SBD/August 19, 2011/Franchises

New QPR Owner Tony Fernandes Plans To Cross-Promote EPL Club, AirAsia

Fernandes will review ticket prices before club's next home match

AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes officially assumed ownership of EPL club Queens Park Rangers on Thursday and "vowed to review contentious ticket price rises before the club's next home match and to reconnect with disenfranchised fans," according to Owen Gibson of the GUARDIAN. Fernandes “pledged funds to invest in the long-term development of the club’s academy and infrastructure," but he said that fans "should not expect a benefactor with limitless funds." He added, “I don’t believe you can run any venture that isn’t profitable.” Fernandes' business partner Kamarudin Bin Meranun "has also invested in the deal and will join" the QPR board, while former club Chair Amit Bhatia will return as Vice Chair. Fernandes said that he and Bhatia “would explore possibilities for exploiting QPR in Asia and India and said his AirAsia and Malaysian brands would be ‘heavily involved’ in the club.” One of the brands "is likely to be emblazoned on QPR’s shirts.” Fernandes, an avid Tweeter, said that he hopes “to use social media to bring the club closer to fans” (GUARDIAN, 8/19). The GUARDIAN’s David Conn notes Fernandes “made no secret that he was motivated to buy QPR ... not only for the love of football, but as a sponsorship, marketing vehicle for AirAsia.” Fernandes said, “Many people do not realise the power of sport to market a brand. You can spend £40M on advertising and have nothing like the same effect. Around the world, everybody watches Premier League football” (GUARDIAN, 8/19). While no financial terms of the deal were revealed, sources indicated that the price "would have been nowhere near" the US$165.8M that former QPR Owner Bernie Ecclestone "had been reported to be seeking” (FINANCIAL TIMES, 8/19).

CONFLICT OF INTEREST? BLOOMBERG NEWS' Tariq Panja reported AirAsia parent company TuneGroup "sponsors the referees" in the EPL. Tune Group “agreed on a three-year contract last year to have its brand emblazoned on the uniforms of match officials.” Fernandes said that he spoke with EPL officials "about the agreement and doesn’t think it’s a problem.” Fernandes: “I actually conveniently forgot about it. I don’t think any referees are going to say ‘Tune is sponsoring me so I am going to make sure QPR win’” (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 8/18). 

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