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QPR vice-chairman Amit Bhatia resigns

Thu 26th May 2011 | Football Club Management

QPR vice-chairman Amit Bhatia has resigned after lifting the lid on another boardroom dispute at Loftus Road.

Bhatia, the son-in-law of Rangers' billionaire co-owner Lakshmi Mittal, has quit in the wake of chairman Ishan Saksena's removal and the decision to massively increase ticket prices next year.

He also revealed Mittal has tried, and failed, to buy out Flavio Briatore and Bernie Ecclestone, although the family intend to retain their stake in the club.

The latest upheaval will cast fresh doubt on the future of manager Neil Warnock, who was appointed by Saksena 15 months ago and whose job Bhatia recently claimed was safe after he guided them to promotion to the Barclays Premier League.

Briatore and Ecclestone are thought to favour a so-called 'bigger-name' manager in the top flight with Marcello Lippi and Claudio Ranieri linked with the role.

The widely-anticipated ticket-price rises - up to 40% for season tickets and a top price of £72 on a match day - are also in line with Briatore's vision to turn Rangers into a 'boutique' club.

And Bhatia's departure will lead to fears that Rangers could once again go back to the hiring and firing culture of the previous four years.

"It is with a heavy heart that I tender my resignation as vice-chairman of Queens Park Rangers Football Club," Bhatia said in an open letter to the fans obtained by Press Association Sport.

"It has been the greatest honour to have served this club as an owner and board member for the past three years.

"Although there have been challenges, the last 15 months have been a period of stability and success and it gives me immense pleasure to see QPR back in the Premier League where I feel the club belongs.

"However, it is clear to me from recent board meetings that my vision, strategy and direction for the club is very different from that of the other shareholders and board members.

"The recent decisions to sack club CEO and chairman Ishan Saksena and significantly increase season ticket prices are just two of the decisions I disagree with.

"While it saddens me to leave QPR after such a successful season and at the beginning of an exciting new phase, I do not wish to be associated with or take responsibility for decisions made by the board and with which I disagree so strongly."

Bhatia added: "The Mittal family had been in discussions concerning the possible acquisition of the club.

"However we have been unable to reach agreement on this matter and therefore those discussions have now come to an end. Although no longer a decision-maker at QPR, I shall continue to be a 33% owner and a 100% fan of the club.

"In due course, we will appoint a board representative to monitor my family's investment in the club.

"I shall look forward to supporting the club as a fan next season and would like to thank Neil Warnock for his leadership and friendship over the past 14 months.

"It has been my pleasure to work with him and be part of the club's recent success and wish the club every success in the Premiership."

Rangers fans are predictably unhappy with the hike in prices, with the cheapest adult tickets now costing £47.

"It's an absolute disgrace and, yet again, underlines the total contempt the owners of QPR have for the fans," said Paul Finney of the Independent R's website.

"Flavio Briatore's dream is a 'boutique' club, which has an exclusive feel to it and is the place for wealthy people to be seen.

"Not only is that a slap in the face of QPR supporters, it is not in the long-term interests of a club that has two other Premier League clubs (Chelsea and Fulham) on its doorstep."

In a statement, Rangers defended their ticketing policy.

"The board are keen to stress that the prices are in line with other London-based Premier League Clubs, and are encouraged by early sales figures following the release of season tickets," it read.

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