Poor decisions at board level have led to the multiple problems Reading Football Club has faced in recent times.

That was the view of those who responded when we asked people in the property, business and media world about the predicament now faced by the club in the light of charges brought by the EFL.

Most of those charges have now been settled but, according to the BBC, between £500,000 and £1 million of unpaid taxes remains to be paid before the club will be able to buy players again and the threat of winding up can be avoided.

Richard Stacey, managing director of Reading-based Evoke Transport Planning and a one-time student at the University of Reading, has followed the club’s fortunes for more than 20 years, although his football loyalties lie elsewhere.

He said: “The team seem to have little hope of regaining former glories with an ownership and board that lack credibility and the ability to adapt their obvious business and property acumen  – you don’t build up wealth of estimated  $950m in China without having a good business brain, do you?

“Interestingly, the company property portfolio started by converting bomb shelters to shopping centres (according to Football League World) – not sure there would be a market in the UK for such a development portfolio.

“To have not just one but two points deductions shows that the skill of learning from your previous mistakes has deserted them. The second deduction proved to be fatal for their chances of survival in the Championship last season.”

He said sacking of the manager Paul Ince occurred just when stability was needed. Reading FC, said Mr Stacey, had big ambitions but failed to plan, monitor and operate within the required framework.

He went on: “What Reading’s relegation will do for the overall area is a key question. A ‘third division’ team will not attract the inward investment and media publicity compared to that of a Championship team.

“There are some former ‘big’ teams in the division – such as Derby and Bolton – but these are not to the size and scale as the recently relegated Leeds United and recent, former EPL champions, Leicester City for example.  Will it impact on the proposed developments around the stadium?  Reading will no longer be on the ‘football tourist map’.

“And against all of this, what seems to be forgotten is that in a key World Cup year for one of the fastest growing sports in this country, Reading’s Women’s Super League (WSL) team was also relegated – perhaps this is a more significant story.  As Evoke, are a sponsor of Thatcham Tornadoes U10s girls team, this news perhaps had more of a devastating impact.”

John Fisher, managing director of TA Fisher, has previously been a commercial sponsor, patron and shareholder and has had connections going back more than 50 years, although he has no current ties with the club.

He said: “The difficulties at Reading FC represent a domino effect of persistent errors in decision making at board level, stretching back to the moment Sir John Madejski entered into what ended up being a failed transaction with the Zingarevich family.

“The subsequent Thai party that came to the rescue were only interested in extracting value and were soon out.

“Whilst the current custodians appear to have invested huge capital – Championship football is now big business – the financials don’t add up, partly due to the historic contractual arrangements requiring to be honoured and are not helped by bizarre ongoing management, not only hampering progress but worsening the situation.

“The breaches of EFL financial regulations would seem to be inexcusable and the subsequent failures to pay wages and HMRC beggars belief.

“As a club we seem to have gone back 20 years. The present scenario is very sad. I would not be surprised to hear that the present owners might wish to cut their losses in which case a complete financial restructure would be the only option.

“The club, and crucially supporters, deserve owners who really understand the DNA and we haven’t had that since Sir John Madejski.”

Anthony Smith, former sports editor for Berkshire Media Group, who covered Reading matches for more than 20 years, said: “This is the most concerned I’ve ever been about the future of Reading FC.

“The dire financial situation, constant threat of points deductions, lack of first team players and general supporter apathy add up to a club in major crisis.

“It’s been heading this way for several years now. The Russian, Thai, and current Chinese owners have all been unable to steady the ship.

“In fact, they’ve made the situation worse. Poor decisions at board level and questionable appointments have become the normality. So too has the movement away from trust in our own scouting network that served us so we’ll over the past two decades.

“Perhaps the most concerning is the disconnect between club and fans. It’s going to take many years to reverse this downward spiral and get the whole town back on board. It’s unlikely to happen with the current owners still in charge.”

Image: John Fielding from Norwich, UK, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

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