Instead of having to deal with British record signing Angel Di Maria in front of 75,000 people at Old Trafford in the Premier League, QPR could be playing in front of a few hundred fans on tiny grounds in football's backwaters.

That is the ultimate sanction facing Harry Redknapp's west London team if they are relegated back to the Football League and fail to pay a potential 40 million-pound (USD 64.9 million) fine for being deep in the red last season.

The club's majority shareholder, airline boss Tony Fernandes who is worth an estimated 500 million pounds, has said he will challenge any fine imposed by the Football League under its Financial Fair Play rules and even refuse to pay it.

But if Rangers so go down - and on the evidence of their display at United that looks a distinct possibility - the Football League will at the very least take a long hard look at their financial situation and take action.

The warning to Rangers was issued last week by Shaun Harvey, the Football League's chief executive, responsible for the 72 clubs in the three divisions below the Premier League.

He told delegates at the Soccerex Global Convention in Manchester that if Rangers were to be relegated and refuse to pay the fine, which could be as high as 40 million if their financial figures show the losses expected from their 2013-14 promotion season, Rangers will be expelled from the competition.

That would leave them playing in the fifth tier Conference at best, but there was a real irony about Rangers opponents being Manchester United in their first match following Harvey's announcement.

For United, since being taken over by the Glazer family in 2005, have been burdened with hundreds of millions of pounds of debt - yet being one of the greatest sporting brands in the world have more or less carried on regardless.

On Sunday they fielded new talent that cost them around 157 million pounds in the transfer window, including Di Maria who joined for 59.7 million pounds from Real Madrid.

He tormented Rangers on his Old Trafford debut, scoring the first goal and along with fellow newcomer Daley Blind, who cost 14 million pounds, was instrumental in sending Rangers to a third defeat in four matches since their promotion.


At one point, United were saddled with more than 700 million pounds in debt although the figure has now come down to 342 million pounds according to the financial figures published last week.

To counteract that, United have signed a USD 559 million deal with General Motors to wear the company's Chevrolet insignia on their shirts for the next seven seasons.

Although United's profits will fall over the next 12 months as a result of missing out on European soccer in the season ahead, improved TV and sponsorship deals helped United report revenue of 433 million pounds in the year to the end of June, and core profit of 130 million pounds, both record figures.

So as far as the FFP rules brought in by UEFA over the last three years, United are in good financial health and although they have debts they do not make a loss, even if they are missing out on European competition for the first time in more than two decades.

But although QPR have Fernandes as the majority shareholder, and the Mittal family, worth an estimated 14 billion pounds by Forbes magazine, owning a third of the club, QPR face potential trouble.

Their perceived "crime" was to lose an eye-popping 65.4 million pounds in a doomed attempt to stay in the Premier League in the 2012-13 season, before spending a similar amount last season in trying to gain immediate promotion back.

Although QPR have not yet been found guilty, the threat from Harvey was plain, although he did say he hoped "a resolution" would be found when QPR return to the Football League.

"Theoretically QPR could face expulsion, but I hope there would be a resolution long before that option would even have to be considered," he said. "But it remains a possibility.

"The one thing for certain is that most of the clubs in the Premier League will become a Football League club again."

Once all the legal jargon is disposed of, the FFP rules essentially break down into two simple concepts: top clubs must live within their means and pay their bills.

QPR certainly have the means to do that and while Fernandes is unlikely to ultimately baulk at paying the fine, the club face a far tougher challenge if he ever decides to test the Football League's resolve.

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