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.
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.
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