England

Reading FC And The Worry Of Foreign Ownership

Zingarevich bought 51% share in Reading  (Image from Getty)Reading are right in the midst of a promotion battle after their 3-1 win away at QPR pushed them up to sixth. But behind the scenes, the club are wobbling after their owner, Anton Zingarevich, failed to finalize his full takeover of the club. The club’s chairman, Sir John Madejski, was reassured that Zingarevich would invest into the club however this hasn’t been the case. Like the money, Zingarevich has been non-existent at the Madejski Stadium since August and yesterday pulled the plug on his role at the club.

Anton Zingarevich and wife Katsia  (Image from Getty)
Anton Zingarevich and wife Katsia
(Image from Getty)

Since he took partial ownership of the club, Reading have been promoted and relegated, collecting a revenue of £90 million through mainly television rights. It seems like Reading could be on course for another promotion challenge with many pundits believing that they have hit form at the right time of the season, winning five of their last seven matches. Despite this, Zingarevich hasn’t felt as optimistic about their chances. In the summer of 2012, he claimed ‘Reading are one of the best investment opportunities in football generally.’ Since their drop back down to the Championship, the Russian owner’s belief has disintegrated and after watching their 3-3 draw with Watford on the 17th August, his interest faded.  Reading aren’t the only club to have had problems with foreign owners. Birmingham City have been involved in a long money laundering saga with their previous investor, Carson Yeung. In 2011, the Hong Kong businessman was arrested for alleged money laundering and since then, the club’s fortunes have gone downhill as they have become saddled with debt. Another foreign owner who has caused uproar is current Cardiff owner/dictator, Vincent Tan. Since he arrived at the club, he has changed the club’s crest and colours and in December last year he sacked fan’s favourite, Malky Mackay due to his side’s poor league position. This came after a Championship title and a trip to Wembley in the League Cup final against Liverpool.

Owners from Hell - Vincent Tan  (Image from PA)
Owners from Hell – Vincent Tan
(Image from PA)

More recently, Leeds United have also had difficulties co-operating with their new owner Massimo Cellino. The Italian gained control of the club on Transfer deadline day where he immediately sacked Brian McDermott causing great uproar and drama that evening. He then re-appointed him on the following Monday. It’s believed that Cellino wants to buy back Elland Road for £15.7 million but there are questions over how committed the new owner will be. In a recent interview, he suggested he may play a concert at Elland Road with Brian McDermott due to their love for the guitar. The danger with hiring foreign owners is that there carries a risk of the club going into meltdown – transforming a professional football club into a circus act. Sir John Madejski has said that he is awaiting the right buyer despite speculation that investors from the United States and Oman are very interested in buying the club. He has said:

“Football is very mercurial and very expensive and it is not for the faint hearted. It is very important we find somebody that’s earnest about owning a British football club if they’re foreign, and see the job through.”

Although he is not ruling out the possibility of agreeing a deal with another foreign owner, it seems that the Chairman is having doubts, like several other clubs are, about negotiating with investors from abroad. For now the Royals will remain under Sir John’s control.

Piece by Richard Waterhouse

Share your thoughts now on Facebook: www.facebook.com/BackOfTheNetBlog or on Twitter: https://twitter.com/BOTNBlog

3 comments

  1. Appreciating the commitment you put into your blog and
    detailed information you provide. It’s great to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same outdated rehashed material.
    Fantastic read! I’ve saved your site and I’m adding your RSS feeds to my Google account.

  2. Do you think it’s a bit simplistic to say this is down to foreign ownership, though? Let’s not forget that the mess at Leeds had its beginnings from the piss-poor management of a very British bogeyman, in Peter Ridsdale, followed by Ken Bates, who already had form at Chelsea (and now scares children at parties).
    And while Hicks and Gillett ultimately left Liverpool in a bit of a state due to their bickering like small children, prior to that they had several years of relative success.
    The broader problem seems to be that the “fit and proper person” test is a complete joke. Thinking back to Thaksin Shinawatra and Man City, the fact that a former PM on trial for humans rights abuses could be allowed to own a football club makes a mockery of the whole system.
    And unfortunately, it seems that as the door to owning Premier League (or Championship) clubs has opened wider, a more diverse group of people is coming to see owning a football club as a status symbol, if not a gateway to wealth. Unfortunately, that includes people who shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near a business, not just unfit and improper club owners…

    1. Agreed, its not just limited to foreign ownership but its a growing trend in the game to look abroad for investors rather than locally. Domestic investors are considered to be less glamorous than an exotic foreigner but that doesn’t mean they are any less able to do the job. You are right in that there are several examples of bad domestic owners but there are lots more examples of good ones like Jack Walker (Blackburn), Bill Kenwright (Everton), Peter Coates (Stoke), Jeremy Peace (West Brom) to name a few. The fit and proper test is a joke but its like that across Europe where several dubious owners have taken charge and stripped clubs of their assets before making a swift exit (Rangers, Malaga etc). Only introducing stricter guidelines like that operate in the financial markets would potentially work but even they are dubious from time to time.

Comments are closed.