So it’s looking like Reading will be receiving a points deduction on top of their transfer embargo. When you’ve lost over £90m in your last three sets of accounts, it’s hard to majorly argue against that punishment, because the vast majority of that huge loss wasn’t down to Covid-19.
Between 2017 and 2019, we took a gamble. Not only did we gamble during the Ron Gourlay era, but also after it and after seeing that risk failing to work, we are now reaping what we’ve sown.
We can all debate how the EFL works and the potential need for reform, but our current situation is simple. We knew the rules back in 2017, we gambled, it didn’t pay off, we’ve broken the rules by quite a margin and, like Derby County, Sheffield Wednesday and Birmingham City, we have to face the punishment of being docked points.
There are a few pleas in mitigation for the Royals though. Firstly, we haven’t spent a huge amount since the summer of 2019 (on transfer fees anyway), perhaps we weren’t even allowed to throughout that whole period amid EFL monitoring.
Secondly, we haven’t got into administration unlike Derby County and, at the moment, we seem to have owners who are prepared to keep us going. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we were upfront about our losses and released our financial accounts promptly.
Derby County didn’t do that and they face the possibility of a further punishment because of their failure to submit their accounts. Our regular dialogue with the EFL may also stand us in good stead.
So while we’ve lost a huge amount of money, there are factors in our favour and this is why I wouldn’t be surprised if we were only deducted six points in the end, with three or six more suspended pending financial progress.
The real source of frustration is the fact we’re being punished now instead of a few years ago, when we deserved to be reprimanded. To put us under a soft embargo at the beginning of the summer 2019 window to then allowing us to spend exactly what we wanted seemed strange, but I maintain the fact the club should be taking responsibility for the current situation.
Some people may argue the transfer embargo and points deduction is a double whammy, but after losing so much money in recent years, we can’t escape punishment if the likes of Birmingham City haven’t and the same laws should be applied to all clubs. It can’t be one rule for one, and one rule for another.
However, there’s one non-negotiable that the EFL should not and cannot afford to fully intervene in, and that’s contracts.
As per John Percy of The Telegraph, Reading need to submit a business plan over the next few years and with that, some of the higher earners will either have to take a pay cut or leave the club for good. So a reasonable salary cap is something I wouldn’t complain about after seeing our wages/turnover ratio in recent years.
We have a considerable number of first-teamers out of contract at the end of the season too, another reason why the club should be given the opportunity to hand out deals. The likes of Tom Holmes, Andy Rinomhota, Andy Yiadom and Josh Laurent will all be near the top of the list for receiving a fresh contract with their respective deals running out next summer.
Without these new deals and some transfer restrictions likely to be in place for the next couple of windows, it would be staggering if we weren’t able to hand out these new contracts. At the end of the day, the main thing the EFL will want is club stability and this is something that can help to provide that at the Select Car Leasing Stadium.
Without being able to hand out new deals and still being under restrictions, that will be the difference between rightly punishing and killing the football club.
Inevitably, someone like John Swift with his immense capabilities and a Gourlay-era contract is likely to leave at the end of the campaign if a cap is introduced. But all we’re asking is to be able to offer new deals, then we can attempt to tie some players down.
The EFL may not intervene much at all, maybe I’m just paranoid, but these contracts are a non-negotiable and for our long-term future, it’s vital we get at least a few of those out-of-contract players tied down before the end of 2021.
We can’t afford to be waiting until the end of the season. It will give Reading fans, including myself, sleepless nights.
Amid dialogue between the club and the EFL, let’s hope for some good news.
Those factors I mentioned at the beginning as a reason to be optimistic shouldn’t be forgotten and in our current situation, an upbeat outlook on things is very much needed.