Well, in the interests of balance there always needs be someone who’s the party-pooper that points out that things aren’t quite as golden as everyone’s making out – and as it seems that’s the role I’m finding myself in more and more, here we go. After this afternoon’s seven reasons to look forward to Reading FC being back in the Premier League, here are seven reasons NOT to look forward to this.
But first, I must stress (just in case anyone takes this the wrong way!) that I'm as pleased as everyone else about the promotion yesterday – and hopefully also the Championship next week. What supporter doesn’t want to see their team play at the highest level? But as every silver lining has a cloud, maybe a small reality check is called for. Although, to be honest, most of these points only affect match-going supporters. If you support Reading via TV or radio then it’s more or less all win for you.
This season eyebrows have been raised at Leeds charging £36 and West Ham charging £32 to Reading fans, with people calling them “Premier League prices”. Well, that’s a good description, because next season they’ll be the norm. And as most Premier League clubs are heavily into the business of “maximising revenue”, so expect ticket prices in the Premier League to be as high as clubs feel they can get away with. And how will Reading FC price season tickets for a second Premier League season?
Paying the price for tickets assumes that you can get them. Both home and away, demand for tickets is likely to outstrip supply, especially for games against biggest, most famous clubs. So expect scrambles for tickets, and a virtual closed-shop amongst season-ticket holders with masses of Royalty Points. And expect lots of other little irritations, as hordes of “life-long Reading supporters” suddenly emerge from the woodwork and try to work out how to use the automated turnstiles at the club they’ve supported for life. And expect to see every appearance from a “household name” greeting by hundreds of flashbulbs going off as these “life-long Reading supporters” take pictures of opposition players. Oh, and expect more crowded concourses, with longer queues for food, drink, buses and getting out of the car park.
The Premier League exists for TV, and is fed by TV money. So what the TV schedulers want the TV schedulers get. That means matches at Saturday lunchtime, matches at Saturday teatime, matches on Monday evenings and matches in two time slots on Sundays (as well as matches moved because of opponents playing in the Europa League). So forget about arranging away travel or hotels until the TV schedule is finalised, and whilst the Premier League “endeavour” to give 6 weeks’ notice there are no guarantees, and plenty of examples of matches moved for TV at much less than this much notice.
As a footnote, TV scheduling is likely to get much worse in the Championship, with TV matches due to be scheduled on Thursdays under the new Football League contract. Yes, that did read “Thursdays”- but even with that expect numerous matches to be rearranged for TV without any consideration for the match-going supporter. But why should they should they show any consideration when the Premier League Facility Fee for a televised game is over £½ M?
Lack of Competition
I want my football team to win things (which is why this season has been so superb!) But the pinnacle of achievement for Reading will be staying up. I want to be part of a league where we can actually succeed, not just where success is seen as avoiding failure - but football’s warped and broken financial model makes that an unattainable goal for clubs like Reading FC.
We’ll always be “little Reading”, not expected to survive for long – no matter how well we do. And if we do confound the pundits we might get a patronising pat on the head from the likes of Hanson and Lawrenson as they say how well we’ve done. Oh, and we’ll never beat a “Big Four” team like Liverpool – instead , they’ll lose to us, with the media focus on how badly they played, and how they threw the game away, without a mention of Reading played.
Opportunities for youngsters
Part of this season’s success has been based on the crop of youngsters who’ve come through the Academy. But how can that go on for long in the Premier League? The financial penalties for failure are so massive, and the margins of error so tiny, that what manager can afford to take a risk on a youngster? It’s a rare manager who’s brave enough to through a kid into the cauldron that’s the Premier League, so despite the quality of the Academy there’s always a temptation to play safe an d protect kids, so that all except the most promising don’t get the opportunities to play and end up leaving to play games and develop. Remember Simon Cox?
The Future of “The Reading Way?“
Who knows on this one? Reading FC strives to be a community-based, family orientated club, and it’s done superbly well on that score in recent years, even when in the Premier League. But how long can that go on, when those sort of virtues are diametrically opposed to much of that the Premier League is all about? And will the new owner(s) continue with this attitude – always assuming that the takeover is finalised in the end. Will Reading become just another club scrambling to take the Premier League shilling, or will they stay as they are – a club that is special, that does things in a different way to all the others. It’s impossible to tell at this stage, but as well as being a horrible place for match-going supporters the Premier League can be a terrible place for clubs and owners, and the pressures of it can change them both beyond all recognition.