The following comes from guest writer EBiscuit.
So, relegation, eh? Whilst there’s still 34 games to go, and it’s hardly “nailed-on”, it’s beginning to look uncomfortably possible. You might say probable. There even seems to be a growing feeling among some fans that it may indeed turn out be a good thing, a blessing in disguise.
The reasoning appears to be putting some of the compensatory aspects of a relegation, that might make life in League One a bit more bearable, to the fore, and embracing them as desirable outcomes in themselves. This includes such things as:
- We get to rid ourselves of the current overpaid wasters and replace them with a new team of young, hungry, often overlooked, up-and-coming talents, both from our own academy and from elsewhere.
- We’ll get a manager with a point to prove and a name to make.
- With the southern slant to League 1, we get to go to some new grounds for “cracking” away days.
- We’ll regroup, win lots of matches, and bounce back stronger, putting the whole club in a positive frame to take on the Championship the following season – one step back to take two steps forward.
- Lower attendances will make it easier to get to and from games, and they might even bring back unreserved seating.
- It’ll be cheaper.
Whilst these things may be all well and good individually, I can’t help but feel it’s just putting a brave face on it. The direct consequences of relegation, to me at least, look absolutely dire. They threaten the very existence of the club. There’s no guarantee even one of those positive outcomes would happen, never mind all of them.
If we’re in this situation after Christmas – and I fear we will be – I would expect the best performing players to be the subject of transfer bids in the New Year. Jon Dadi Bodvarsson and Liam Moore obviously, but maybe also John Swift, Andy Yiadom and Modou Barrow, even possibly Danny Loader. There may well be recall options on Josh Sims and Saeid Ezatolahi. If they were all to go, we’d sink like a stone.
Once relegation was confirmed, the board would immediately look to slash costs in all directions. And I mean slash. The revenues in League One, according to Deloitte’s figures for 2017 in its Annual Review of Football Finance 2018, are on average a gobsmacking 20% of those in the Championship.
Admittedly, the higher division’s figures are skewed by the Premier League parachute payments which, looking at the current table, are being received by (I think) eight clubs at varying stages of their Premier League decay. Even so, we’d probably be looking at something around a 60% drop in income, probably more. And that’s before we’ve even considered we’re already operating at a loss.
Any high earners would be pushed out, even if it meant having to subsidise their wages at their new clubs – essentially paying them to not play for us – anything to get the wage bill down. I’d imagine we would sell anybody who could command a sensible fee, leaving us with the has-beens and not-up-to-its. Hopefully, some of our existing peers would take a punt on some of our younger players for a fee. It would then mean picking up low-cost, free transfers from the lower and non-leagues, and playing more of the academy boys.
I would imagine, as part of the fire sale, the academy to close, or at least massively scale back. Despite the club’s latest hard-sell on it, I would nevertheless expect them to stop work on Bearwood, and maybe even sell the whole site for housing. That would at least generate several million into the coffers, and could maybe prevent the worst of the outgoing transfers – that is assuming, of course, the club actually own the site in the first place. The net outcome for us fans: prices up and don’t expect a competitive side on the pitch.
We’re special. As fans, we know this. We seem to have something of a unique image that induces an irrational dislike of Reading FC. “Yep, very pleased for them. The Reading fans deserve that” said absolutely no-one, ever. The conventional response to the Reading supporter goes something like: they’re indifferent, no history, plastic fans, soulless stadium, a nothing sort of club.
We hear this time and again from fans of the self-styled Big Clubs and increasingly from the not-so-Big ones. What they really mean is what they think of Reading as a place. The image to the country at large is one of traffic jams, sprawling suburbia, shopping centres and industrial estates; all the detritus and paraphernalia of modern living without the cultural up-side.
So, bland place, ergo: bland team, fans, club. Conclusion: no history – as we’re repeatedly told. To be honest, I can live with that, who actually cares what other people think? Occasionally, actually, I do care, I have to admit, particularly when you hear other fans suffix their complaints about their own club with the now stock phrase: “…by the likes of Reading”. Oh yes!
Except there’s a sting in the tail. Because of our image, relegation will happen with hardly a mention in the media, something along the lines of “Ipswich Town have been relegated from The Championship today, for the first time in… they join Reading in League One next season.”
And that’ll be it. We’re not gritty, traditional working class, or northern and hard-done-by, nor plucky or “vibrant” like the south coast mob, or trendily metropolitan enough, to deserve all the publicity. We’ll get no attention or focus from the media once in League One, like National Treasure teams such as Sunderland do. Not even the schadenfreude we all enjoy when the likes of, say, Leeds United hit the buffers.
The crowds will dwindle, the football worsen, the finances shrivel and, eventually, another relegation will follow, without so much as a shrug of the shoulders from the world at large. Hence should the worst, and I mean real worst, come about, we’d receive the full force of the “law” when it comes to points deductions and fines – administration, FFP, whatever.
Given how sniffy the EFL were in allowing the Dais’ takeover in the first place (remember the speculation of whether we would be allowed into the Premier League if we had won that play-off final?) they’d be sure to want to throw the book at us – if only just to prove how diligent they were being. And that, I’m afraid, will be that.
The buckets might get passed round after it’s way too late, but we will not be getting the sympathetic, special treatment our former peers received when they themselves got to that stage. Nobody will lift a finger. Let’s face it, if you’re slapped with a 30+ points deduction, why on earth turn up to watch games that effectively have no meaning? And if the fans won’t care, why should anybody else?
I can honestly see relegation taking us down that spiral into eventual liquidation. There’s a lot of water to pass under many bridges before then of course, but the shock to the system’s finances we’d get from relegation could be irrecoverable. Fans would stop going, stands would be closed, players and fixed assets sold. You get the picture.
Let’s not allow this to happen. Let’s get behind the team and somehow drag them over that 21st place line. We’ll need to win at least 12 of these 34 games this season, maybe one or two more. Sounds doable to me. Now, if we could just stop having to score three goals to win a game!
That’s EBiscuit’s take on what relegation would mean for Reading, but what do you think? Would dropping into the third be as bad as he thinks, or are there potential benefits?
Let us know in the comments or, if you’d like to write the counter-argument, drop us an email via email@example.com