Eastleigh vs Reading was paused as travelling fans demonstrated against the owner
Reading’s FA Cup tie against Eastleigh was disrupted as Royals fans launched a protest against owner Dai Yongge.
Supporters threw fake money and tennis balls onto the pitch in the 16th minute, symbolising the number of points they have been docked by the EFL for financial breaches while Yongge has owned the club. Earlier this week it emerged that the club had failed to pay staff their full wages before Christmas, instead choosing to pay the players in order to avoid receiving another points deduction.
And with Reading’s trip to Eastleigh being aired live on ITV, fans felt the time was right to protest and highlight Yongge’s mismanagement. The Chinese businessman bought the Royals six years ago and supporters are understandably concerned about the future given the two previous football clubs he owned, Beijing Renhe in China and Belgian outfit KSV Roselare, have both folded.
The club is up for sale, with head of football operations Mark Bowen saying last month he was “very positive that this process is now nearing a much-needed conclusion”, and investment firm Genevra Associates are believed to be the frontrunners.
Ahead of the game Bowen told ITV: “The timeline seems to be changing, but we do have an understanding that they’re close. There’s still a few little points to get ironed out and until that happens we’ve just got to basically wait and see how it develops.
“The club cannot move forward until the club is sold and we get significant funding in to take us forward.” Bowen also said he was supportive of the protest, adding: “Our fans have been nothing but patient over the last few years. It’s been really, really difficult and I fully support any protest they want to make as long as it’s within the confines of being manageable.”
The protest was spearheaded by the Sell Before We Dai fan group, which was set up to pressure Yongge into selling the club, and they said in a statement before the game they were “disgusted” that Reading had not paid their staff in full.
“We are disgusted, but not all surprised, to hear that Reading Football Club’s staff haven’t been paid in full for November – less than a month before Christmas,” the statement read. “It’s especially unforgivable that a billionaire has chosen not to pay his staff properly.
“This is the latest act of negligence from a man who will go down as one of the worst owners in English Football League history. Employees of the club continue to go through unimaginable levels of stress. We took two steps forward with wins against Wycombe Wanderers and Carlisle United, but Dai Yongge has taken us a step backwards again.
“He’s undermined the efforts of his hard working employees again. Just pay the staff, pay the taxman and get out of our club now. This weekend’s protest is on. Balls to Dai Yongge.”
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