It’s that time of year again - the 2020/21 financial accounts are out! Or if you’re a Reading fan, your yearly dosage of crippling misery as you scroll through a long Companies House document.
We all knew this year’s finances weren’t going to be pretty, especially with Covid-19 restrictions barring fans from the Select Car Leasing Stadium for the majority of last term.
Unfortunately, we’ve now been allowed back to witness the Royals in live action once again and those of you that are suckers for punishment will go some way in improving the financial situation when next year’s accounts come out, with ticket revenue back on the menu as a considerable source of revenue.
#ReadingFC's 2020/21 accounts are out:— The Tilehurst End (@TheTilehurstEnd) February 25, 2022
Pre-tax loss of £35.7m (down from £42m)
Turnover £13.8m (down from £17.8m)
Matchday rev' £0.58m (down from £3.58m)
Commercial rev' £3.3m (down from £4.6m)
Media rev' £9.4m (up from £8.2m)
Wage bill £32.2m (down from £37.6m) pic.twitter.com/DRNeyXJ7pI
Sticking to 2020/21 though, the first thing to look at is the overall loss. £35.7m is perhaps better than I expected considering the £42m figure back in 2019/20. The one big positive is the fact that number has gone down and all whilst we were still knee-deep in the pandemic and its various restrictions.
Not only did we lose ticket revenue, but also money from refreshment sales, perhaps merchandise with concerns about the virus and maybe even other sources of revenue that have slipped my mind.
The wage bill decreasing is also a good (but already expected) sign. £32.2m is still a considerably high cost and when you look at some players that are quite clearly not proving value for money, it’s even more frustrating.
Some of those in that category are contracted to the club beyond the end of this summer, so cashing in on those players has to be at the top of our priority list as we contend with the EFL’s restrictions from next season.
In terms of a permanent move away, you could only visualise about two of those in Lucas Joao and Yakou Meite being the subject of interest from elsewhere in the summer. Unfortunately for us, they are the two that are arguably providing the value for money we crave.
The others? I can’t see there being too many suitors for Liam Moore, George Puscas or Ovie Ejaria. There may be interest in all three in terms of a loan, but offloading them for the long term will be a tricky assignment.
And in terms of the players whose contracts run out this summer, I can only see Scott Dann, Junior Hoilett, Tom Holmes, Femi Azeez and potentially Andy Rinomhota (maybe being optimistic) signing on the dotted line to extend their stays in Berkshire. They won’t be offered lucrative terms though.
We can pretty much say goodbye to John Swift already, Josh Laurent will be keeping his options open and I can’t see Andy Yiadom remaining here either, with questions over Michael Morison’s future and Alen Halilovic’s fitness. Felipe Araruna and Marc McNulty will be gone.
We can’t be emotional in this situation. The main question that needs to be asked when offering new deals out is: are they going to provide value for money? And secondly, can we potentially sell them on for a fee in the future? If the answer to the first question is no, then we can’t afford to retain them.
Finishing the positive section off, a big thanks to Sky Sports Reading for their contribution to our increasing media revenue.
Moving on to the negatives, you almost feel bad for being too damning when other clubs are also making big losses during Covid.
But these are still an ugly set of financial results and one Dai Yongge needs to take accountability for. We all knew how bad these figures would be even before they were released - so I won’t bash him too much. What I would say, and I’ve said this before, is that he’s very lucky not to have been criticised more heavily by the fanbase.
Veljko Paunovic was part of the problem and so are others - but if that 233% wages to turnover ratio doesn’t highlight how he’s also part of the problem - then nothing will in my eyes.
Some aspects of the balance sheet may have improved since the last one was published - but it’s almost as if we’re being desensitised by what is still a huge loss because we’ve become accustomed to it.
Even without Covid, the results would still be damning and that’s why some supporters including me are extremely unimpressed.
The pandemic has left many clubs up the swanny and whilst that has to be taken into consideration, previous financial results have only gone on to make this year’s even more harmful.
I’m far more upset by our losses pre-Covid but this latest report only reinforces why, in my view, more needs to be done between now and the end of this season to put the pressure on those behind the scenes to try and ensure the same mistakes aren’t made.
Taking a big gamble like Mr Dai did in the first place has left us in this bad situation - and some would say we now have the benefit of hindsight in terms of that.
Others would say why didn’t the fans speak up between 2017 and 2019. You can understand both points - but the fanbase aren’t supposed to be the sensible ones here. We are not supposed to be the accountants of the club monitoring how financially responsible they have been.
Football, in my eyes anyway, is an escape from the pressures of work and other stresses of life. That escapism means purely supporting the team and talking about what’s happening on the field, not fully focusing on affairs off it.
Making the odd recommendation and campaigning for slight tweaks on off-field matters is something I enjoy doing. But there are so many problems to contend with at this stage - and at the top of that is the financial situation. We need to be in a situation where we may be salvageable if Dai pulls the plug - and that’s his responsibility - but it remains to be seen whether we’re at that stage.
Things will have improved when next year comes along and that’s pretty much guaranteed (we hope) - but how have we reached this situation in the first place?
There are huge questions that need to be asked of those in power - but it remains to be seen whether they will come forward with the answers.
For more info: Companies House document