On June 16, Reading fans finally ran out of patience with Dai Yongge. The EFL had just released a statement confirming multiple charges against both the club as a whole and the owner specifically:
“The charges relate to the club failing to meet their obligations to pay its players’ wages on time and in full on or around 31 October 2022, 30 November 2022 and 28 April 2023.
“Yongge Dai, the Club’s owner, has also been charged with causing the Club to be in breach of EFL Regulations despite his commitment to fund the cash requirements of the Club.”
It then took a matter of hours for five Reading fan groups (ourselves, STAR, Elm Park Royals, Club 1871 and Proud Royals) to organise, agree on the need to push for change, agree that the change needed was to push for the owner to sell up, and get a mini statement out confirming that efforts were ongoing. Five days later, Sell Before We Dai was officially born.
In the subsequent month and a half it’s been a rollercoaster of emotions - and competence - at Reading Football Club. Having been in the embarrassing position of a transfer embargo being imposed for failure to pay former loan players’ wages and HMRC, Reading seemed to have turned a corner when outstanding debts were eventually paid. In came new manager Ruben Selles and four signings (Harvey Knibbs, Sam Smith, Lewis Wing and Charlie Savage), as well as a contract renewal for Amadou Mbengue.
Or... not. Dashing any hopes of the summer rebuild being continued at pace, Reading were hit with yet another embargo in late July due to yet another failure to pay HMRC. If that wasn’t bad enough, it was reported on the day of the Swansea City pre-season 4-0 battering that the Royals were not only under an embargo on transfer and loan fees for this and the next two windows, but some announced signings may not even be registered with the EFL before the new season.
We thought this summer would be a break from the past - when a new, rejuvenated Reading Football Club would be able to finally rebuild and become a distinctly different organisation to the one that had gone before. But no, the farce continues. Cock-up after cock-up, embargo after embargo, humiliation after humiliation.
However quickly any issues with HMRC or the EFL are resolved is largely besides the point: being in the position in the first place where basic financial commitments aren’t honoured is unforgivable. The specific reasons why such errors happen are similarly irrelevant: the bottom line is that these responsibilities lie with owner Dai Yongge, he’s failing to meet them and this club suffers as a result.
And let’s be honest, even if all our solvable problems were fully addressed tomorrow, we’d probably be back in this position in a matter of weeks or months anyway. Right now Reading Football Club is a never-ending farce; that needs to stop as soon as possible if we’re to safeguard our League One status, let alone return to the Championship, but that can only happen however when Dai moves on.
The aim of Sell Before We Dai is to make that happen by encouraging Dai Yongge to sell up before Reading’s situation gets worse than it already is. To do that, the movement has already garnered significant attention from the local and national media, support from the wider football world and political backing for the cause.
Good to formally meet with Secretary of State @DCMS alongside @MattRodda. We have placed @ReadingFC on the Govt's radar and will work with our colleagues to best support the club @willow1871 @andrewpeach #readingfc @johnredwood @EFL @FA @HMRCgovuk @theresa_may @AlokSharma_RDG pic.twitter.com/05xYp6KRqt— James Sunderland MP (@JamesSunderl) July 17, 2023
The Tilehurst End is entirely behind this movement and encourages every Reading fan to back it too, but there’s nothing wrong with not doing so. At the end of the day, we all want what’s best for Reading Football Club and we all show that in different ways.
Fans will have a chance to make their feelings known though on the opening day of the season when Peterborough United come to town. Sell Before We Dai are encouraging fans to sit in after full-time as a powerful and legal demonstration against how this club’s being run - and TTE fully supports this.
The protest, entitled ‘Sit In For Dai Out’, will entail:
- Fans moving to Coppell’s Corner (the southeast corner of the stadium) so that demonstrators aren’t too spread out
- Banners and chants
- The protest likely coming to a conclusion after around an hour
SIT IN FOR DAI OUT— Sell Before We Dai (@SellBeforeWeDai) July 30, 2023
Thanks for your input on what we should do against Peterborough - it's a sit in at full time!
For max effectiveness following the game, move to Coppell's Corner to join.#SellBeforeWeDai #ReadingFC pic.twitter.com/9xRuGbPfkj
The Sell Before We Dai movement is a detailed and multi-faceted one. So, while an awful lot has been done behind the scenes and in various forms of media, combining all of that with a visual, mass, in-person demonstration massively strengthens the cause by proving it has popular support.
Staging a sit-in after the opening game of the season is a clear and unambiguous statement to Dai - not to mention the media and the rest of the footballing world too - that this is a movement with significant backing which won’t be silenced until Reading have a change in ownership. We’ve all seen how powerful in-person demonstrations have been at other clubs, so why not at Reading too?
This form of protest is completely above-board, ensuring it retains legitimacy; in contrast, any form of law-breaking simply isn’t a productive way of bringing about the positive change we all want to happen.
The sit-in is also a fully inclusive kind of demonstration that a wide variety of fans can get involved in, simply by staying in the stadium after full-time. This is about getting as many Loyal Royals on board as possible: anyone and everyone who can take part after the game to show their support for the cause is hugely welcome to do so. The more the merrier!
Sell Before We Dai are also encouraging fans to focus any chanting that does take place against the owner to happen in the 18th and 71st minutes. This option is more controversial and I fully understand why some supporters are reticent to do any kind of protest during the match itself. Realistically though, tempers are so high in the fanbase now that there will inevitably be chanting against Dai at the Peterborough game. With that in mind, it’s better for any such feeling to be focused at two points of the game, with the rest of the match given over to fully backing the team.
That final element is critical. As much as protesting against the owner is important, we’re also all going to need to get behind the team as much as possible. Reading are set to head into 2023/24 with a young, half-finished squad under a rookie manager in Selles. That side will need time, patience and support if it’s to succeed.
The manager, his coaches and players aren’t to blame for Reading’s larger-scale, long-term failings. That’s absolutely the responsibility of Dai Yongge as owner and, for me, CEO Dayong Pang too. Reading are also fortunate to have many committed, hard-working staff members working in a variety of roles behind the scenes who really care about the club. They’re not the targets of this protest and I’m sure they’re as frustrated as everyone else by what’s been going on.
The problem is Dai Yongge and the farce he’s overseeing.
It’s time that stopped. It’s time for him to Sell Before We Dai.