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Rob Burnett: Reading and Ipswich are proof money is no guarantee in football

09 Sep | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
Rob Burnett: Reading and Ipswich are proof money is no guarantee in football

Sir John Madejski and Marcus Evans have ploughed millions into their respective clubs - the sports editor asks where it has got them

As the old saying goes: if you want to make a small fortune out of football, all you need to do is start with a large fortune and buy a football club.

The history of the game is littered with rich benefactors who have poured millions into clubs up and down the country, who never see a penny in return.

To most, this seems like utter madness.

Why would otherwise extremely savvy, measured businessmen, who have made handsome profits in their particular field, suddenly lose all sense of perspective when it comes to football?

Sir Jack Walker spent £100m on Blackburn Rovers – but he could afford it, and at least he ended up with an unlikely Premier League title to show for it.

Most football investors get nothing like that kind of return.

It is a very expensive business – and no matter how you approach it, success is never guaranteed.

Sir John Madejski, ploughed more than £40m into Reading FC. And all he got to show for it was two promotions to the Premier League. And two relegations.

This Friday, Reading host Ipswich at the their home ground – a stadium financed by Madejski.

I suppose if you built your club a shiny new ground, you might name it after yourself as well.

Though it is another sign of the insatiable need for money in football that the club is now considering selling the naming rights.

So that’s at least £40m spent, simply to establish Reading as a mid-table Championship side.

Friday’s visitors Ipswich are another club with a very rich owner who has pumped a staggering amount of cash into the business.

10/1 – Matej Vydra to score first and Reading win

The reclusive Marcus Evans (no official photographs exist of the man worth a reputed £700m) has loaned the Tractor Boys £80million since he bought the club in 2007.

And what has he got for his huge investment?

A couple of seasons flirting with relegation, mostly mid-table finishes and one appearance in the play-offs, when they were knocked out in the semi-finals. For £80m. £80m!

The romantic lure of football makes otherwise rational businessmen and women spend ludicrous amounts on chasing the dream.

“When I first bought the club I did expect it to happen far easier,” Evans said in a rare interview last season.

“Those people who sold the club did a very good selling job in persuading me that a little bit of extra money and one or two extra players was all that was needed.”

Ah yes, the “it’s just over the next mountain” approach that managers always tell their chairman to get extra money for signings.

“One of the previous managers, Joe Royle, was always quoted to me by people at the club. He always said if we just had one or two extra players we were definitely going to get promoted.

“I’ve now found out that every manager says that. So that is something that I did think was going to be easier.”

After a brash early few years, Evans then curbed spending at the club – which coincided with their best ever season under his ownership, when Mick McCarthy led them to a sixth place finish.

Sir John has now sold Reading to a group of Thai investors who will continue to chase the dream of promotion, no doubt being told that just a couple more players will “definitely” see them promoted.

Will they take heed from the lessons Madejski, Evans and countless others have learned the expensive way?

Course not. This is football.

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