Mike Ashley reportedly explores a potential takeover of Reading as helicopters land at stadium a day after fans protest against Dai Yongge.
Sky Sports editor Lyall Thomas tweeted on Sunday: “Mike Ashley exploring potential investment in struggling League One side #ReadingFC. Meeting between representatives of Ashley and senior representatives of club took place today. Pics of Fraser Group helicopter on stadium carpark is widespread on social media. #SSN”
A helicopter with ‘The Frasers Group’ branding could be seen in the Select Car Leasing Stadium car park, prompting speculation that the ex-Newcastle owner could be interested in buying the club.
— Alex Everson (@Readingfanman) October 29, 2023
That’s it for today then. Mike Ashley wasn’t in attendance but Frasers Group have met with the board at the stadium, visited Bearwood and have now departed the Mad Stad.
Fingers crossed the #ReadingFC ownership saga is sorted in the coming days.
— PEDRO‼️ (@PictonPedro) October 29, 2023
Julian Warren said via Sky Sports News: “We’ve also got some exclusive breaking news to bring you regarding Mike Ashley, one time owner of Newcastle, but now exploring potential investment in struggling League One. Side Reading.
“It’s not yet known whether the former Newcastle owner is interested in a partial stake or whether this could be a full takeover of the club.
“But we do know that two helicopters branded with Ashley’s company, the Fraser Group, landed in the stadium car park earlier on today.
“And a meeting is understood to have taken place between Ashley’s representatives and senior figures at Reading as well.
“He’s known to be interested in getting back into sport more prominently after his Fraser Group took ownership of the Coventry City Stadium, the CBS Arena, and now believed to be looking at Reading, who have lost their last five league games and are bottom of League One.
“So that’s breaking news regarding Mike Ashley, who is exploring potential investment in struggling League One side Reading.”
Ashley, who was the controversial owner of Newcastle United from 2007 until 2021, showed a lack of desire to spend heavily in the transfer window.
— Lewis Coombes (@LewisCoombes) October 28, 2023
— Ji-Min Lee (@JmlJourno) October 28, 2023
Tim Dellor said: “The @ReadingFC staff will be keener on Ashley option. Joorabchian still seems to be relevant to how this is going to unfold. Storey v confident the consortium he fronts in pole position with Yongge. Arrangements being made for bills to be paid on Tues by potential new owners.”
Entrepreneur Will Storey meanwhile has spoken out amid the Mike Ashley rumours, simply tweeting: “I have a binding contract Mike #sundayvibes”
On Saturday, hundreds of Reading supporters staged a protest against the club’s owner Dai Yongge outside, and inside the ground.
Supporters took on a march from Reading town centre to the Select Car Leasing Stadium ahead of the club’s match against Portsmouth, who ended up coming from behind to win 3-2.
Fans want the Chinese tycoon to sell the club after late salary payments led to the team being docked points, with other protesters including the likes of former footballer Dave Kitson, along with MPs Matt Rodda and James Sunderland.
Dai is also facing a football misconduct charge for failing to deposit sufficient funds for the club’s wages.
The League One side were handed a fresh transfer embargos in September, after it failed to settle an outstanding tax bill, and in light of this, many protests have been organised by campaign group Sell Before We Dai which says the club’s future is under threat unless changes are made.
Reading boss Ruben Selles said earlier this week that he “is not concerned” about his position with the club despite a poor run of results, with his side bottom, with three wins and one draw from 13 games, earning just one point from their last five matches, but have been docked four points this campaign for failing to pay players and staff and deposit wages.
“I know how football works,” Selles told BBC Radio Berkshire.
“If you don’t win football matches you are at risk of being sacked and that is part of the sport.
“If it happens it happens, it is not for me to make that decision, we will just keep trying to make this team move forward and try and win matches, which is something we are lacking right now.
“I am not concerned about my position.”
Selles says he doesn’t want a culture of “pointing fingers” for the club’s recent misfortunes.
Two other clubs have gone bust recently under Dai and his associates’ stewardship. KSV Roeselare, members of the Belgian top flight as recently as 2010, and Beijing Renhe, a Chinese Super League club who were in the Asian Champions League, had trouble and then went under.
“He’s absolutely wrecked the club,” Caroline Parker, a “Sell Before We Dai” campaign leader and Supporters’ Trust at Reading (STAR) board member, says. “Reading were once a beacon of how to run a sustainable club and occasionally flirt with the top flight, but without that being the be-all and end-all. It’s frightening to see how far we’ve fallen. We just want a sustainable team to support. But Dai has wrecked it, set it on fire.”
“People in Reading are very realistic,” Dave Kitson says. “We’re not asking to be a top Premier League team. But we’re most certainly a team that should be competing at the top end of the Championship.
“We’ve got a Category One academy, a good stadium, and a fan base that can fill that stadium when the team’s doing well. But it’s underperforming because Dai Yongge’s tenure has been an absolute unmitigated disaster.
“Not so long ago it was a profit-making Premier League club; it’s now a club at the foot of League One with £200 million of losses,” Kitson says. “However you slice it, that’s a hell of a swing. And people are genuinely concerned that they’re not going to have a club to support if this carries on much longer.”
“He’s very private,” Caroline Parker goes on to say. “So the only thing we can really do to influence Dai is to make him uncomfortable. Keep his name in the the public domain. Keep applying the pressure. Because we have no power over him deciding to sell, how much he sells for, and, indeed, who he sells to.
“This campaign is not going to stop until that man has gone.”
‘He’s set the club on fire’ – Reading fans to protest against elusive* owner per @TimesSport
*I think Reading fans have another few names for him
— Kieran Maguire (@KieranMaguire) October 28, 2023
This is how Twitter users reacted as Mike Ashley explores a Reading takeover as helicopters land at the stadium a day after fans protest…
@hannlous: I just want a stable football club #readingfc
@JamesHeasman: I would take Ashley, yes he will want to run it as a business with financial advisors to make a profit, that is a good thing. Dai run the club with is heart and shit advisors and look where that got us. #readingfc
@lambeyyy1871: I’d take Ashley. Makes sense. We’re not a team wanting to play in Europe anytime soon. We want to be a sustainable club playing in the top leagues. No brainier I think and he knows what tax means. #readingfc
@SamuelKailus: Mike Ashley is a yes from me. #readingfc
@mitchrfc1: If you’re not a fan of Mike Ashley taking over, you don’t want what’s best for the club. Simple #readingfc
@_col__83: Mike Ashley will want to make some money off #readingfc and to do that he’ll have to improve our current position in the footballing pyramid, make sensible and solid decisions without overspending and ensure all league and tax rules are adhered to. I’d take that thank you
@ohbobbins: Getting sniffy about a very savvy billionaire taking over our club is quite the take. We don’t want European glory or cups like the Geordies. We just want a sustainable club. If Ashley isn’t good enough then I’m not sure who is. #readingfc
@claresatterly: Mike Ashley… gotta be a better buyer than William Storey! All I want is for my club to be stable, pay bills and wages on time without any embargos or deductions in sight! 🤞 #readingfc #SellBeforeWeDai
Biggest thing here now is the urgency. Things will happen one way or the other in the coming weeks.
– 1 x HMRC bill not paid
– Staff and players wages due in the next few days
– Another HMRC bill due in the next few days
Something’s gunna give and happen soon #readingfc
@Royals_360: Don’t understand how anyone can complain about Mike Ashley. He turns around failing business. Can garuntee he’ll make us financially stable again. We’re bottom of L1, we’re not Newcastle, we don’t expect tens of millions to be spent every year. #readingfc
@Bunting1871: Turns out Mike Ashley is just trying to negotiate a cut price deal for the clubs stock of Tennis Balls, apparently Sports Direct have completely sold out #readingfc
@BradSRay: these kids that have only known a ‘successful’ reading talking about long term success 😂we need stability Mike Ashley brings stability. I’m telling you now Mike Ashley is from the same world as SJM, he ran Newcastle like SJM ran us. For geordies that was not enough. #readingfc