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Chairman: A wonderful place

22 August 2013

SJM reflects on 15 years of Madejski Stadium

Royals Chairman Sir John Madejski reflected on 15 special years at Madejski Stadium, which he describes as "such a wonderful place".

Named after the Chairman having done so much for Reading Football Club, the stadium has already played host to a list of exciting moments for the Royals in its relatively short history.

And on this special annivesary, a reflective Sir John Madejski recalled how it all started when speaking to BBC Berkshire...

"It was simple. Elm Park was past its sell by date, it was falling to pieces, stuck behind houses in Oxford Road, it was difficult to get there, it was difficult to park - it wasn't suitable for the modern day game.

"And of course we had the Taylor report that, after the Hillsborough disaster, requested that all stadia should be all-seated. So when I took over the club in 1990, I realised that the first thing that needed to happen was we needed a stadium that was fit for purpose. My goal was to get us into the Premier League and we couldn't expect to get there playing our football at Elm Park.

"Everybody saluted the flag. There were a few die-hard fans who didn't want to leave the shrine that was Elm Park, but I think it probably took them about 10 minutes in the new stadium to come around.

"You've got to have ambition, and I think it's proved its point. We've been in the Premier League more than once - and the whole move has been exonerated. I think that Madejski Stadium is one of the nicest stadiums in the country. We went the extra mile when we built it, to make sure we made something we'd all be proud of, a stadium people would like to come to watch their football.

"The Borough Council were exceedingly helpful, I've got wonderful staff here at the stadium and everyone went the extra mile to make it happen. It was a real community project, everyone was involved. The whole thing was brilliant.

"My initial thought was to call it the hi-tech stadium. Nigel Howe and I went to see all the large electronic companies that were positioned around Reading at the time - and about 10 of them. We met them all at Hewlett Packard. I said to them all that we were going to build this fantastic stadium and call it the high-tech stadium - you can have all your livery running all the way up the the stadium and have showcases in the foyer.

"I sat back and waited for them to put their hand up to say they'd get involved and invest, an no hands went up at all. So my marketing people at the stadium at the time, suggested that I'd done so much for the club and the stadium that they wanted to call it after me - so I didn't say no."

The Chairman certainly wasn't short for answers when asked of his most memorable moments at the stadium...

"There are so many things that happen at the stadium, Elton John concerts, the half marathon every year.

"In the stadium playing against Premier League sides in the Premier League was pretty special.

"On 22nd August 1998, when the stadium actually opened, we enjoyed a 3-0 win against Luton, that opening day attendance was 18,108, which was Reading's highest home gate for 20 years.

"I've always said that the football club is all about the community, and people belonging to the local area through the community. Football is important in that and it's an awful lot about fellowship and community and I think that's what makes it such a wonderful place."

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