Those of you in tune with Reading FC Twitter discourse will have been aware that there’s been plenty of frustration in the fanbase since the Stoke City match surrounding the club’s general lack of communication with supporters. This has of course been a longstanding issue (which covers the entirety of the Dais’ ownership of the club), but it came to a head at the weekend.
If you’d asked me how all of this would play out on Sunday (or on Monday evening for that matter while recording the latest episode of the podcast), I’d have put good money on the issue quietly going away. Discussions such as these naturally fade, and that happens more quickly after good news - like a signing or win.
To their credit though, the club made an uncharacteristically strong move on Monday evening: they released a statement, headed like so: “An update to our supporters on embargo restrictions and positive discussions with the EFL.”
Doing so took all of us by surprise. Direct communication in this manner from the higher-ups at the club to the fans has been a rarity in recent years, let alone on a more specific area of real significance like the club’s ability to sign players.
You can read the full statement here, but here’s a quick summary written from my personal perspective (except where directly quoted):
- We’re aware of your concerns, so we’ve tried to address them, but giving detail may make life harder for us in the transfer market.
- We wish the EFL didn’t publicly release embargo info as that also makes things more difficult for us.
- We’re confident of signings “in the very near future”.
- Dai Yongge is really committed to the club. Evidence: bankrolling it during Covid, plus spending a lot of money on Bearwood, the first team and the academy.
- “We will endeavour to issue more clarity, only as and when it is appropriate to do so.”
The aim of the statement is certainly to reassure fans: we hear your concerns, there’s no need to panic about the embargo or anything else. Chill, guys.
It does that though without sharing much real detail or anything we didn’t already know. However, given that much of the statement is about explaining how making information public isn’t in the club’s interests, we weren’t realistically going to get anything juicier. The two things of note are:
- The club’s confidence of new signings in this transfer window. I’d argue that saying “We are also confident that we will be able to significantly strengthen our first team squad in the very near future” is more bullish than we’d have got from a club that didn’t think it was likely to bring players in.
- The club’s sass at the English Football League. Reading’s annoyance with regulations surrounding publication of embargo information isn’t just mentioned in passing - it gets the longest paragraph, complete with a proper explanation. Evidently, when the rule on releasing such information without a club’s consent was decided by clubs, Reading voted against.
Detail isn’t the be all and end all though. The bigger issue is of whether or not the club communicates with the fans on important matters at all, and the mere existence of this statement addresses that. It being published in the first place was far from a given, and it’s a step in the right direction.
A lot of questions remain unanswered of course - such as over how the club intends to grapple with the limitations posed by Financial Fair Play. Fans deserve such issues to be publicly, directly and sincerely addressed by the club to show that their concerns around them are taken seriously. A great level of detail isn’t likely (we won’t get financial specifics for example), but a basic recognition of the challenges faced by the club and a broad outline of aims and strategy would go down well.
I hope that happens sooner rather than later; publication within the next few months is a reasonable aim. Ideally that’ll come in video format from one of the owners or CEO Dayong Pang, given that no one knows what any of them sound like.
Reading’s communication with fans hasn’t been good enough, but there’s a good opportunity for things to change.