Now, I know that some people may be reading this may be questioning why a Sheffield Wednesday supporter is writing about the ongoing situation at Reading. And, it’s often the case that fans of one club don’t want someone who supports another club speaking negatively about their club, which is understandable.
But, for me, sometimes it’s bigger than which club you support. It’s about football. And, I’ve stuck my neck on the line with other clubs previously when I’ve felt it’s for the greater good. Derby County is a prime example, and you can read the article I wrote on a situation there by clicking here.
Football, for me, has a problem. And, while I’m not going to be doing myself any favours writing about such things, sometimes you have to stand up for what you think is right. Sheffield Wednesday fans reading this and those who follow me on Twitter will know I had an obsession with Doyen Sports and underhand business in the game. And, you could say this alerted me to Reading FC quite a few years ago.
Now, you could ask why I didn’t do or attempt to do anything about it. Well, my main focus, and arguably obsession, was Sheffield Wednesday. The club I support. And while I’m not going to go over old ground there, because that’s a chapter that is closed, I did attempt to bring a couple of the goings-on at Reading to the fore via the press.
I emailed newspapers because they’re better equipped to investigate these matters, well, so I thought. I also didn’t really have that many contacts in the game at the time, either. So after establishing a line of communication, which moved away from emails, I just felt they wanted to take all the stuff I knew, had heard, and had researched, to run with it themselves. But I felt this was potentially unsafe.
Before I go any further, I would like to point you in the direction of Gab Sutton’s article on Reading. I have considered writing about my thoughts and theories over the years, but seeing his work, which you can check out here, motivated me to get something typed up myself.
In typical fashion, this article will be a bit all over the place. And it will contain an image here and there, theories and so on. But, the long and short of it focuses on when a Thai consortium bought a controlling share in the club. And, it’s not necessarily those buying the shares who you could suggest didn’t have Reading’s best interests at heart. Rather those in and around the deal, and them, who then opened the door for others to step into the picture.
Pairoj Piempongsant is one of the main characters in this story. As seen here, he’s the man who brought the Thai consortium to the table, brokering the deal for them to buy Reading. But, it wasn’t his first rodeo where takeovers were concerned. He was also involved at Manchester City during Thaksin Shinawatra’s reign and exit.
What I immediately find interesting about this is that Shinawatra was convicted of corruption, which you can read about here. He also received another sentence in 2020, as seen in this article. Piempongsant initially proposed Samrit Bunditkitsada as the new Reading owner when brokering the takeover. He’s a man who I was told failed the EFL’s Owners and Directors test several years later by someone close to the Thais. And he’s another who went on to be investigated for corruption – this time, money laundering, which you can read about here.
In my opinion, Piempongsant wanted to get a takeover at Reading over the line because it would allow him to make money as the broker, but it would also provide the opportunity for himself and those he works with and for to seize control of the club from the inside. Of course, this is a theory, but let’s take a closer look.
Piempongsant, for many years, has worked for and with Pini Zahavi, a man described as a super agent. There are many links between the pair. But this article is worth reading to show how closely the duo have worked together in the past. And, there’s also a mention for Pairoj Piempongsant’s son, Phubate, also known as Pete, who alongside his father was in and around Reading FC.
If you clicked the link to the article about Mouscron, you will see why many people within football have concerns about Zahavi and the business he is involved with. Yes, many will recognise the Israeli as a super-agent and the man involved in high profile transfers, representing some of the biggest names in football over the years. But, give this a read; it’s one of many interesting articles about Zahavi’s dealings.
Now, it’s fair to say that some people generally won’t care about Zahavi having some sway. They could even suggest it’s a good thing. But, when you look at the below, you can sort of see how the likes of him, and others, which we will come onto later, can effectively just use clubs to their advantage on their terms, as and when they see fit.
If you want to read more on Limassol, click here. And, before we press on, it’s possible to see how having someone like Zahavi being involved can be perceived as a positive. For example, it’s well-known the Israeli is close to Roman Abramovich, playing a crucial role in his purchase of Chelsea back in 2003.
Since the 2014/15 season, the following players have arrived at Chelsea either on loan or on permanent deals: Nathanial Chalobah, Nathan Ake, Lucas Piazon, John Swift, Lewis Baker, Matt Miazga, Danny Drinkwater and Baba Rahman.
There is also the case of Michael Hector. I heard on the grapevine he was transferred to Chelsea as Reading needed the cash, and Zahavi made it happen due to his relationship with Abramovich. Again, not doubting Hector’s ability here, but was he ever going to play for Chelsea and did he?
I guess it comes down to what people think of the pros and cons of having someone like Zahavi unofficially involved. You could say there are positives and negatives. And, there will be many who aren’t bothered in the good times, even if they don’t think everything that is going off is as it should be. A prime example is Wolves and their unofficial but obvious relationship with Jorge Mendes.
I’ve made reference to it before on my Twitter feed, and I will do so again here; the likes of Pairoj Piempongsant and Pini Zahavi are eating at the same table and working together. And also dining at the same table are the likes of Kia Joorabchian and outfits such as Doyen Sports, with the former the man pulling all the strings behind the scene and the latter having played a crucial role via Piempongsant in terms of transfers and a cash loan.
I have always seen Zahavi as the sorcerer and Joorabchian his apprentice. Again, I want to keep providing material so readers can see others are thinking along the same lines as me. In this piece, it mentions how Zahavi is on good terms with Joorabchian and the CEO of the now defunct in its original guise, Doyen Sports – Nelio Lucas.
And most people reading this piece will have more than likely first heard of Joorabchian because of his work in bringing Javier Mascherano and Carlos Tevez to West Ham, which broke the rules over third party ownership. But, as many will expect, Zahavi was also involved, which you can read about here.
I’m not really keen on using Wikipedia as a source of information, as it can be edited by third parties, which is ironic in the circumstances. But, Joorabchian’s page details Zahavi’s involvement in the saga.
It’s well documented and common knowledge, especially amongst Reading fans from what I have seen, that Joorabchian is now pulling the strings inside the club. For a long time I thought it was Piempongsant and Zahavi, but when Lucas Joao left Sheffield Wednesday, signing with Kia before joining Reading, it became more obvious and piqued my interest.
I know this article is a bit all over the place, but I think it’s worth bringing Doyen Sports into the picture at this juncture. I’m doing so now because Joao was part-owned by a third party in the form of Doyen during his time at Nacional and was then represented by Doyen during his time at Wednesday until he made the switch to Team Kia and Reading.
There have also been other examples of Doyen’s involvement at Reading, via Piempongsant, Zahavi et al., with Ola John a prime example. He’s a player who Doyen owned a percentage of, who ended up at Reading, which you check out in this article.
But, it wasn’t just on the transfer front where Doyen have had involvement at Reading because they have loaned the club money at least once. And interestingly, it was secured against Piempongsant’s company Empire Asia.
Now, you may be wondering or questioning why any of this is relevant. Well, my theory is, which I feel is backed up by many articles and so on, is that when Piempongsant brought Thai investors to Reading, the club became a vehicle. It became a plaything and part of a network for the likes of Zahavi, Joorabchian, Doyen Sports and others to use to their advantage.
They have been able to funnel players in and out of the club. When doing deals, you could question whether they have gained financially by acting unofficially on behalf of the club and acting for the player – profiting from both sides of a deal. In this article, it’s suggested he is a friend of the owner, so the reality is he could be on the owner’s payroll rather than the club’s.
The final point I think that is worth making is that for these people to have influence, they need to position people who will let it happen in the right places, with the manager of the club being a prime example. Jose Gomes was Joorbachian’s man after he failed to get Luis Castro into the hot seat. Mark Bowen is another with links to the Brit-Iranian. The recently departed Veljko Paunovic is Serbian, and Pini Zahavi has a significant influence in Serbian football. And, interim manager Paul Ince, who hasn’t managed since 2014, is one of Joorabchian’s men.
I started this article the day before Reading beat Preston, and I’m finishing it after Ince was hired in the interim. It’s obvious to me, who isn’t a Reading supporter, that things aren’t right at the club. Transfer embargoes, points deductions, financial worries etc. are all evidence of this.
I believe it’s time the footballing authorities, the EFL, media and more really dig deep into how football clubs such as Reading are working, and what the likes of Piempongsant, Zahavi, Joorbachian and the rest are doing behind the scenes. Football clubs aren’t playthings or vehicles for those with influence in the game to use and abuse.
Football clubs such as Reading are part of the community, and they mean a lot to thousands of people. While that may not matter to those looking to make money and increase their standing in the sport, everyone should begin holding them to account, because they’re parasites and they have no business in the beautiful game. I wish Reading all the best moving forward.