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What’s The Rationale Behind Reading Moving Away Fans?

Away fans have been shunted around several times in recent years – one side of the South Stand, then the other, and from next season some will be in the Upper West. Dave looks into why Reading made that decision.

Reading v Birmingham City - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Malcolm Couzens/Getty Images

Following the announcement recently that Reading are to utilise three blocks of the Upper West as part of the standard away ticketing allocation at the SCL, it appears that some fans of opposition clubs have taken a dim view, appearing to regard it as the Royals extorting away supporters and providing them with poorer seats. So I thought it’s time to nip it in the bud and dispel the myths.

What are my credentials in writing this? Simple – I am a long-standing season ticket holder of 20+ years, a member of the Reading FC Supporters’ Focus Group and one of the co-founders of Club 1871.

So, how did we get here? In simple terms – the fan-led movement, Club 1871. Prior to 2018, when Club 1871 was first organised, opposition clubs were provided with an initial allocation of up to 2,400 tickets in the southeastern half of the South Stand (blocks R27-29), with an additional 2,000 possible for clubs that could sell for league games in the southwestern half of the South Stand (R30-32). In short, a whole end routinely given to away clubs. Great for them, utter b*llocks for us (except the coffers).

Club 1871 is a fan-led initiative aimed at improving the atmosphere at the Madejski (as was). The downward spiral of the club had led to some of the most dead atmospheres in the league and, recognising this, the idea was to halve the maximum allocation of away followings to just one half of the South Stand and replace it with likeminded home fans who promised to better the atmosphere. The club agreed for a trial period at the end of 2017/18, and ultimately the initiative has succeeded.

Reading still get tarred with the “dead atmosphere” brush by many, but I suspect they haven’t been to a match at the SCL before, or for some years. It is different now.

Initially away fans were provided with the southeastern half of the South Stand. However, this provided the club hierarchy with a problem as the away allocation was now sandwiched between two vocal sections of home support, and so to halve that problem the away allocation was moved to the southwestern half in 2021.

What this meant though was that the away allocation wasn’t quite 10%, which is the minimum stipulation in EFL regulations (subject to stewarding and policing issues). In addition, the layout of the stands meant that, for cup games – for which an allocation of 15% is required – if clubs were willing and able to sell more than the standard 2,200 allocation then they would be presented with the remainder of the whole stand. It is not possible to separate the stand any further due to the facilities and emergency exits.

Reading v Rotherham United - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

Club 1871 has been a massive success at Reading. It is a popular place to be for many supporters and is now regularly sold out with plenty of disappointed punters unable to get tickets in there, so the club have had to be resourceful with their solution to aid home fans, and in doing so solve the 10% AND 15% away-allocation problem.

The Upper West is a sparsely populated area on routine matchdays, so, by increasing the away allocation into that area, it provides the opportunity for Reading to remove the netting and increase Club 1871.

The anticipation for League One football is that many clubs will bring a few hundred fans, unlike last season when the majority of clubs brought followings in four figures. For the smaller-following matches, my prediction is that clubs will be given R32 and GU1-3 as their base allocation (around 1,800 as a rough estimate), with R31 and R30 offered later if required (total allocation approximately 3,600 – again an estimate).

The Upper West seats are more expensive as they are considered a premium view in the stadium. However, as mentioned, I don’t believe they will be offered in isolation, rather in parallel with R32.

Furthermore, Reading are a proud proponent of “Twenty’s Plenty”, offering football to fans for £20 both home and away. This will not change, and fans will still be able to see the Royals play their own club for the same price. We are not extorting away fans, just offering an increased allocation – albeit in a slightly more expensive area of the stadium. We cannot do any more due to the stadium layout in the concourses.

And lastly, as much as the SCL is maligned in football circles for a variety of reasons, one area it absolutely cannot by knocked for is the sightlines. There are literally no poor seats in the SCL. Yes, the Upper West commands a higher price, but that is simply because the seating is BETTER than the standard seat elsewhere in the stadium.

As a fan of the Royals since 1989, I have witnessed matches in every area of the ground and can happily attest to the fact that the Upper West has by far the best overview of the action. I don’t sit there routinely, I much prefer it in the Sir John Madejski Stand and latterly in Club 1871, but I do like to head over there occasionally to witness the match from a different perspective. It is therefore not something to be criticised.