Meet Reading City, the non-league club known more for food than football

It started as a social media prank that went viral, but it has put non-league Reading City on football’s food map.

When Barney Sweeney tweeted a random picture of a box of Chinese food which he joked the part-time Berkshire club were serving to fans, it caused a social media frenzy.

It was liked thousands of times after the picture was retweeted by Footy Scran, an account with more than 439,000 followers which invites fans to take pictures of the best – and worst – food on sale at football matches.

“The likes went from 1,000 to 2,000 to 5,000 in no time,” said Vicky Pyke, treasurer at Reading City, who play in the ninth tier of English football.

“I said to the chairman ‘we need to jump on this because if we don’t then someone else will’.”

Shortly afterwards, the Citizens added Thai red curry, noodles, spring rolls, pak choi and chicken balls – all served in a pizza box – to the matchday menu at £10.

A picture of the food, cooked by chairman Martin Law, received more than 20,000 likes, and is now on sale at every home game at Reading City’s Rivermoor Stadium.

“A lot of people hadn’t heard of Reading City before all this happened,” said Simon Johnson, manager of the Combined Counties League club, who

are at Royal Wootton Bassett Town in the FA Cup preliminary round on Saturday.

“None of this would have happened but for my mate Barney.

“He thought it would be funny to tweet a picture of a huge box of Chinese food and say ‘look what they’re serving at Reading City’.

“We had to do something as a club because thousands of people were reacting in a positive way on social media. The first game after the joke, 20-odd people turned up asking for a Chinese because they had seen it on Twitter.

“I’ve heard some people say we’re more famous for food than for football right now.”

Pyke added: “It’s been such a boost for the club. We have seen new faces at the ground since we started selling it.

“There was one gentleman from Cornwall who wasn’t sure whether to come and watch us or go to Hungerford. He picked us because of the food.

“Another fan asked ‘can you get a box ready for the end of the game so I can take it home to my wife and son?’.”

Each food box sold nets Reading City about £4 profit, while nothing goes to waste.

“The players sometimes have the leftovers in the dressing room after a match,” added Johnson.

“I have tried it. It’s good, but it is not something I would recommend as a pre-match meal for the team. It might slow them down.”

Original article published 18.08.2022 on the BBC Sport website.

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