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Are Reading’s Owners Dynasty Building Or Playing Politics?

What does the future hold for Reading FC under the ownership of the Dai family?

Dai Yongge’s son, Dai Bin
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In an earlier piece, Maffff reflected on the first 12 months in Reading for Dai Yongge and Dai Xiu Li. Here, he analyses where the club could be heading under their leadership.

It can be difficult for us as fans to have confidence in owners going forwards when we hear little from them, so it’s worth clearing this up before we press on. Whilst Dai Yongge and Dai Xiu Li may not be that visible outwardly to us, we do receive assurances that they’re heavily engaged with the club.

Whilst many of us would love to hear directly from them, a continuation of the current approach may provide the stability we have lacked since Sir John Madejski sold up in May 2012. We’ve also heard recently from Ron Gourlay that the owners are likely to attend more games next year, which may lead to a little more transparency.

The level of visibility at Reading is not that far removed from the other clubs Dai Yongge and Dai Xiu Li own. Johan Plancke, CEO at KSV Roeselare, is mostly visible and speaks on behalf of the owners. At Beijing Renhe the son of Dai Yongge, Dai Bin, is the frontman and speaks openly on behalf of the Dais.

The only time Dai Yongge appears is his involvement at Chinese Football Association level, frequently representing as the voice of a Chinese Super League club owner and exerting influence alongside other powerful owners such as Xu Jiayin of Guangzhou Evergrande. The level of influence Yongge exerts belies the status of Beijing Renhe as a club.

At Roeselare, admittedly a smaller operation than Reading, we have seen Dai Xiu Li clear the entire club debt and provide them with the financial backing to become competitive on the pitch. Again, encouraging.

We’ve also seen two players that have barely featured since we signed them, Danzell Gravenberch and Sandro Wieser, loaned out to Roeselare. With Brian Tevreden’s role at Reading less clear, there were suggestions earlier in the year that Brian has been tasked to look at further connecting the clubs. One potential next step could be the owners utilising Beijing Renhe and Roeselare to help Reading grow, ease finances and potentially help sign players, such as the Morellos link.

Other snippets from China suggest that Dai Bin, the son of Dai Yongge, may have a future role across the network of clubs. Bin, 26, is Executive Director at Renhe Commercial Holdings in Hong Kong and Chairman at Beijing Renhe (the term chairman comes direct from Chinese translations, so this may be misrepresented).

Add all of the above to speculation from China that Reading have rejected an offer of investment for part ownership from Xiu Jiayin (owner of Guangzhou Evergrande, and close personal friend of Yongge). It suggests that the Royals’ owners believe they can take us forward by themselves.

So why are the owners here?

If they’re in for a quick buck, the lack of land around the Madejski Stadium for the owners to use, and the early signs of investment, suggest this is unlikely. However, it’s possible that the Dais are in receipts of public subsidy from China, given President Xi Jinping’s love of football and great Chinese dream of becoming a global football superpower.

With that in mind, it’s likely that Yongge is using the club to boost his profile in China and increase his favourability with President Xi. Given the Dais’ low visibility in England it’s unlikely to be a personal vanity project, rather than business profile.

Hopefully it’s the start of the Chinese owners building a lasting legacy. If the rumoured rejection of investment is true and if Dai Bin does extend his reach beyond Renhe, there’s a real possibility the Dai dynasty will become a lasting legacy.

Now you've read this, check out Maffff's look back at the Dais' time in Reading so far.