Nigel Howe - CEO, Reading FC Share PDF Print E-mail
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Nigel Howe was born in Wolverhampton and although he was from a football family, (his father, Dick played for various clubs including Aston Villa, Walsall and finished with Banbury and his uncle is former Arsenal and England coach, Don Howe) he initially chose a different career path and graduated from Aston University with a degree in Building Technology and Management and entered the property world in Project Management.

He spent the first years of his working life in property development, including positions with major development companies such as Beazer Group, Highcross, Wain Group and Portman Properties, part of Portman Building Society.

In 1995, he joined Reading Football Club to oversee the planning and construction of Madejski Stadium and the following year became the club’s Chief Executive, a position he still occupies.

He advises Sir John Madejski and is a non-executive director of all of his investments worldwide including printing, traffic management, bottling, property and hotels.

By Steve Moorhouse

 You joined the club in 1995 to oversee and plan the construction of the Madejski. How was the project and how has the stadium changed in that time?

Reading was originally at Elm Park which had a capacity of about 11,000 but was averaging gates between 3,000-4,000, mainly all standing with one stand of seats. It didn’t comply with the standards so Reading had to get a new stadium. At the time we felt we could achieve 25,000 seats in terms of sales and that is what we set about doing. We were able to buy the site for £1 from Reading Borough Council but it was an existing refuge tip so we took on the responsibility from the council for any environmental damage.

We managed to obtain planning permission for a retail park at the front of the stadium and we used that to help fund the stadium.

You became CEO a year later and during that time there were relegations and promotions. What strategies did you help with to bring the club to the Premier League in 2006?

Sir John Madejski’s aim back then was to create a club which was capable of getting into the Premier League. We set about creating a sustainable business, a business that could continue to expand the football side and generate enough income from other areas which we could then use to invest in the team.

Other than going through the leagues, what was the biggest challenge you faced when joining the club and how have you progressed?

The strategy I just spoke about was the biggest challenge. We were in what was the equivalent of League One and it was a strategy of how we could move the club very quickly into a position that could get us promoted.

Reading were relegated this year. What does this mean for the finances of the club, how much money will you lose by dropping into the Premier League?

The club is run in a sound financial manner and we hope that the squad and the reductions in salary that the squad members have in their contracts, will enable us to continue to trade in a solvent way going forward. We have natural wastage which means players who are going out of contract, players who will want to leave because they feel they are still Premier League players and we will have players who want to come in. Hopefully that works in the way we have always dealt with it. The economics tend to manufacture themselves so the incoming and the outgoings tend to balance.

Parachute payments were increased recently so does this give Reading a real chance of regaining their top flight status immediately?

Yes it does. I am in favour because I think parachute payments are essential. There is such a divide between the Premier League and the Championship that you can’t make that jump. Players want more money to play in the Premier League and therefore you have to be prepared to deal with it on that basis. You have to be aware that you are going to pay more money but likewise the reduction is not going to be so great in the Championship. You need the parachute payments to enable the stabilisation to take a period of time. Therefore if you do not go straight back up, the second year payment is slightly less than the first year but it does mean that those players on two or three year contracts can be washed out of the system.

Reading will miss out on a big boost in broadcast figures next year. Do you think more needs to be done to help relegated clubs or are parachute payments enough?

I think the system at the moment tends to work favourably for all clubs. I think the new FFP rules will hopefully create more balance. I don’t think there is any opportunity to catch the wage bills of the top six clubs which are massively out of sync with everyone else’s, but if you look at eighth place onwards there is not a massive difference in wage size.

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