Reading FC’s Women team have been demoted to Tier 5 on the football period.

The Berkshire-based team, who finished 10th in the Championship last season, have been knocked into the lower ebbs of the women’s football pyramid as a result of the disastrous ownership from Chinese billionaire, Dai Yongge.

This comes after a potential takeover collapsed in its final stages.

Fears had been growing in recent weeks over the future of the set-up, which had been among the finest in the country, and a petition was launched in the hopes of convincing potential buyers to save it.

Funding from Yongge was not forthcoming to keep the team at the second tier, but a takeover bid had been accepted for solely the women's side.

However, the Reading Chronicle was that the deal fell through in the latter parts of the process, eclipsing the 5pm deadline on Friday, June 28.

In their official statement which was published at 10am on Sunday, June 30, the club said: "Reading Football Club can today confirm it has reluctantly withdrawn from the Barclays Women’s Championship for the 2024/25 season, with the Women’s First Team now moving to Tier 5 of the Women’s Football Pyramid. 

"To continue to operate at Barclays Women’s Championship level, the club requires further ownership cash injection to build a squad capable of competing and to meet the revised mandatory criteria ahead of the 2024-25 season.

"This would have included returning to a full-time training model as well as further investments in facilities and personnel. 

"Whilst these requirements are in-line with the exponential growth of the women’s game – it is widely accepted that a direct financial return on annual investment is not expected for at least five years.

"Unfortunately, given the current economic realities of the Club, the outlay required to reach these levels are just not possible without significant owner funding.

Club personnel, with support from The FA, have exhaustively explored every option, including external funding and new investment opportunities for Reading FC Women, which would allow the team to maintain their Barclays Women’s Championship status – with dialogue with various parties taking place.

"Despite best efforts, the complexities around separate ownership have meant operating Reading FC Women under a separate funding model has not been possible.

"The club understand the demotion to Tier 5 will come as a huge disappointment for all connected with the club. 

"This solution, however, does provide the club with the opportunity to continue to operate a Women’s Football department.

"All departments within the club have seen costs cut considerably in recent years.

"Whilst the Club recognises and encourages the huge rise in popularity and commercialisation of the Women’s game, it unfortunately does not have guarantees of the required finances to increase investment in to Reading FC Women.  

"Reading has been amongst the elite of the Women’s game for many years.

"Competing admirably alongside the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City and Manchester United in previous seasons despite being one of the only clubs outside of the Premier League. 

Furthermore, we’re proud of the role Reading FC Women has played in nurturing and developing the grassroots game, providing role models for young girls aspiring to become professional footballers and a pathway for those future stars to make a professional career within football.

"Proceeding in a lower division of the FA Women’s pyramid will allow Reading FC Women to possibly gain promotions back to the top divisions in the future – whilst also maintaining a vital grassroots pathway and opportunity for young women to continue their football aspirations through Reading FC Women.  

The club and FA will continue to liaise with all individuals affected and are committed to supporting each person appropriately.

"It would also like to thank all players, staff, and supporters who performed admirably during the 2023/24 season – with the first team surviving relegation despite a season of challenges, and our U21s team winning a domestic league and cup double. 

"In due course, the club will provide a further update with more information regarding the upcoming 2024-25 campaign."

Dawn Airey, Chair of the Barclays Women’s Super League and Barclays Women’s Championship Board, said: “We are very disappointed that Reading FC Women have decided to withdraw from the Barclays Women’s Championship.

"We have been working closely with the club throughout the season and have made every effort to find a solution and to prevent this outcome.

"We are deeply saddened by the impact this will have on the Reading FC Women players, staff and fans, as they have all played a key role in women’s football and within their wider community.

"It was also very important to us to find a way to ensure that Reading FC Women could continue to participate in the Women’s Football Pyramid next season.

"Our priority now is to focus on supporting the current players and staff members at the club, including the Professional Game Academy, to ensure that they have every opportunity to continue to participate in the women’s game.”

The Championship will operate with 11 clubs for the 2024/25 season, and will only have one relegation place.