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What The F*** Happens Now?

Dai Yongge’s EFL charge takes Reading FC out of the frying pan and into the dumpster fire.

Reading v Blackpool - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Andrew Kearns - CameraSport via Getty Images

If Reading FC’s summer were a natural disaster, I think it would be a mudslide. The rocks perched precariously above have looked perilous for some time and, indeed, a fair few hefty ones have tumbled down the hill. Yet today came the avalanche, the slew of boulders, debris and muck that the club and fans will have to wade through for some time to come.

The EFL have charged the Royals with three counts of failing to pay players on time during the season just ended and, in a stark escalation of the matter, personally charged Dai Yongge for failing to provide agreed-upon “cash requirements” to fund the club. The club and its owner have until June 29 to respond.

Firstly, this is just utterly miserable in the most basic sense of being a football club. The prospects of Reading bringing in a decent manager to take charge amid this shambles seems incredibly bleak, with any hope of much-needed players coming in soon-ish also taking a massive hit. Next season might have been a fun ride back to the Championship, but that seems a distant dream.

In terms of communication from the club, CEO Dayong Pang released a statement only yesterday which is now totally irrelevant. So anything else feels worthless, unless it has the words ‘new owners’ bolted to the top of the article.

And that is really what we’re looking at now: Dai Yongge selling up. Quite frankly, there is nothing to force him into it. The EFL are useless and let the likes of Bury turn to dust without giving themselves the unprecedented powers to step in and protect clubs like the community assets that they are.

Ultimately, these are private businesses and not franchises. The EFL won’t change their tone because boring old Reading overspent on a striker and have got their ‘comeuppance’. They could, in theory, do something like withhold punishments on the basis Yongge leaves - but they won’t.

The EFL must take their share of the blame for this mess. Punishing Reading for overspending was, if you believe in the fundamentals of FFP (I’m not a fan), a just cause. Yet how on earth were the club meant to escape financial hell while being banned from extending the contracts of its most sellable assets? The league’s current rules will simply bleed the club slowly until it dies or makes a miraculous recovery.

This also shatters the illusion that Dai was, at the very least, good for an open chequebook. Maybe the club will say all is well and it’s solved, but these charges are serious and could result in a points deduction. You, fundamentally, have to pay your staff on time.

A buyer may well be interested but Dai is a widely renowned difficult negotiator. He overvalues his assets and puts a lot of skin in the game. A new owner would need to not only buy him out of his debt (approximately £70million) but also the stadium, which he owns, and then pay whatever fee he reckons the club is worth on top of that. Maybe Reading fans’ best hope is that Jim Ratcliffe buys Manchester United and Qatar’s Sheikh Jassim mobilises the Royals as his personal revenge mission.

That brings us to the ultimate victims in this s*** show: the fans. I’ve been hesitant to join the prophets of doom largely because social media thrives off instant, loud and extreme opinions. For the last few weeks, the simple fact was that the season is - in relative football terms - miles away, and a lack of manager/signings is not an alarm bell at this stage. But the EFL charges are. Once again we have been dragged into a period of uncertainty, doom and gloom.

Is it time to protest? A fair few would turn up to a peaceful sit-in on the pitch, compelling Dai to put the club formally up for sale. Even more would if it takes place by the Jazz Cafe on a sunny day. I’m not a mastermind for such things; any such response is best formed naturally through open, public discourse. But even the calmest, most un-reactionary and sanguine of Reading fans must now be of the opinion that Dai Yongge simply must leave the football club.