Supporters’ Trust at Reading are immensely proud of the Reading FC fanbase for showing their passion and love for Reading FC in the march that took place on 28th October. The march, organised by Sell Before We Dai, was a peaceful and powerful demonstration of the fans’ dissatisfaction with the current owner and their desire for change. We believe that the march sent a clear message to the owner and the authorities that the fans will not give up on the club we love. We hope that this togetherness and spirit remains in force rallying behind the team, staff and new owner once in place.
While times remain deeply concerning, Supporters’ Trust at Reading welcome developments in football that we hope will avoid other clubs finding themselves in this perilous state. The government has committed to establish an independent football regulator in England, following the recommendations of the fan-led review into the men’s game. We expect that this will be confirmed in the King’s Speech on 7 November, given publication of a job advert for an Interim Chief Operating Officer of the Independent Football Regulator this week.
The government’s white paper on reforming club football governance sets out the comprehensive plan to introduce an independent football regulator to ensure the long-term sustainability of the English football pyramid.
The white paper also proposes establishing, in law, a new licensing system for football clubs operating in the top 5 tiers of the English football pyramid, overseen by the independent football regulator. Football clubs will be required to comply with licence conditions which seek to ensure club sustainability and the overall stability of the English football pyramid, and to protect the cultural heritage of football clubs for their fans.
In addition to the establishment of an independent football regulator, these measures aim to drive industry action in areas outside of the regulator’s remit and ensure the ongoing development of both the men’s and women’s games, at elite and grassroots levels. Some of the key pillars of these measures are:
- enhancing fan engagement and representation;
- improving diversity and inclusion;
- strengthening the integrity and transparency of the game;
- supporting the growth and sustainability of the women’s game; and
- investing in grassroots facilities and infrastructure.
The government will work with the football authorities, clubs, fans and other stakeholders to deliver these reforms and secure a sustainable future for the national game.
The white paper will need to go through several stages in both Houses of Parliament before it becomes law. These stages are: first reading, second reading, committee stage, report stage, third reading, and consideration of amendments. After both Houses have agreed on the final version of the bill, it will receive royal assent from the King, which is the formal approval to make the bill into an Act of Parliament (law). There is cross-party support for the bill, as it reflects the widespread demand for reform from fans, clubs, and MPs.
Last month the Government published its latest update CP 922 – A Sustainable Future – Reforming Club Football Governance: Consultation Response (publishing.service.gov.uk) which continues to see the development of the policy underpinning the white paper.
At STAR we firmly believe that an independent regulator is urgently needed to protect the future of English football for fans and communities, especially in light of the financial and governance crises facing many clubs, including our own. Reading FC is an extremely complex example of market failure, with an owner who has shown little regard for the club’s sustainability, community and heritage.
That is why STAR have joined the campaign for Dai Yongge to sell the club before more damage is done, through the Sell Before We Dai campaign. Earlier this week, members of Sell Before We Dai met Stephanie Peacock MP, the Shadow Sports Minister, in parliament to discuss the issues facing Reading FC and why we need an independent regulator. We are grateful for her support and interest in our cause.
We also had a constructive meeting with Trevor Birch, the Chief Executive Officer of the English Football League, and other EFL colleagues on 1st November. They acknowledged the call for an independent football regulator and stated that the EFL would raise no objections to this being considered. They also recognised the challenges and frustrations that Reading FC fans have faced under the current ownership.
Alongside STAR, several other key stakeholders in football, notably the Football Supporters Association, the national, democratic, representative body for football supporters in England and Wales, and Fair Game UK, a growing band of clubs committed to the same principles and determined to improve the governance of our national game for the wider interests of football, are strong advocates for the independent football regulator and we remain extremely grateful for their unwavering support and advice throughout this troubling time.
We firmly believe that Reading FC is the ideal test case to use in a shadow regulator form to demonstrate that the regulator will have teeth and be fit for purpose, for the good of football as a whole. We urge the government and the football authorities to work together to make this happen as soon as possible.