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

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

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

The Chinese food box served in Reading City out of the league
Reading City Chinese food box got over 20,000 likes on Twitter

It started as a social media joke that went viral, but it has put Reading City out of the league on football’s gastronomic map.

When Barney Sweeney tweeted a random image of a box of Chinese food that joked that the Berkshire halftime club was serving fans, it caused a frenzy on social media.

It received thousands of “likes” after Footy Scran, a has more than 439,000 followersexternal link which invites fans to photograph the best -and the worst- food for sale at football matches.

“The likes went from 1,000 to 2,000 to 5,000 in a short time,” said Vicky Pyke, treasurer of Reading City, which plays in the ninth tier of English football.

Vicky Pyke displays box of Chinese food for sale in non-league Reading City
Vicky Pyke displays box of Chinese food for sale in non-league Reading City

“I told the president ‘we have to jump on this because if we don’t, someone else will.'”

Shortly after, the Citizens added Thai red curry, noodles, spring rolls, pak choi and chicken meatballs, all served in a pizza box, to the match day menu at £10.

An image of the food, cooked by chairman Martin Law, has 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, which is at Royal Wootton Bassett Town in the FA Cup preliminary round on Saturday.

Reading City fans enjoy Chinese food for sale at the non-league club
Reading City earns around £4 for every box of Chinese food it sells

“None of this would have happened if it hadn’t been for my partner Barney.

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

“We had to do something as a club because thousands of people were reacting positively on social media. The first game after the prank, about 20 people showed up asking for a Chinese because they had seen him on Twitter.

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

Reading City's Rivermoor Stadium
Reading City’s average league gate in 2021-22 was 112

Pyke added: “It’s been a huge boost for the club. We’ve seen new faces on the pitch since we started selling it.”

“There was a Cornish gentleman who was not sure whether to come to see us or go to Hungerford. He chose us because of the food.

“Another fan asked ‘can you prepare a box for the end of the game so I can take it to my wife and son?'”

The food cooked by President Martin Law
Food is cooked fresh in Reading City by President Martin Law

Each box of food sold brings Reading City a net profit of around £4, while none goes to waste.

“Players sometimes have leftovers in the locker room after a game,” Johnson added.

“I’ve tried it. It’s good, but it’s not something I would recommend as a pregame meal for the team. It might slow them down.”

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