Here we again then!
Another statement, which I would argue was released under duress (see previous statement from Dayong Pang earlier in pre-season). Same issues. Same people. So what do we learn this time, dear fans?
I love a bold (quite literally, in this sense) opening sentence to a statement and this one doesn’t disappoint. We are, by all accounts, “seeking investment to provide significant financial support to the business”. The public acknowledgment of this reported investment, with the rumours rife for a few days, is a move in position from where we have been before. The reason(s) for this remain open to interpretation, with cash flow “constraints” cited in the statement itself. However, dig a little deeper into the rumour mill and you end up with plenty of possible, somewhat plausible, other reasons for this.
The big part of this is the first acknowledgement of the tax issue, which has been behaving like a massive rhino in the lounge whereby it’s been repeatedly stated on the EFL site, but nothing through official channels from the club. This latest issue we are told will be “personally resolved” by Mr Dai in the coming days.
Forgive me for sounding like Roy Keane, but that’s his job, isn’t it? To pay bills accurately, on time, without fuss. If I’m the owner of, say, Paperchase or Cath Kidston (literally thinking of shops I’ve seen close in and around The Oracle over the last few years... Topman!) and I don’t pay my staff etc, I’m likely to go into administration, be bought out by someone else or go bust. No different with footie clubs, really.
Chucking that in there just seems a bit crass, like we should be grateful. It’s like if someone deliberately drives into me, smashes up my car and then goes “don’t worry, I’ll take you to a garage”. You caused the problem, mate! You need to fix my car/pay the government that runs the country in which my football club sits.
Then the statement rolls into gallows humour: “...the processes at Bearwood Park... remain challenging though, so Mr Dai and Dayong Pang are striving to secure external investment...”. Right, define “striving”. I’m “striving” to save money, eat fewer crisps or run 10k. I’m not actually doing anything about it, though.
In my experience of Pang, he doesn’t do anything before 11am (all meetings that were held with him during my time on the STAR board had to be after this time, which in my line of work was very difficult) and I would imagine it hasn’t changed in that time.
I’m not an expert on selling or investing into football clubs, but I’d imagine you actually have to do some work, certainly in the initial stages of selling, to communicate through words and actions that there is a small possibility you want those things to happen.
It finishes with the usual caveats of no one saying anything else at this time (they will, just not officially) and that they are grateful for our patience. So, what is the overall consensus of this statement?
Well, the fact that investment is being sought, while saying Dai is “fully committed” is an interesting balance. On one hand it’s suggesting we need money urgently, but that Dai doesn’t want to sell at this stage.
What that looks like in practice is a real minefield: are we talking minority/majority shareholdings? A new CEO? Realistically, you wouldn’t want to pump in cash to then be told “you can’t make any decisions”. And this is where, I’d argue, that the ownership picture could get even messier. We are still unclear who lurks in the background currently, even with an outright owner on paper. Adding more bodies to a financial bonfire might be worse in the long run.
On the other hand, someone coming in might want to go the whole hog, maybe not immediately, and buy the club outright, piece by piece, percentage by percentage. Either way, if the ball is rolling on one of the above options, at least there is acknowledgment that the current malaise can’t continue.
For me, while the statement is needed, it’s too late. The trust has gone, the rumours have been running riot and the overall situation is crap. I have said it again, but the staff I am able to speak from mainly higher-up positions within the club are the ones, alongside the fans, that are being let down time and time again.
I’m lucky in that my paymasters (and boss, although you can’t really cage a badger, can you...) are decent people who are easy to work alongside. The people I know need Reading Football Club to pay their mortgage and it’s disgusting they have had and are continuing to have these issues.
I guess I’m glad that we finally have some meaningful football to distract ourselves with, even if the squad and management have consistently been let down in the same way as the fans and the staff. For those 90 minutes (plus 17 added on if the new regulations are anything to go by) I can at least focus on what’s happening on the pitch. And that, dear readers, is a small mercy indeed.