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We Need To Talk About Ron Gourlay

Reading’s Chief Executive is an increasingly unpopular man among the fans.

Ron looking particularly glum
Reading FC

Wednesday’s piece in Football.London, an exclusive from former Get Reading reporter Charles Watts, laid bare just how bad a state Reading Football Club are in behind-the-scenes. Released shortly before it was announced that Brian Tevreden would be leaving for pastures new, the article claimed that the Dutchman’s departure had been a long time coming.

Why? Ron Gourlay.

The Royals’ current Chief Executive was appointed in July 2017 in a move that shook up the power structure at RG2. Nigel Howe had been a constant against changing times, retaining his role as CEO throughout the tenures of Sir John Madejski, Anton Zingarevich and the Thai consortium.

However, presumably in a bid to improve the club’s operations whilst they themselves were often physically absent, siblings owners Dai Yongge and Dai Xiu Li replaced Howe two months after their arrival in Berkshire. In his place came Ron Gourlay, a man with a fine CV in English football having worked high up at Chelsea and Manchester United.

Gourlay (left) replaced Howe (right) as a key decision-maker at the club
Reading FC

I don’t doubt the intentions of Yongge and Xiu Li, who have invested heavily in the club, but was the decision to bring in a figure with no knowledge of the Championship simply naive? 14 months on, it certainly seems that way.

On the face of it at least, facts speak for themselves: Reading have gone from play-off finalists to a team limping clear of relegation a year later, all the while fans becoming increasingly disillusioned and staying away from the Madejski Stadium. Who can blame them?

The outgoing Brian Tevreden and sacked Jaap Stam should take their fair share of blame in the Royals’ decline over the last year or so, but for brevity’s sake I won’t go back into the many issues around recruitment and management we’ve all gone through over and again.

What does need discussing is Wednesday’s Football.London article that gives a desperately worrying account of the rot setting in at Reading on Gourlay’s watch. There have been rumours coming out of the club in recent months that all is not well, but for them to come into the open like this reinforces just how bad things are. This can’t be overlooked.

According to Charles Watts, writer of that piece, there are serious problems with how the club is being operated. Marketing and commercial staff are leaving the club and not being replaced, while the recruitment department has been “decimated” so that it is “all but non-existent”. Youth coaches have “moved on amid unrest about how [Reading FC] is being run”, perhaps including Lee Herron who joined Arsenal earlier this year.

That’s before we get to the reported break-down in relations between Gourlay and Tevreden. The former Technical Director apparently felt “marginalised”, being left out of the loop on transfers and key decisions such as Yann Kermorgant’s contract renewal and the sacking of Jaap Stam. Whatever Tevreden’s own shortcomings (our recruitment even before Gourlay’s arrival was certainly flawed), there’s a real issue when key decision-makers are being undermined.

These problems aren’t simply side effects of a bad strategy (whatever ours might be at the moment), they’re profound issues with how Reading FC is run. No football club can thrive with an understaffed team behind-the-scenes that can’t work together properly.

Reading’s problems off the pitch are nothing new, and certainly didn’t start with Ron Gourlay, but Dai Yongge and Dai Xiu Li need to have a proper think as to whether or not this Chief Executive is the man to take this club forwards.


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