The financial struggles of Reading have caused the staff to adjust their training schedules in order to avoid the expense of undersoil heating. The team, which belongs to Chinese entrepreneur Dai Yongge, has taken several significant steps to reduce costs, such as laying off 19 employees and owing approximately £4m to suppliers.
Current and past workers refer to constant crisis management as the club navigates through numerous off-field challenges. The English Football League has requested that Dai either invest in or sell the club due to his apparent neglect of his responsibilities.
Reading trained on the one practice pitch with undersoil heating on Thursday and an under-21s match was played on the surface on Monday but first-team staff have been encouraged to minimise usage. There have been instances in recent weeks when the manager, Rubén Sellés, has been asked to adjust training schedules or use the gym to save on the cost of undersoil heating, which is turned on before sessions and switched off immediately after. The first team can train on other pitches but freezing temperatures of late have led them to train later, once those have thawed.
Reading said payments for the undersoil heating were taken automatically upon use and that it had been general practice for a while to activate it only when essential. They acknowledged that the club’s financial troubles meant it was imperative they were savvy with how much they use it.
Despite the chilly weather, at times employees at the impressive £50 million Bearwood training facility, inaugurated by Dai in 2019, have been seen wearing coats and jackets inside the main building for the first-team due to the lack of heating on the upper level. The club has acknowledged an unresolved maintenance issue, but some staff members believe that the heating is not working in order to save money. In the new year, the club has let go of 19 employees, including assistant manager Andrew Sparkes and head of player development Eddie Niedzwiecki. Most of these layoffs have occurred in the academy, which may lose its category one status, and additional first-team staff positions are also at risk. However, the club has stated that no other roles have been identified as being in danger.
Several suppliers are no longer willing to work with the club. The company StatsPerform, which supplies Opta data, has suspended their account with the club. Another supplier, Levy, has withdrawn from providing services at the training ground but is still working at the stadium. As a result, the medical staff are now responsible for organizing meals for the players. Dai and his sister Dai Xiu Li took over control of the club in 2017, when they were close to being promoted to the Premier League after winning the Championship playoff final. It is estimated that Dai has invested over £250m in an attempt to achieve promotion. However, the club is now resorting to drastic measures in order to save money, as described by an insider.
The Reading Women’s FA Cup match against Wolves, which took place last Sunday at Aldershot, included post-game food that has resulted in sickness for players on both teams. As a result, Wolves had to postpone a game against West Brom because several players from their team were affected.
In November, the English Football League (EFL) requested for Dai to be removed as an owner due to a financial violation. However, an independent panel determined that this action would not solve the issues faced by Reading. Instead, Dai was fined £20,000 for not meeting the EFL’s financial requirements of depositing 125% of the monthly wage bill into a holding account. Last Friday, a previously suspended fine of £50,000 was enforced after Dai once again failed to meet these demands. It is believed that Dai has not paid either of these fines. Due to financial violations, including the late payment of wages, Reading has had 16 points deducted since November 2021. The club has faced transfer restrictions for the past two years due to their failure to pay HMRC on time.
The chief executive, Dayong Pang, under scrutiny, has approved the transfers of defenders Tom Holmes and Nelson Abbey to Luton, although it is uncertain if Abbey will join. Other players, including Tyler Bindon and Charlie Savage, may also be leaving. However, Savage is currently at 14 league starts because reaching 15 would result in a £2,000 monthly salary increase. The club terminated the contract of Ovie Ejaria before Christmas. Ejaria had signed a four-year contract with the club in 2020 after coming from Liverpool, but his departure saved the club approximately £200,000.
There are currently three or four potential buyers for Reading, all of whom have signed non-disclosure agreements. However, there are worries within the club that these interested parties may back out due to the poor financial situation. Reading, who will be playing against Wigan on Saturday, are currently in 21st place in League One and are in danger of being relegated for a second consecutive season. The club has cut back on overnight stays, but there will be one on Friday. A member of staff stated that the club cannot progress without new owners.
The Football Supporters’ Association is urging clubs to demonstrate their support for Reading fans by observing a minute of applause in the 16th minute of their matches this weekend. This is in response to the incident last Saturday where Reading supporters invaded the pitch during their game against Port Vale, causing the match to be called off. Exeter City, who are in direct competition with Reading, have committed to participating in this gesture. There is a possibility that Reading may receive a points deduction as punishment for the pitch invasion, similar to what happened to Blackpool in 2015 when their fans protested against their owners.
The English Football League (EFL) has recognized that Dai is not capable of running the club and does not have much power to remove him from his position. On Wednesday, the EFL board discussed the possibility of having a controlling share in all 72 clubs, but chairman Rick Parry acknowledged that this could cause major conflicts. Parry stated, “We are unable to force a sale or take ownership of the shares due to company laws. Unfortunately, the EFL’s authority is limited unless we seize control of the club.”
On Wednesday, Reading issued a statement stating that “Mr Dai has agreed to sell the club as soon as possible.” The club’s previous CEO, Nigel Howe, is overseeing the process and mentioned that Dai has sought the assistance of lawyers in selling the club.