How does STAR feel about the Reading FC ownership situation?
First published 13th June
Constrained. Suspended. Saddened.
For the last 18 months we’ve been trying to engage the club and its various owners in a dialogue. This began with the small issue of what was going to happen to our (and others’) small shareholdings when the TSI takeover was completed.
For some months there was a wall of silence and when we piped up to say something about this in October 2013 we were constrained upon to pipe down, in a somewhat heavy-handed manner, for the sake of the future of the club. This tone however quickly changed and a dialogue with TSI representatives began.
In these meetings we were told various things in strict confidence, which we kept, but most of which have since appeared in statements or rumours from others. This agreement imposed a constraint on what we could tell our members and supporters. By January 2014 it was clear that the Zingaverich deal was dead but positive-sounding and plausible new deals were likely to be on the table. We communicated as much as we could about our general feelings on developments via short statements on our website. Essentially our message was ‘we’ve been told to trust in the process and it sounds OK to us.’ Frankly, with delicate negotiations in progress, to which we were not party, what else could we say? We would need to and want to work with whoever completed the deal so that too was a constraint. We were told, when there is good news we would be among the first to hear it. This may of course still be true.
No deal happened in January. STAR has several times requested updates on the situation. Other than re-iterating what was already in the public domain we have had no new feedback from the club. This is not unexpected - and not unreasonable either. There probably has been no real news and they have been spending all their time trying to find new investors. While this is going on we feel in a state of suspended animation.
We really do not want to see the Madejski era end like this but none of the various parties involved in this situation have covered themselves in glory.
Reading FC’s main target this season on the pitch was a return to the Premier League via automatic promotion. Hand on heart we were never in real contention. In our view Nigel Adkins did well, given the background situation and limited resources, to take us within a minute of the play-offs. But apart from the odd game we were never convincing promotion material.
Reading FC’s main target this season off-the-pitch was to effect an orderly transition to new ownership. Those involved faced an unusually complicated situation. We believe a great deal of effort has gone into trying to find a buyer. Many have viewed, some have offered, none has bought. Whether it was the wrong buyer, the wrong price, the wrong conditions we just don’t know. We can only judge by results. There was no sale and the sale is now in the hands of those whose interests are, shall we say, more financially-driven.
The combination of these two factors has led to a fall in the notional value of the club from (maybe) £25 million to (apparently) £1. The value is a reflection of the assets, debts and prospects of the enterprise. This sudden reduction saddens us greatly, as no doubt it does those with a far greater financial stake. Those brokering the sale say they will consult stakeholders and there will be no immediate fire-sale. We would like to think as both shareholders and representatives of the supporters, without whom there would be no need for professional football in the town, we would be counted as stakeholders.
STAR’s interest is the long-term continuation of the club and the enjoyment of its supporters. We believe an organised body of supporters has a role to play in achieving both these objectives and it is best equipped to do so when working in conjunction with the football club.
Therefore we will welcome any new ownership, at its outset, and seek to develop a relationship that both meets our objectives and supports the club.
Dave Hunt's Annual Review of RFC Finances
Regular STAR members will know that each year STAR member Dave Hunt delves into the latest published finances of RFC, combines them with answers from specific questions he has raised with the them, and produces a valuable insight into the club finances in a way that can be more easily understood by the majority of supporters.
Woven into the details of Dave's latest article, which covers July 2012-June 2013, are explanations to help fans understand questions such as 'How did we get promoted to the Premiership, spent little on players and made a financial loss?' or 'Why can a club like Bolton have several years in the Premiership and end up with a £100 million debt?'.
Given the club's current push for a playoff position Dave's conclusions are interesting...'Running a club with some ambition is not for the faint hearted. For a club with Reading’s assets and support we are continuing to over achieve. If we do get promoted again we face the same dilemma. A club that buys expensive players to stay up is not guaranteed to stay up but it helps. For a club of Reading’s size the risk is amplified. A club that spends little on new players comes back down again'.
Click on the title to read more about these other football news items:
August saw supporters marching on the Premier League and Football League which brought the issue of ticket prices back onto the media's agenda. Fans from dozens of clubs were involved and a delegation met with Premier League Chief Executive Richard Scudamore and representatives from the Football League.
The FSF are encouraging anyone who has been to an away game so far to complete their survey and for those who plan to go to an away game in the future to complete this afterwards.
The results of last years survey can be found here.
Supporters Direct, to which STAR are members, continue to campaign against the Chairman’s FA Commission into the proposals for Feeder Clubs or B-Teams (referred to as League Three). This will form part of the backdrop at their annual Supporters Summit on the 26th July 2014 at Wembley Stadium.
The event will also create an opportunity for fans to shape their vision for the game, and there will be debate, discussion and workshops focusing on the identity of clubs, the involvement in the running of the game by fans, and the treatment of matchgoing supporters.
Robert Maxwell's Phantom Club, the Thames Valley Royals
The Team That Never Was - a look again at the attempted merger of Oxford Utd and RFC in 1983 by BBC South