THE Reading FC faithful made their voices heard with another protest against the club’s owner Dai Yongge on Saturday.
With many attending the Royals’ fixture against Burton Albion dressed in black, supporters threw hundreds of tennis balls onto the Select Car Leasing Stadium pitch in the 16th minute of the game – the number represented the quantity of points deducted under Mr Dai’s ownership.
The game was disrupted for more than five minutes, with the referee taking both sets of players off the pitch while staff cleared the balls away.
Reading have received a plethora of sanctions from the English Football League due to financial issues, with the club placed under another transfer embargo last week owing to its repeated failure to pay tax due to HMRC.
Sell Before We Dai, a campaign group established to force a change of ownership at Reading FC, confirmed that action would continue to take place until Mr Dai sells the club.
A spokesperson for the group explained: “We have recently held talks with politicians across the political divide. This week saw the publication of a letter signed by four Conservative MPs to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.
“The signatories include former Business Secretary Sir Alok Sharma MP and former First Secretary of State Damian Green MP, alongside James Sunderland MP and Sir Oliver Heald MP.
“A separate letter has been sent by Shadow Minister Matt Rodda MP.”
Ruben Selles’ side have already had four points deducted from their total this season, following three late payment of player wages and Mr Dai’s failure to deposit 125% of players wages into a designated account, as instructed by an independent disciplinary commission ruling earlier this year.
The letters call on the EFL to stop points deductions and ask the government to use Reading as a test case for a new independent football regulator. Its introduction would come as welcome news to clubs in similar situations.
Among the many banners on show at the Select Car Leasing Stadium over the weekend, one proved to be particularly poignant.
A sign adorned with the words ‘football has an ownership problem’ on a simple red background hit home with fans across the country as a picture of it was picked up by the well-followed @Football__Tweet account, and subsequently ‘liked’ on X, formerly Twitter, 1,367 times and retweeted by 237 people.
The banner’s creator, Matt Everson, said: “I’m fed up of seeing clubs around the country go through the same experience of mismanagement by ownership. Football clubs should not a rich boys’ ‘plaything’, they’re part of the community.
“The EFL has created this situation by not managing rules of ownership, and now we’re seeing, as we have done for decades, not fit for purpose owners put clubs out of business.
“So I wanted to send a message that it’s not just about Reading and Dai Yongge, it’s ownership up and down the country. It’s Reading with bad owners today, it could be your club tomorrow.”
Matt Rodda MP laid out actions for the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Lucy Frazer, to consider. These included: Asking the EFL not to impose any further points deductions, introducing an independent regulator – with Reading serving as a pilot club, and seeing what more can be done to address fans’ concerns about the owner.
The former leader of Wokingham Borough Council, Cllr Clive Jones, said: “It is not acceptable for owners to treat football clubs as vanity projects – without a care for the thousands of people who are Loyal Royals.
“Football clubs are at the heart and soul of communities up and down the country. For many people in Wokingham, their weekends are spent watching Reading FC.
“10 years ago, Reading were playing Premier League football. We want to get them back in the Championship and then one day back in the Premier League.”
Royals fans had carried out a similar protest two weeks prior in a fixture against Bolton Wanderers. There were significantly more balls thrown this time around, with sections of all four stands taking part in the protest.