“Well, professionals don’t run the football club, Brian. The chairman does. If it’s true football is all about money, that’s the way its going well. that suits us chairmen just fucking fine
because we’re the ones who’ve got it (emphasis my own)
from the film “The Damned United”
If “The Damned United” prophesied the modern chairman ‘The Four Year Plan’ shows what can happen when those words come to fruition.
“The Four Year Plan” follows the fortunes of QPR owners and billionaires Flavio Briatorre, Bernie Ecclestone, Lakshmi Mittal and Amit Bhatia (Mittal’s relative) from when they brought the west London club to the club’s promotion into the top flight. Notice here that I said it follows the owners and not the club because, throughout you are firmly shown that this is the owner’s story. Just over a minute has elapsed when the following notes appears on the screen “When they arrived, the new bosses brought in the cameras. Though they financed much of the filming they did not control were the cameras pointed or what ended up in the film.” This note is crucial because, it explains why and how the filmmakers followed the owners so tightly. Simply put the owners from the very beginning intended this to be about them and in that they succeeded. We get to see board meetings where the spending on flowers for corporate boxes is discussed and we get to see the executives yell and shout and it is for the most part entertaining. What we get very little of is insight from the manager and coaching staff. There is nothing about the form of player x or the need to do y because the next opposition are weak there. And this is not a criticism because the film is only tangentially connected to football. It is more a study in arrogance.
This is a film that follows the executives because they are of the conceit that they are the ones doing the stuff that really matters. They spend the money. They are best placed to pick the team. They are the competent ones. The film delights in showing just how far from the truth this can be. Flavio Briatorre takes centre stage and does his damnedest to manage the team personally. We watch him hire and fire managers in search of someone strong. Someone so strong that they will also accept tactical instructions sent via text mid-game. We watch Briatorre criticise a manager for playing too many players up front and conceding goals only to be seen in the next scene slamming the lack of forwards on the pitch. Indeed this film is so revealing regarding the antics of the boardroom that I am surprised that they allowed it to see the light of day.
Should you watch this film then? If you are interested in sport then I would say yes. “The Four Year Plan” will show you why you wish things were different. At numerous times during the film the disconnect between the owners and fans is clearly shown. Attendances are low and the home games seem devoid of atmosphere but there is no talk of dropping ticket prices. Even when the matter is raised by fans at forums the executives still appear to dance around the issue because, for them it is all about the money. If you are not a sports fan then my instinct would be that this is something to watch on a rainy day indoors but certainly nothing to search out.