Councillors condemn Reading FC owner – Reading Today Online

Reading councillors, Matt Rodda, Labour MP for Reading East and James Sunderland, Conservative MP for Bracknell at the Sell Before We Dai march in Reading. Credit: Office of Matt Rodda MP.

The owner of Reading FC has been blasted for presiding over an ‘unmitigated disaster’ as concern and indignation has been expressed over management failures.

Councillors voiced their exasperation over the declining situation at Reading FC at a full council meeting of Reading Borough Council last night (Tuesday).

The team was relegated from the Championship to League One for the 2023-24 season, and has since faced repeated points deductions and fines for rule breaches and financial mismanagement.

Councillor John Ennis (Labour, Southcote) a lifelong fan, introduced a motion calling for current owner Dai Yongge to sell the club, supporting the ‘Sell Before We Dai’ campaign and the creation of an Independent Regulator for elevated tests on those hoping to be owners.

Members spoke about the club’s proud history since its foundation in 1871, which has included 41,000 fans descending on Wembley for the winning game of the Simod Cup in 1988, and time in the Premier League in 2006-2008 and 2012-13.

That was contrasted with the relegation, repeated points deductions, and the women’s team going from professional to semi-professional football in 2023-24.

The call to action in the motion comes after fans invaded the pitch at the match against Port Vale on Saturday, January 13.

Reflecting on that action, Cllr Ennis said: “Fans decided to take back control and protest on the pitch to get the match abandoned, so their cry for help could go nationwide.

“It’s unprecedented. It’s something that Reading fans have never done, we’re not used to protesting, we’re one of the middle class clubs as others would tell us.

“But we have said enough is enough. Reading fans will not lie down and let our famous old club die.”

His motion also called on the English Football League to ‘take all possible actions towards developing a sustainable future for Reading FC.’

Supporting the motion, Cllr Simon Robinson (Conservative, Emmer Green) said: “The ownership of Reading Football Club under Dai Yongge has been nothing short of an unmitigated disaster.

“The ownership of a football club is a huge responsibility, and not just a status symbol for the mega wealthy in that you need to seriously invest in it and it’s future.

“This is not the case at Reading.”

Cllr Josh Williams (Green, Park) spoke about his recent ‘excellent’ experience watching the Women’s team.

He said: “That team, along with the men’s and the youth teams, are being dragged down by failure – not of the players on the pitch, but of the owner off the pitch.

“It’s so important that the next generation can watch the Women’s team.

“The spirit of the motion is that we stand as a council shoulder to shoulder with our residents, with our town and with our club.”

Meanwhile, Cllr Richard Davies (Labour, Thames) said he first took his son to games aged 7, who is now an avid fan.

He said: “When he (Cllr Davies’ son) goes with his mates, he sits with people who are 20, 30, 40, 50 years older than him, of all different colours, creeds, genders, ages, professions, whatever.

“They sit all round him and they all have common cause, and that’s what a football team is about, it’s about bringing a town together.”

Cllr Anne Thompson (Liberal Democrats) spoke about the community value of the club.

She said: “Reading is about community, and football is about community, first and foremost.”

In particular, she mentioned the work of the Reading Football Community Trust, which helps care for, develop and educate disadvantaged or at-risk young people in the town.

Cllr Thompson said: “This is yet another reason, if we needed it, why as a council we need to support our club, and support the fans as they fight to save the club.”

Cllr Ennis summed up by saying member contributions had been ‘absolutely spot on’ and that there was support from across the political divide.

He then took a jab at ‘unfit’ club owners for being “economic vultures.”

The motion was passed unanimously during the full council meeting on Tuesday, January 30.

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