A SUPPORTER-led campaign has seen the home of the Royals declared as Asset of Community Value.
This means that should any owner of Reading FC, current or future, try and sell the Select Car Leasing Stadium they have to go to community groups first.
The Asset of Community Value status is granted to land or buildings where the actual current use furthers the social wellbeing or social interests of the local community, and it is realistic to think that the same or another such use will continue. This means the stadium is intended to remain as a venue for football matches.
Earlier this year, STAR (Supporters’ Trust at Reading) submitted the application to Reading Borough Council. It was supported by the Sell Before We Dai group, who want to see a change in ownership of the football club, which currently sits in the relegation zone of League One following numerous points deductions.
The club also has a transfer embargo in place over non-payment of an HMRC bill, and the Football League has sanctioned club owner Dai Yongge for failing to deposit funds into a designated account by a due date.
Last weekend, fans held a protest during the home game against Burton Albion. They wore black outfits and threw tennis balls and black balloons on to the pitch, stopping play for a few minutes.
It is hoped the granting of Asset of Community Value status will give some peace of mind to fans, as the Yongge consortium will be unable to dispose of it until a specified timeframe has expired.
In the first instance there is a six-week period where the owner has to notify Reading Borough Council of its intention to dispose of the stadium, giving community groups time to prepare an initial bid. If nothing is received in that timeframe, the owner can then dispose of the stadium as they see fit.
If a community group comes forward, they then have six months to put a formal proposal together.
During that six-month period, the owner can also market the asset, but cannot agree a deal except with the community group.
Cllr Jason Brock, Reading Borough Council Leader, said: “It continues to be an understandably concerning time for every Reading supporter. While the recent points deduction was the latest blow for the club’s fans, it is fair to say the biggest battles to come will likely take place off the pitch.
“Both myself and Cllr John Ennis – who I’ve asked to be our principal liaison on these issues – were happy to meet in person with representatives of the STAR supporters’ group earlier this year and pleased for the Council to receive and subsequently approve the application to make the Select Car Leasing Company Stadium an Asset of Community Value.
“I hope the designation sends a message to the owners, but I would repeat the calls that myself and Cllr Barnett-Ward made previously to Government for far better regulation and intervention nationally.
“Councils should not be left with such limited powers when a huge part of their area’s life and soul faces real threat.”
The news has been welcomed by Sarah Turner, Sell Before We Dai spokesperson and STAR Chair.
In a statement, she said: “We are so grateful for the support of Reading Borough Council and the helpful ruling on our ACV application.
“We have seen what’s happened to other clubs in similar situations to ours when their stadium’s future is in doubt. Being granted Asset of Community Value status offers us a glimmer of hope in what has been the most unsettling period for fans in 40 years.”