If the football clubs of Berkshire were mapped out as a pyramid, Reading Football Club are at the top of the food chain across both the men’s and women’s game.
This is nothing new, the Royals have been a EFL Championship and FA WSL side for many years now, but where the women’s team could fairly be described as one of the top professional sides in the country, the men’s side would appear to in the midst of a self-combustion.
Put aside a miserable set of results that have seen defeats to Vanarama National League North Kidderminster Harriers in the FA Cup at the weekend and a heavy 7-0 defeat to Fulham on Tuesday night, the lengthy injury list and calls for the manager to go, there’s been something eating away at the club for several years.
The Royals are battling relegation – not for the first time in the last few seasons – and have the handicap of a six-point deduction for breaching EFL profit and sustainability rules (reports suggest the club spent 193.56% of their turnover on wages), they have a host of players out of contract in the summer and a seemingly invisible owner with deep-pockets – but tied hands due to those P&S rules.
It all paints a rather murky picture.
Listen to the Tilehurst End podcast on the subject of Reading’s points deduction with football finance expert Kieran Maguire:
In cricket, seemingly, everyone looks upward to make the next step, whether it’s players, staff etc. Clubs have their place, whether it’s on the village green or at the Oval with the solid aim of supporting the success (or not) of the England Cricket Team.
If you apply that same structure to football, there’s an awful lot to be proud of across Berkshire in the non-league and women’s game. Reading FC Women are one of the few clubs in the FA WSL that play at the home ground of their male counterparts, crowds are up significantly in non-league football, Football in Berkshire’s online figures have broken all records and many of our clubs are having historic moments – in short, more and more people are interested in the amateur game.
Reading Football Club should be the shining light, the jewel in the crown for the county, a club that we might not necessarily support (because that’s just the way football is) but as a group of people interested in Berkshire’s football, one we can be proud of.
People on the outside may not be aware of Berkshire’s spread of football clubs at almost all levels of the pyramid, but they will be aware of Reading FC.
I suppose really, what we think about Reading as grassroots supporters doesn’t really matter. It’s the clubs own fans, those that go home and away that are as usual taking the flak. We can only hope that one day, the Royals will again be the shining light they once were.