any normal business to go through so many senior management and key staff changes in such a short space of time.  But of course the endless merry go-round of management and player changes provides rich pickings for the media and plenty to talk about for the fans.  Inevitably it also generates a fair amount of really interesting legal work, with sports law being a fascinating mixture of various legal disciplines (employment, regulatory and professional discipline, and contract law, to name but a few).

There will always be those who bemoan the excesses of professional football and say that it has become a circus.  But speaking as a fan and lawyer, long may the circus and merry go-round continue!

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