According to The Sun, Reading have been placed under a ‘soft transfer embargo’ that restricts our ability to bring in new players for the duration of June. It’s not a complete ban, but apparently means the Royals will need the EFL to ratify any signings that we make.
The Sun describe the arrangement as such:
“The protocol, less punitive than a traditional transfer embargo, is understood to be in place at other Championship clubs too with Sheffield Wednesday believed to be among them.
“It is designed to keep clubs’ finances from spiralling out of control - and avoid the kind of cash crisis that saw Birmingham slapped with a nine-point deduction in March.”
On the whole, this news is certainly frustrating at first glance - of course we all want Reading to be making signings - but it doesn’t seem too bad the more you think about it.
We already knew that Reading would be severely hampered this summer due to Financial Fair Play, and our slow start to the transfer window hadn’t done anything to change that impression. It also matches up with a tweet from Get Reading’s Jonathan Low which had poured cold water on the notion of any imminent arrivals:
Despite the reports going around, I understand there's no progress in #readingfc bringing Ovie Ejaria back to the club. Also told the club will be doing their business in July so not expecting anything transfer wise in the next couple of weeks— Jonathan Low (@jonathanl50) June 17, 2019
The Sun’s piece saying “[Reading] are looking to offload the likes of Marc McNulty, Adrian Popa and David Meyler” is similarly nothing new. Those three and plenty of other players will likely be headed for the exit door in the coming weeks - it’s just a matter of getting them off the wage bill as quickly as possible. However, the article gives a bit more detail to the club’s approach to squad trimming, saying:
“Unwanted first-team players have been told they can report back for pre-season a week later than the rest and will train with the under-23s when they do, if they have not been sold by then.”
I’ll add that working with the EFL - not against them - is also a good step. Birmingham City had done themselves no favours ahead of their eventual nine-point deduction last season by signing Kristian Pedersen for £2 million during a player registration embargo. The EFL were reportedly “exceptionally disappointed” at the Blues doing that.
The key thing is that Reading are doing the responsible thing not only by cooperating with the EFL but also taking harsh steps in slashing the wage bill. That includes prioritising loans and free transfers (when we can make them), excluding players on the edge of the squad we need off the books, and promoting the club’s young talent.
This news of a “soft” ban also shines new light on Jose Gomes’ previous comments. The manager had mentioned to the Portuguese press at the end of May that Reading were under some kind of embargo, but at the time it seemed that it was more of a self-imposed embargo.
“I am concentrating on the formation of the Reading squad, which at this moment is complicated due to the embargo. I hope they resolve within a week, ten days, to be able to build a squad that allows me to fight for bigger things. This is also the dream of the owner of Reading, get to the Premier League.
“If they settle the fair play issue in time and things get resolved to the point where we can prepare our squad so that we can fight for these places, I will do it myself. Right now we can not talk about it because I can not hire anyone. Only a free player who pays to train. I can not go get any, not on loan.”
A few weeks later he seemed more upbeat, suggesting that this ‘embargo’ had come to an end.
“At this moment we are still inside an embargo, we can’t register anyone, but tomorrow it will be solved. The owner wants to build this squad that allows us to feed the dream of promotion. And I think it’s possible.”
Could The Sun’s reported “soft ban” be the same thing to which Jose Gomes is referring? Either way, we’re not close to making new signings and will instead be doubling down on getting players off the books.