clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Did The Secret Footballer Try To Buy Reading FC?

New, comments

Are The Royals the club mentioned in his book and what does it reveal about the club's current situation?

Ben Hoskins/Getty Images

For the third time in five years there are takeover talks at the Madejski Stadium. Long gone are the days when we were a locally owned club by a long serving Chairman.

In 2012 Anton Zingarevich and his Thames Sport Investment consortium bought a 51% stake in the club. As we all know the Russian never completed his takeover and less than two years later left the club.

After a few months of uncertainty the club was eventually bought by the current Thai owners, who were just one of numerous groups linked to the club.

A year after the Thais took charge, The Secret Footballer revealed in his latest book, Access All Areas, that he had been part of a consortium that had tried to buy a Championship club in receipt of parachute payments. There are numerous theories of who TSF actually is, but of more interest to Reading fans is the identity of the club in question, because many of the clues given hint that it could be the Royals.

Clue One

With this club the projections for developing the land around it are £60-80 million net profit after spending between £25 and £30 million. The club haven't got £25 million.

Which is why they're having to bring in a third party to help pay for the development before splitting the proceeds with them - most likely a developer. They've already got planning for a small town on the land around the stadium. They've got no money to build it, though, and the planning permission only lasts for five years.

Land as valuable as the figures suggested would probably only be located in the South. Portsmouth, West Ham, Reading, QPR and Fulham are all clubs from the South that have been relegated from the Premier League since 2007.

As any visitor to those three London clubs will know the land around Upton Park, Loftus Road and Craven Cottage is all built up.

So that leaves Reading and Portsmouth. There is land around Fratton Park, but most of it has been recently built on and none of those developments have been housing.

Reading on the other hand have ambitious plans for Royal Elm Park, which could be described as a "small town". The plans revealed by the club were dated from September 2014, the same month the Thais took over. Perhaps a hint that it was not the Thais who came up with the original idea or even plans.

Clue Two

There was a broker involved, and he wouldn't budge. He wouldn't submit our offer and he wouldn't return phone calls. We just couldn't get past this guy.

We knew why - everyone knew why. The land was worth a fortune. In order to buy time between the raising of capital to develop the land and the breaking of ground he was fending off all approaches.

And then the broker immediately requested that the parachute payments be brought forward by a year. This was something so incredible and surprising that the Premier League agreed to it without, it seemed, asking why.

These things don't happen overnight, though. It takes at least two weeks to draw the cash. At the same time the broker ran around the world trying to secure a £20 million loan against the club at an extortionate rate of interest, something like 12 per cent.

This broker sounds a lot like Chris Samuelson and we know that he wanted to retain an influence in the club with his own preferred set of potential new owners.

We also know that Reading borrowed £10 million from Vibrac Corporation months before the Thais completed their deal.

I couldn't find any evidence though that Reading have ever asked the Premier League to bring forward their parachute payments. As far as I'm aware the only club that have done so are Portsmouth.

Does The TSF Predict Doom for RFC?

The club is being saddled with loans in order for the existing owners to take their profit without laying a brick. Which means that any would-be owner who comes in and wants to rescue the football side of the club has to pay off the debts that have nothing to do with football.

It also ensures nobody will buy the football club purely to develop the land, because there is so much debt in the club side of the business.

'But?,' I hear you ask, 'how are they going to pay the debt back, then?' They're not. That's the point. They're going to develop the land with borrowed money, take the profit and p*** off back to the other side of the world and leave the club in administration.

I know it, everyone knows it. So a football club is being killed by people who breezed through the fit and proper persons test with no regard at all for the actual club itself.

The debt in the club was now huge enough for us to predict administration three to four years down the line, by which time the owners would have f***** off back to the other side of the world.

Well this sounds good doesn't it? Add in recent news that the rumoured Chinese takeover of the club would have seen the Thais retain ownership of land around the Madejski Stadium, as well as the Hotel, and you could start to get a little worried.

If Reading are the club, and the if is strongly emphasised, then it does raise questions about the Thais' intentions and the club's financial situation.

Should Reading Fans Be Concerned?

You don't need us to tell you that whilst lots of the clues point to Reading we don't know for sure that we are the club being written about.

TSF's anonymity means his evidence cannot be proven or questioned. TSF does also occasionally come across a bit bitter so he may have slightly exaggerated some of his claims to make his own intentions seem too good to be true.

The evidence does seems to point to the club being either Reading or Portsmouth. The early parachute payment would seem to make Portsmouth the club, but TSF often changes or adds details to his stories to make it a little harder to identify him and this would seem to be one of those cases.

All the other evidence does sound rather similar to developments that have been going on at the Madejski Stadium in the last few years.

However, even if we are the club, it is hardly a revelation that we have serious debt. That has long been known and it is something that fans should definitely not forget and keep an eye on when ownership questions arise.

Publicly there has been no sign of impending doom, but there is enough information out there to tell you that the club is not currently in as healthy position off the pitch as it is on.

TSF's revelations are just another potential warning.