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: or on Twitter:

Reading Boss Reveals A Little Too Much Information

No Love Lost with Abramovich

As a club manager, it’s vital to have a strong relationship with your chairman and owner. Chelsea is a great example of this. When the team is winning, Roman Abramovich, the Russian billionaire owner of the Blues, is your best friend, often showering gifts onto coaches as he basks in the positivity a victory run can bring. But when the times get tough, Abramovich is the last person you want near you, becoming more like a petulant child who will not take no for an answer. Many coaches have eventually fallen from grace at Chelsea – Ranieri, Mourinho, Grant, Ancelotti, Villas Boas – after falling out of favour with Roman. Ultimately this is his club, he owns the ground,employs the players and the staff so if he doesn’t like what he see, he changes it. Roberto Di Matteo has managed to give himself breathing room for the time being and win favour from Abramovich by securing the prize he wanted the most – the Champions League but now into his first full season in charge, he is under pressure to exceed again, not only domestically but in Europe as well. It may be only a matter of time before the wealthy Russian is sharpening his axe once more.

Just down the M4, another Russian is settling into life as a Premiership chairman for the first time. Anton Zingarevich arrived at the Madejski Stadium in May 2012 after purchasing then Championship side Reading from its owner, Sir John Madejski. Using his company, Thames Sport Investment, he bought the club just as it secured a return to the Premiership and promised money to manager Brian McDermott for the forthcoming campaign. He has duly delivered and has forged a strong relationship with McDermott as the two worked closely to secure signings like Russian international striker, Pavel Pogrebnyak from under the noses of Fulham. McDermott praised  Zingarevich’s contribution and a friendship blossomed between the two.

Just the Two of Us – McDermott and Zingarevich

However results haven’t been fantastic this season and Reading find themselves 3rd from bottom with only 6 points from the first 10 games which must add strain and pressure to their relationship. Like any good couple, disagreements are common but are often resolved by talking and some time away from things. Asked by TalkSport if he felt his relationship with Zingarevich had been fractured and a rift had emerged between them, he was quick to stomp out the rumours as untrue:

“That’s nonsense. I don’t know where that came from. We went for a drink after the Arsenal game. We talked about  players and we talked about football”

“He watched the game. We went to a local pub in west London. I stayed in the hotel with him that night. We had a few drinks with the locals. They all talked  about the game the night before. We talked about different players, went back to his hotel, had a drink back there and then went to bed. We woke up the next day, had another chat and that was it”

McDermott may have revealed too much about his relationship with his chairman but it would appear as though the two are still very close. But as the season progresses,  Zingarevich will be looking for McDermott to show to him that he is still the right man for him and for Reading or if divorce is on the cards for the two.

To hear the full interview for yourself, click here: