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The UK government has said it cannot commit to using League One club Reading as a test case to see how the proposed independent football regulator will operate.

The culture minister, Sir John Whittingdale, has told parliament he hopes the new regulator will be established quickly and before the next general election, which will be held by January 2025 at the latest.

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Whittingdale said football clubs such as Reading that are in financial turmoil will “continue to inform policy development and decisions” about how the regulator is set up, but added he could not commit to a pilot scheme at this stage.

Reading, who are currently bottom of English football’s third tier, have been docked four points this season for various financial breaches. They were recently referred to an independent disciplinary commission by the Football League for continued non-payment of debts owed to HMRC.

Several fan protests have taken place against the club’s owner, Dai Yongge, including tennis balls being thrown on to the pitch and around 2,000 supporters staging a march before their home match against Portsmouth. The club have seen a total of 16 points deducted in recent seasons due to their off-field financial problems.

Matt Rodda, the Labour MP for Reading East, described the situation as “heartbreaking” and said fans “want our Reading back”. Rodda has suggested Reading could become a pilot for the proposed regulations, if the club is sold before the Football Governance Bill is approved by parliament.

The Bill, included in the King’s Speech on Tuesday, would ensure the operation of a licensing system for professional clubs in the top five tiers of English football, with the key objective of ensuring clubs are financially sustainable, responsibly run and accountable to their fans.

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Whittingdale told a House of Commons debate: “Through this legislation we are protecting the fundamentals of the game we love, while ensuring a more sustainable future with fans at its heart for generations to come.

“Meanwhile, alongside the introduction of the legislation, the Government is taking the time to explore the extent to which preparatory work can be done ahead of the regulator being established in law,” Whittingdale added.

In an earlier speech to parliament, Rodda said: “Dai Yongge has announced that he plans to sell Reading, and he made this announcement in October. So far, there appear to be three bidders who have shown an interest in the club. This means the sale could go through before the Bill is passed.

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Premier League could ban loans between partner clubs


Premier League clubs will reportedly vote on a temporary ban involving loan signings between teams with the same owners.

The ban would be in place as a temporary measure during the January transfer window if 14 of the 20 top-flight clubs approve the proposal at the next Premier League shareholders meeting on 21 November.

It would prevent the possibility of Newcastle United loaning reported midfield target Rúben Neves from the Saudi side Al-Hilal, as both sides are majority owned by the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF).

Other Premier League clubs who operate a multi-club model, with the owners having stakes in other clubs abroad, include Manchester City, Chelsea and Brighton. It is understood the temporary ban would be reviewed before a longer-term solution is sought. PA Media

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“I would also like to ask the minister if he will be able to reassure me about the club’s immediate future,” Rodda added. “If the sale does go ahead, will [Whittingdale] commit to Reading becoming a pilot for new regulation to protect the club, and indeed to other measures that might be necessary to offer support?”

In response, Whittingdale said he “fully recognise[s] the plight of Reading Football Club,” but that the Conservative government “cannot commit to a pilot at this stage”.

“I can tell him that the experience of Reading FC and other clubs will continue to inform policy development and decisions about how the regulator is set up,” Whittingdale continued. “Likewise, any sale that takes place in advance of the regulator is a matter for the football authorities’ existing checks.”

Whittingdale added that the sport minister, Stuart Andrew, would be happy to discuss any further concerns Rodda had regarding the club’s plight.