The rumoured Chinese takeover of Reading has gone on for so long, and with so little information coming out, that you'd be forgiven for thinking that it won't go through at all. However, something that had previously gone under the radar, is that one of the Chinese siblings interested in Reading, Dai Xiu Li, not only heavily invested in a Belgian football team, but also seems to have saved it financially.
Does any of this relate to Reading? Perhaps not directly, but we can certainly get some understanding about how we could be affected if the takeover goes through.
KSV Roeselare, a West Flanders-based side who ply their trade in the Belgian second tier, had gone through five years of financial instability, with shareholder Yves Ollevier saying recently that the side had almost gone bankrupt ten times.
In July 2016, Dai Xiu Li (also known as Xiu Li Hawken (she used to be married to a former maths teacher, Tony Hawken), part-invested in KSV Roeselare, for an unknown price and unknown stake. She had looked at other Belgian sides such as Lokeren and Sint-Truiden, but decided against them.
According to CEO Johan Plancke, the club has now been able to clear its debts and, for the first time in a long while, been able to be proactive in the transfer market.
What has Hawken's involvement with the club been like?
In a word, minimal. As Belgian outlet KW say:
"She puts the sporting performance of the club entirely in the hands of CEO Plancke and his team."
Nonetheless, Plancke has been so happy with the impact that Hawken has had on the side that he said:
"The Chinese takeover is certainly a success story."
What has player recruitment been like?
There have been visible changes at KSV, but nothing earth-shattering. Hawken did pump money into the club, and they have been able to invest in their playing staff to the extent that they now sit third in the league. However, in a snippet that anyone who's followed Reading over the last few years will recognise, Plancke claimed last September:
"We continue to work economically and try to work smarter than the rest."
What can we take from this as Reading fans?
Well, a few things really. From the above info, I'd say the following: Hawken is a shrewd football club owner who knows to leave the daily management to people who already know what to do.
Further, she seems to not only have plenty of cash, but she's also willing to actually invest it, into both recruitment and clearing a club's debts.
Whether or not the rumoured Chinese takeover of Reading ever goes through is anybody's guess, but we do at least now have some solid information on what the club could look like after it happens.
Quotes were translated using Google Translate.