Painting Thailand blue and white
A pre-season visit to Thailand, with a special friendly against a Thai XI, is naturally not the sternest of footballing challenges. But, with games against the likes of Swansea and Espanyol coming up in the next few weeks, on-field preparations can be saved for a later date. What the match in Bangkok was truly about is arguably more significant - spreading the 'Royals' brand across South East Asia. With a population of over 60 million, Thailand is a big market for Reading's sales branch to try to take advantage of. What's more, with thousands in attendance, the locals were clearly interested in watching the visiting side.
Besides the game itself, Reading were treated to massive media exposure on arrival, capped with a glitzy press conference in Bangkok. Put on by Carabao (more on them later), the Thai populace were given a glamorous depiction of Reading - as far as they knew, we could have just been crowned Premier League champions. An impressive presentation was the perfect PR start for the club. Expect to see the campaign to win over the hearts and minds of the Thai people continue in full force in the coming years.
A new sponsor
That campaign has been made an awful lot easier by the adoption of Carabao as Reading's home shirt sponsor for the 2015/16 season. Already an established brand in Thailand, Carabao are hoping to use the new link with us to break into the European market. But, on the flipside, the reverse can be said for us. Afterall, Reading shirts with the word 'Carabao' slapped onto the front will sell a lot quicker than Reading shirts emblazoned with the name of a British middle-class supermarket.
On a purely aesthetic level, at first sight I was disappointed with the new kit to say the least. But, as time went by, it grew on me pretty well. Originally I shared others' concerns that the Carabao logo made the shirt look a bit naff, but now I'm not so sure. When you consider that other owners *cough, Vincent tan, cough* have gone to pretty extreme lengths to make a kit into a commercially viable product in South East Asia, a change of sponsor is a pretty mild adjustment. If this (image below) rakes in the cash, I'm all for it.
Reading FC (@ReadingFC) July 11, 2015
The Thais break their silence
Reading's Thai shareholders had, with the slight exception of Sasima Srivikorn, been less than chatty before now. But the visit to Thailand gave Messrs Narin Niruttinanon and Sumrith Thanakarnjanasuth the perfect opportunity to give their say on their plans for the future. Although most of their answers were the usual hopes and ambitions that you expect to hear from the club, it's reassuring to finally get some extensive thoughts straight from the horses' mouths.
I for one had felt uneasy in the closing weeks of the season, due to the deafening silence coming from our new owners. But, credit must be given where it's due - those worries, which I'm sure others felt, have largely been put to bed. Even the mystery of Samrit's involvement in Berkshire was addressed head-on by Narin Niruttinanon. Having been burned by our last experience of a wealthy new owner, suspicions naturally take a grip on fans' minds. By trying to directly take on those suspicions, the Thais have earned my personal respect.