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“We want our Reading back” – crisis club debated in Parliament 

MPs from across the political spectrum yesterday backed the Government’s commitment to an independent football regulator at a Parliamentary debate held by Reading East MP Matt Rodda – whose local club is in crisis mode.

Reading currently sit rock bottom of League One after being docked four points by the EFL for financial irregularities. The Royals also faced two winding-up petitions from HMRC in relation to outstanding tax bills.

Supporters are in open revolt against owner Dai Yongge with around 2,000 fans – including club legend Dave Kitson – joining a protest march ahead of last month’s home game against Portsmouth.

Earlier this week the Government promised it would press ahead with new laws designed to give the football authorities more power to intervene when owners are running a club into the ground.

The legislation would also place stronger tests on new owners, give fans more say in the running of their clubs, protect club heritage and block clubs from competing in a breakaway European Super League.

Matt Rodda urged the Government to move fast as relegation is arguably the least of the Royals’ worries – liquidation is a real threat if the club doesn’t pay its bills.

“It is clear to us all that there is an ownership problem in English football,” said Rodda. “I hope the Minister will confirm that the Government are serious and will commit to them taking this vital work forward as a matter of urgency.

“To put it clearly and simply, as loyal fans did on the march last week, we want our Reading back.”

Rodda hit out at the “financial mismanagement” by the current owner, Chinese businessman Dai Yongge, which has seen the club deducted 16 points in the past two years.

“Mr Yongge’s term as owner started well, with investment in players and the training ground, but sadly he seemed to lose interest. This may be a familiar story to others who follow the history of many of our clubs,” said Rodda.

Government says FSA input “extremely valuable”

Sir John Whittingdale, the Minister of State for Media, Tourism and Creative Industries, paid tribute to Reading supporters and said the Government was “intent on safeguarding the future of football clubs for the benefit of communities and fans”.

Whittingdale added: “Reading has been relegated, suffered sporting sanctions and faced financial penalties because of reckless decisions made by owners and terrible mismanagement. 

“We have also heard about poor and non-existent governance practices, with fans being prevented from influencing key decisions that affect them and having to petition local councils, in some cases to protect stadiums. All such incidents threaten the long-term health and sustainability of all clubs, not just Reading.”

Whittingdale: “I would like to thank the Football Supporters Association for its support; its contribution has been extremely valuable.”

He also paid tribute to Tracey Crouch MP and the Fan-led Review of Football Governance, which the FSA was heavily involved in shaping, which ensured that 130+ of our member supporters groups across the game had the opportunity to give their views.

“Too many clubs have been brought to the brink with unsuitable owners taking over, stripping them of their assets and refusing to fund them any more. We are committed to breaking this cycle of inappropriate ownership, financial instability and poor governance practices,” said Whittingdale.

You can read the full Parliamentary debate here.

What does the FSA think?

Reading is yet another club in crisis whose dire predicament shows the urgent need for an independent regulator and football governance reform.

It’s something we’ve lobbied the Government over for more than a decade and we welcome the incoming legislation which can protect our historic clubs. 

Time is of the essence and we will continue to work collaboratively with the Government and football authorities to get this legislation over the line.

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