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A six-match unbeaten run helped haul Reading out of the League One relegation zone

Reading have had two more points docked, their third deduction of the season, by the English Football League.

The League One side have had a further two-point penalty suspended after failing to pay dues to HMRC within an 80-day limit imposed by the EFL.

The club previously had four points deducted for their failure to pay wages on several occasions the previous year.

Ruben Selles’ side are now only three points clear of the drop zone with 11 matches remaining.

They have dropped three places to 19th, three points ahead of Cheltenham in 21st and five ahead of Port Vale in 22nd. Both those clubs have three games in hand on Reading.

  • Updated League One table

Another £100,000 fine for separate charges was imposed on owner Dai Yongge by an Independent Disciplinary Commission (IDC) alongside the latest points deduction.

The IDC’s written explanation showed the EFL had again urged the commission to disqualify Dai from being a director and hand out an immediate four-point deduction – the rationale being that any penalty should be more severe than previous sanctions.

However the commission decided against disqualifying him as an owner because of “potential adverse consequences for the club” if they effectively tried to force a sale, and said suspending two of the points would be “a further incentive for compliance”.

Reading asked for a one-point suspended penalty to run from the date the club is sold, insisting the club was separate from Dai and had done all it could to comply, though their suggestion was rejected.

Deduction ‘completely misguided’

Caroline Parker, spokesperson for Reading fans’ group Sell Before We Dai, said: “Given the ongoing sales talks, the timing of today’s punishment is spectacular. Imposing a points penalty which increases our chances of relegation and therefore decreases the prospect of our club being sold is completely misguided.

“The EFL claims to be on the side of the fans, instead – yet again – they disproportionately punish those who care the most over those who care the least.

“The message being sent is that the league cares more about its rulebook than the health and history of the football clubs that play in it.”

Dai has repeatedly failed to meet deadlines to pay a sum amounting to 125% of the club’s monthly wage bill into a nominated bank account, and is required to pay the fine by 18 March 2024.  

If he fails to comply with the prior order of the IDC to meet the deposit requirement within 28 days, a further suspended fine of £100,000 will be triggered – and an additional fine of £100,000 will be imposed if the money is not received within five weeks.

In a note to the IDC, Dai said: “My position has not changed – I am unfortunately still not able to fund the account due to financial and cashflow issues. Any funds I have had available have gone to paying immediate liabilities such as player wages.”

In total the club had been docked 12 points across the previous two seasons, meaning it is now 18 points they have lost under the ownership of Dai, who took control in 2017.

Last month the club were also given a suspended three-point deduction after fans stormed the pitch in protest against the Chinese owner, forcing the abandonment of the League One match against Port Vale.

The EFL has previously issued a series of penalties against Dai for financial misconduct, and has once again urged him to start funding the club or sell up as soon as possible.

A month ago former chief executive Nigel Howe said proposals from interested parties were likely to be presented to Dai in February.

After staff wages were paid late before Christmas, and amid reports players were having to cater for themselves at the training ground, the club made two staff redundant last month to further cut costs.

The Royals sold a series of first-team players during the January transfer window, with Nathan Abbey moving to Olympiakos, Tom McIntyre joining Portsmouth and Tom Holmes being sold to Luton before being loaned back to the end of the season.

Holmes and his team-mates head to rock-bottom Carlisle on Saturday.

‘Fans punished for Dai’s misdemeanours’ – Analysis

BBC Radio Berkshire sports editor Tim Dellor

Fans now need to remember to protest against the unpopular Dai Yongge 18 minutes into games, rather than 16, as that is the running tally of points his incompetence has now cost the club.

This punishment may have come as a bolt out the blue to fans, but senior club staff had both feared and anticipated something along these lines for a few weeks.

When I asked manager Ruben Selles whether he was able to relax a little after a good recent run on the pitch he was adamant the relegation battle was far from won, and they needed to factor in further potential points deductions.

The latest two-point penalty is for failure to pay tax bills in 2023. Understandably, fans say the punishment is hitting the wrong people – Dai doesn’t seem to care about the club, and the EFL unwisely allowed him to take ownership back in 2017. Reading fans never really wanted the owner and, along with players and staff, are the ones being punished for his misdemeanours.

With 11 games left and two rounds of wages still to pay, Selles is right.

It would be prudent to get enough of a buffer between themselves and the drop zone, to withstand any further damage inflicted by the owner.

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