The Government has said it cannot commit to using Reading as a test case to see how the proposed independent football regulator will operate.

Culture minister Sir John Whittingdale said he hopes the new regulator is established “quickly” and before the next general election, which has to be held by no later than January 2025.

Sir John said the experiences of the Royals will “continue to inform policy development and decisions” about how the regulator is set up, but he could not commit to a pilot “at this stage”.

Reading, who are currently bottom of League One, have been docked four points this season for various financial breaches.

Fan protests have taken place against owner Dai Yongge, including tennis balls being thrown on to the pitch and around 2,000 supporters staging a march ahead of their home match with Portsmouth.

Reading were recently referred to an independent disciplinary commission by the English Football League for continued non-payment of debts owed to HMRC.

Matt Rodda, Labour MP for Reading East, described the situation as “heartbreaking” and said fans “want our Reading back”.

He suggested Reading could become a pilot for the proposed regulations if the club was sold before the Football Governance Bill is approved by Parliament.

The Bill, included in the King’s Speech, would ensure the operation of a licensing system for professional clubs in the top five tiers of English football, with the key objective of ensuring clubs are financially sustainable, responsibly run and accountable to their fans.

Sir John told a House of Commons debate: “Through this legislation we are protecting the fundamentals of the game we love while ensuring a more sustainable future with fans at its heart for generations to come.

“Meanwhile, alongside the introduction of the legislation the Government is taking the time to explore the extent to which preparatory work can be done ahead of the regulator being established in law.

“Now, I fully recognise the plight of Reading Football Club, as (Mr Rodda) has described, and I understand his wish that measures be brought in as soon as possible.

“I am afraid I can’t commit to a pilot at this stage, but I can tell him that the experience of Reading FC and other clubs will continue to inform policy development and decisions about how the regulator is set up.

“Likewise, any sale that takes place in advance of the regulator is a matter for the football authorities’ existing rules and checks on owners and directors.”

Sir John said sport minister Stuart Andrew would be happy discuss any concerns Mr Rodda has regarding Reading.

On the Bill, Sir John said: “I think all of us look forward to the introduction of the Bill and the establishment of a regulator in due course and I can certainly share his view that this needs to happen quickly and before a general election.”

Mr Rodda earlier noted 16 points have been deducted from Reading, adding: “Dai Yongge has announced that he plans to sell Reading and he made this announcement in October.

“And so far, there appear to be three bidders who have shown an interest in the club. Now this means that the sale could go through before the Bill is passed so I would also like to ask the minister if he will be able to reassure me about the club’s immediate future.

“If the sale does go ahead, will he commit to Reading becoming a pilot for new regulation to protect the club and indeed to other measures that might be necessary to offer support?”