Monday, 25th Nov 2019 13:33 by Tim Whelan
Our game at Reading is tomorrow night with an 8pm kick-off, and if you can’t get there it’s live on Sky Sports. The Madejski stadium is on the southern edge of Reading, near the M4.
Out of town stadia are supposed to benefit those who drive to matches, but it always seems to me that fans simply get stuck in more traffic due to a higher proportion of the crowd coming by car. It has been known for tailbacks of up to a mile to build up on the M4 on matchdays, queuing to leave the motorway at junction 11.
There is some limited parking available at the stadium itself for a cost of £10, but it can be a bit of a wait to get out at the end of the game. A better bet is to park at the site of the former greyhound track, which is about 10 minutes walk from the stadium and also costs £10. From Junction 11 take the A33 towards Reading town centre, and go past the stadium and McDonalds, KFC and Pizza Hut outlets, Then look for the 'Alternative Parking' signs ahead, and on the left you will reach a small slip road into the parking site.
There are also a number of unofficial car parks in the area sited at local businesses, but don’t be tempted to park in any industrial units that don’t offer you the chance to pay for parking, or any streets where a residents only scheme is in force, as there are some very active clamping firms around on matchdays.
One final option is to use the Park and Ride facility at Mereoak, which has buses running to Reading town centre via the Stadium. From Junction 11 of the M4, take the A33 towards Basingstoke and the Park & Ride is signposted. Parking is free but the bus costs for a return ticket; Adults £3.50, Under 19's £1.70, or there is a group ticket available at £7 (for up to 4 people).
The main railway station is just over three miles away from the Stadium, and you can get an F1 'Football Special' bus, which leaves just down from the Railway Station on Station Hill. The return fare is £4 for adults and £2.50 for children, but you’ll have to have the correct change. And make sure you behave on the bus on the way to the stadium, as the service has been known to be withdrawn when fans are a bit naughty, leaving them with a long walk back!
Since 2007 there have been plans to build a rail new railway station on the line to Basingstoke at the point where it passes close to the stadium at the nearby Green Park business centre. The latest is that it almost has planning permission, but they need to improve the design of the toilets. This may come in handy if we are still playing Reading in a few seasons time, but I’ve been writing this every time I do a Reading Awaydaze, so it may not be worth holding your breath and waiting for it to happen.
As with most other out of town stadia, you will struggle to find many decent pubs or takeaways anywhere near. There are a couple of mobile bars just outside the East Stand, and you could try the expensive beer at Holiday Inn, which is about a 15 min walk from the stadium in Imperial way, and is signposted from the second roundabout off the M4. You can also park there for £7 and there is a good fish and chip shop on the other side of the road. Also recommended is the 'World turned upside down' on Basingstoke Road.
The best bet elsewhere in Reading is the Greyfriar on Greyfriar Road, or 'The Three Guineas on the station approach has been designated as an away fans pub. Both these outlets are listed in the CAMRA good beer guide. Unfortunately, most of the other pubs near the station have doormen who won’t let you in unless you can prove you are local.
Alcohol is usually served inside the away end of the stadium, and there is also a small Fan Zone outside the East Stand, which away fans can normally use.
It would be best to get your food in the town centre as well, and there are a couple of takeaways near the railway station. The only eating options near the stadium are several horrible American multinationals in the retail park and a few burger vans.
Reading's new Stadium was opened in August 1998 at a cost of more than £50m, and millionaire Chairman John Madejski modestly named it in honour of himself. It has been voted the best ground outside the premiership on several occasions and offers a totally unrestricted view from every seat, with plenty of leg-room as well.
It was built on the site of a former household waste dump and I'm told that the metallic posts topped with cylindrical discs surrounding the stadium are methane gas vents, built to prevent an underground build-up of gases! It even has a four-star hotel.
The capacity is 24,200 and at the time it opened the club proudly boasted it was the largest sporting arena in the south-east outside London, though it has since lost this distinction to the St.Mary's stadium in Southampton. The away fans are in South Stand, and in the past we’ve had the whole end, with an allocation of 4,000 tickets.
But for the second year running we have only got 2,200. Last season the reason given was that half this stand has been given to something called the ‘1871 club’, “a Reading FC fan group who have formed to try and create a loud, positive atmosphere at the Madejski Stadium throughout the 90 minutes.” Which might be a noble idea, but why couldn’t they have done this at the other end rather than cutting the away allocation?
The three inevitable consequences are that Reading will end up losing income from tickets they could have sold to Leeds fans, that fans who can’t get a ticket from Leeds will do their best to get into the ‘home’ sections of the Madejski, and that to prevent this Reading will in future introduce restrictions on who can buy tickets, causing inconvenience to their own fans as well as ours.
The official Reading site doesn’t mention any restrictions on who can buy tickets in the home stands, but in the past they have been known to cross-check with Leeds and cancel tickets sold to anyone who is identified as being a Leeds member.
Our allocation was initially put on sale via the ‘attendance tracker’ and they have now sold out. They cost an almost reasonable £20 for adults and £13, £10, £5 or £4 for different types of concessions.
The club also has planning permission to extend the ground, the east, north and south stands, and have already laid the foundations, though they can't extend the west stand due to the hotel behind it. This would increase the capacity to 38,000, but it’s not clear exactly when they intend to start this project.
As with most of these plans by various clubs it will depend on them getting back into the Premier League, but it could happen someday. So we can hope that the next time we’re in the same division as the ‘Royals’ this we’ll be back to having a decent allocation, but I wouldn’t bank on it.
Some of this stuff came from www.footballgroundguide.com .
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