7 points clear of 2nd place Swansea on the 9th of March would ordinarily be a wide enough margin to call NPower Championship leaders Queens Park Rangers an odds-on favorite for automatic promotion. However, with a flair for the futile that has become horribly consistent for the West London club’s deep-pocketed ownership, the Guardian’s David Conn reports QPR might be docked 10 points or more after being charged by the Football Association with fielding a player — Argentine midfielder Alejandro Faurlin (above), a key component in the current campaign —-whose ownership is held by a third party.

QPR were also charged with “using or seeking to pay an unauthorised agent” when the player was signed in July 2009. The FA did not say who the unauthorised agent was but the governing body considers it a serious offence for a club to deal with anybody in a transfer who is not licensed as an agent under Fifa regulations.

The club and its chairman, Gianni Paladini, were also charged with submitting false information in documents lodged with the FA when Faurlin signed an extension to his playing contract in October 2010. All players’ contracts with clubs have to be sent to the FA and it is understood that this seventh charge also relates to dealing with an unauthorised agent.

Just one of these charges on its own could produce heavy penalties, including swingeing fines and points deduction. In June 2008 Luton Town were docked 10 points by an FA disciplinary commission for breaches of rules which included dealing with unlicensed agents in four transfers, none as substantial or high profile as that of Faurlin. No club has yet been charged for breaching the prohibition on third?party ownership introduced in 2009, so the FA commission hearing the QPR case will be under pressure to set a convincing precedent if it upholds the charges. The FA will be keen to have the case decided soon, so that any penalty will come into effect this season.

Conn points out that when West Ham were merely fined in 2007 rather than docked points for the improper signing of Carlos Tevez, Sheffield United’s manager at the time, Neil Warnock —currently in charge at Loftus Road — was amongst the most vocal critics of an decision that allowed the Hammers to remain in the Premiership, while the Blades were relegated.