Thousands of angry clowns to crash Charlton Athletic visit to Reading
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The League One match between Charlton Athletic and Reading today is set to take place to a backdrop of thousands of clowns at the Select Car Leasing Stadium as the two sides lock horns in a relegation battle six-pointer.
There's no Clown Con taking place in Berkshire this weekend and the stunt, which is sure to turn heads across the nation, comes with a serious reason. Reading supporters are taking action against club owner Dai Yongge amid the financial plight the Royals find themselves in.
The latest round of protest has been coordinated by the Sell Before We Dai group and billboards demanding to 'Get That Clown Out of Our Town' have already been spotted in the city centre this week, targeted at Yongge and his running of the club. Reading supporters at the Select Car Leasing Stadium on Saturday will wear Dai Yongge masks and clown attire in their latest bid to drive the owner out of the club.
A statement from the group on X read: "We understand fans want protests that everyone, no matter how young or old, can get involved with - and the Charlton and #PVFC protests have been planned with that in mind, alongside the recent EFL punishment.
"These protests are designed to be effective, embarrassing and inclusive - aimed exclusively at the regime, not the team. As ever, we back Rubén, the players and the staff. We want to rally behind the team as we fight to remain in League One.
"Pressure will remain on Dai at the SCL, but we will continue to drive our wider activity forward too. We will continue with our political activity and EFL dialogue."
In previous weeks this season, Reading supporters have thrown tennis balls onto the pitch in the 16th minute, symbolising the number of points that have been docked for financial failings under the Yongge management. Royals supporters also conducted a pitch invasion in that minute against Port Vale last month in a bid to make voices heard, with that fixture having to be suspended.
Speaking out about that incident, the Sell Before We Dai group said: "The first fan-led match abandonment in our 152-year history should not be celebrated, but the spontaneous, unfiltered passion, as well as the will and determination of our fans, should be. We understand that we will be punished by the EFL, but what we really need is help. Today was an outpouring of emotion from a fanbase not known for its hostility. We are scared for the future of our football club and the threat could not be more real. We want this to be our last abandoned match, but it is just the start of this elevated protest action.”
Yongge, whose wealth comes from investment holding company Renhe Commercial Holdings Company Limited and a Chinese shopping centre empire, has been hit with a £20,000 and £50,000 fine for failing to deposit money into a designated account by the EFL. Staff at the football club have been made redundant with deals for first-team players being agreed upon without approval of manager Ruben Selles or head of football operations Mark Bowen. The Athletic has also detailed how catering has been stripped back at the training ground, hotel stays for away games scrapped and found a lack of heating for office staff.
The EFL has told Yongge to either fund the club or sell it. In a statement, the EFL said: “As Reading FC supporters are only too aware, it has in recent months become increasingly clear that Mr Dai Yongge is no longer in a position - or does not have the motivation - to support the club financially as he did following the change of control in 2017.
“His continued failings mean that once again the club’s hardworking staff have no reassurance as to payment of wages and demonstrates a clear disregard for his obligations as a director of the club. In respect of this issue, the League will now consider all available options it has under the Regulations and will have no hesitation in bringing further charges against Mr Dai.
“In the meantime, and for the sake of the future of Reading FC, its staff, supporters, and local community we urge Mr Dai either to fund the club adequately or to make immediate arrangements to sell his majority shareholding to appropriate new owners so everyone can move forward with renewed optimism.”