This is not the title of the next Bond movie but rather the potential next chapter for Reading Football Club who appear to be on the verge of entering Administration. “Sell before we Dai” is the cry from Reading football fans group hopeful of ending the 6 year reign of Chinese business tycoon, Dai Yongge.
Reading have had a turbulent 18 months. Reading owner, Dai Yongge has in the past been charged by the English Football League (EFL) with breaching its financial regulations. The list of breaches include failing to pay wages and taxes. This caused the club to be docked 6 points and resulted in the once Premier League side being sucked back into League One for the first time in 21 years.
It started all so promisingly in 2017 when Dai Yongge and sister Dai Xiuli (members of one of northern China’s wealthiest families) took over Reading. A year earlier Dai Yongee’s fortune was estimated at £656m and Dai Xiuli at £700m in 2014 according to business magazine, Forbes. The siblings had a vision of revisiting extension plans of its home ground, the Select Car Leasing stadium (better known as the Madjedski Stadium) turning it into “world class facilities” and returning Reading to the Premier League. This vision did not, however, materialise.
Despite Dai Yongge reportedly investing over £200million and assurances from the club CEO, Dayong Pang, that Mr Dai is working relentlessly “…to ensure the future of Reading FC is stable, successful, progressive and positive.” Reading’s financial woes continue. There is a planned protest March in Reading on Saturday 28th October. Protest group “Sell before we Dai” have today confirmed the route they propose taking ahead of Saturdays clash against Portsmouth FC (interestingly the first ever Premier League Football club to enter Administration in 2010). The group are hopeful of ousting current owner Dai Yongge, dodging a second consecutive relegation and avoiding Administration.
With total losses standing at an estimated £191 million, wages eclipsing income, a transfer embargo, being docked 16 points by the EFL over the past 2 years and an owner who is nowhere to be seen or heard, it is no surprise that parallels have been drawn with Derby County who entered (and subsequently exited) Administration. Much like Reading, Derby were guilty of over spending in the pursuit of Premier League glory.
Reading who were relegated to League One in June now look set to slide into Administration. Any potential Administrator would likely seek to find a buyer. Earlier this month, Reading manager, Ruben Selles, confirmed meeting with prospective buyers including controversial businessman William Storey. Mr Storey is reported to have agreed a deal in principle to buy Reading FC for £50m but has yet to pass the EFL Directors test.
It is not the first time Mr Storey has sought to buy football clubs. His two previous failed attempts include takeover bids for Sunderland and Coventry. He also has somewhat of a chequered past in Formula 1 with a brief sponsorship deal with Haas which further raises uncertainty as to the future of Reading and its current owner.
Whether Mr Dai lives to see another Dai, Dai another Dai or has no time to Dai remains to be seen.