Reading match abandoned as fans invade pitch to protest against owner Dai Yongge

Reading fans invaded the Select Car Leasing pitch during the game against Port Vale (The Tilehurst End)
Reading fans invaded the Select Car Leasing pitch during the game against Port Vale (The Tilehurst End)

The League One match between Reading and Port Vale has been abandoned after several hundred fans invaded the pitch at Select Car Leasing Stadium to protest against the Royals' ownership.

Chinese businessman Dai Yongge has become the focus of increasing protests over his management of the club, following multiple points deductions for the team and their relegation from the Championship.

After 16 minutes of Saturday's game - which was slightly delayed due to tennis balls being thrown onto the pitch by home supporters - fans invaded the pitch and began a sit-in inside the centre circle.

Referee Ross Joyce took the players off while a number of visiting Vale fans applauded their third-tier counterparts.

Despite a number of fans beginning to leave the pitch to help restart the game, many returned before the floodlights were switched off and a final warning prompted all-but a handful to maintain their protest.

At around 4.30pm GMT, the match was officially abandoned.

A club statement once the invasion began read: "We are fully aware of and understand our supporters' frustrations, but we must reiterate to our supporters that entering or throwing items on to the pitch can put the fixture at risk of abandonment and can result in personal consequences including banning orders. Thank you for your support today."

This is not the first protest Reading fans have undertaken against Yongge, with a march before the home game against Portsmouth earlier this season and several matches interrupted by tennis balls among their other efforts.

The EFL recently fined Yongge for failure to provide a minimum amount of funds for the running of the club, which has faced multiple winding-up orders over failure to pay HMRC bills on time, while also failing to pay staff and players wages.

An EFL Spokesperson said: “Following an on-pitch protest at Reading v Port Vale, today’s fixture has been abandoned.

"Every effort was made to restart the game but it became increasingly obvious that this would not be possible. We will now discuss the implications of this afternoon’s events with the clubs involved.”

Sell Before We Dai, a group calling for a change of ownership at Reading, 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".

It added in a statement: "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."