'We are the heartbeat of the town'
Last week’s Reading Chronicle article came as a complete shock to everyone connected with Reading Football Club and, while the damage cannot be fully undone and my disappointment in the story had not waned, I was happy to meet with representatives from Berkshire Media Group this week and hear their unreserved expression of regret. I am also pleased to read their uninhibited apology to both the Club and our supporters in today’s edition.
In my open letter last week, I outlined on behalf of the Club why we were so dismayed with the content and overriding tone of the article. The image which was manufactured for the front page and the very essence of the story itself completely misrepresented our fans and their experiences, past and present, of supporting their team both at home and away from Madejski Stadium. Quite simply, it did not in any way reflect the true nature of Reading Football Club.
This season, there has not been a single arrest made at Madejski Stadium and, last season, only one Reading supporter was arrested here – true testament to our fans’ exemplary behaviour. An incredible amount of hard work goes on behind the scenes to ensure our stadium continues to be a warm, welcoming and exciting place to bring your family and friends, and we pride ourselves on our unblemished reputation within the football community.
As I said in my letter last Thursday, when we were named Family Club of the Year by the Football League, it was one of the finest moments of my near 24 years as Chairman of this fantastic club, and it remains just as important to me as everything we have achieved on the pitch in that time. Thames Valley Police work tirelessly, hand in hand with the club throughout every season, to preserve that richly-deserved reputation; only two of our nineteen home matches so far this season have required any kind of police presence - an astonishing statistic, if compared to major sporting events up and down the country, which again demonstrates what a great venue Madejski Stadium is for football fans young and old, male and female, home or away.
We will continue to welcome everyone to our home and, all I ask of the people of Reading, is that you don’t just take my word for it. Come and experience Reading Football Club for yourself!
I hasten to add, we did not take the decision lightly to suspend our relationship with the Chronicle, because we value the freedom of the press and we have enjoyed working together for many decades. With today’s front cover rightly dedicated to an apology, we are looking to make progress and rebuild our valued partnership. The Reading Chronicle - and in particular Keith McIntyre - deserve credit for acting swiftly and apologising to Reading Football Club, the community of the town, our supporters and also for a comment relating to the Hillsborough tragedy. With that in mind, I am grateful that we can now put this episode behind us and, together, move forward.
There is so much to be excited about at Reading Football Club. We are fighting for a play-off place and striving to achieve promotion back to the Barclays Premier League, whilst revelling in our Academy teams’ historic cup progress this season. I am so proud to be Chairman of this incredible club and to be a custodian of its reputation on behalf of our supporters. I absolutely believe that our Club is one of the finest in the land…and we should be exceptionally proud of it. We are the heartbeat of this town. Long may that continue.
Sir John Madejski OBE, DL
Chairman, Reading Football Club