In spite of the fact there has been no newsletter since early January, the Trust Board have been very active on your behalf.
This is an interesting time for the club and ourselves. We are still coming to terms with the change in circumstances that a single owner and sole shareholder produces as there is understandably less transparency than we were used to previously with Julian Winter as Chief Executive. We accepted that at that time the club was limited in what it could achieve because no more investment was to be forthcoming and so the pitch, the South West Corner and the East Stand were all simply on hold.
The current structure of the club has changed and there is a board established by the previous owners. This board is effectively advisory. However there is also an Executive Committee, on which that board is also represented, that governs the running of the club on a day-to-day basis. Laurence Bassini clearly has a veto on what happens but does work closely with the Executive Board. There is a danger that this less transparent situation can result in the development of paranoia among some of the fans, partly fuelled by what happened under the later stages of Mr Simpson’s stewardship.
Although a number of Supporters Trust members have expressed concerns regarding the lack of complete transparency it was always variable and usually less than might have been perceived and we can only continue to monitor the situation. If the club is being run sustainably by funding developments from player sales then that is what the plan was before Laurence Bassini took over. However, this does mean that there must be no significant debt incurred because the strategy would be high risk since there is no guarantee that we can produce enough players for high value transfer to sustain this.
Following the notorious fans forum the Trust were invited to attend some Executive Board meetings. Peter Brown has attended two meetings to date as our representative. Peter understands business and is in a good position to not only ask questions but to probe the answers. However, we also believe that it is important that we make a constructive contribution and so where we can help by making suggestions and relaying fans concerns and experiences then we will do so. As members will understand, much of the information discussed at the meetings must be treated in confidence, as in any organisation. However, we will communicate what we can and will follow up on any concerns.
Since Christmas, the Trust Chairman has had meetings with both our MP, Richard Harrington, who is a lifetime member of the Trust, and with the Mayor, Dorothy Thornhill both of whom are very sympathetic to the aims of the Trust. Both also see the Trust as an important organisation in representing the aims and aspirations of the broader Community as well as the fans. Our sponsorship of the club’s Community Trust BEST Project is particularly appreciated.
We had our regular meeting with the Community Trust on the BEST Project and were very impressed that the team have not stood still but have increased the number of schools that have been able to take advantage of this excellent initiative. We are intending to include an article by the Community Trust on this project in a newsletter in the near future as they can describe the successes better than we can. We are discussing a much closer involvement of our Trust with the Community Trust on several levels. This is exactly in line with our stated objective to keep the club at the heart of the community. It is not for nothing that Watford is considered a shining example of a Community Club and we aim to do our best to keep it that way.
We continue to be an active part of Supporters Direct, the national voice of supporters’ trusts. The Chairman attended a meeting at the House of Commons on Football Licensing. He also raised our concerns over the Premier League’s proposals for changing the running of football academies with UEFA, who were present at the meeting, since neither the Premier League nor, more worryingly, the F.A. show any interest in listening. We will continue to pursue this and also to push for an improvement in Football Governance, through legislation, along with our fellow supporters’ trusts. Only in this way will the smaller clubs have any chance of a bright future without the constant fear of financial meltdown.
At the Ipswich game two of the Supporters Trust Board had a further brief meeting with Laurence Bassini and longer meetings with one of the Directors and with senior officials of the club covering a number of issues but particularly emphasising the need for stability both financially and organisationally. We are assured that the South West corner completion will commence in the next few weeks and that the pitch renewal will commence in early May. Mr Bassini has delivered on the Red Lion project but we hope that this will not distract effort away from these other vital works.
With regard to the team, we could not have expected the level of success that we have had this season so well done to Sean Dyche and his coaching team and the players themselves. Sean is still learning and is yet another young and inexperienced manager given his chance by Watford, which is rapidly becoming the proving ground for future top British managers. It would be nice to keep one for more than one season, as that is the basis for stability. However, the owner has supported Sean by making funds for players available within our broad sustainability framework, even though the club continues to make a loss each year. The sale of players in the summer and the January transfer window has raised significant funds. We accept that we remain a selling club but the owner has reassured us that he will not allow players to be sold unless the price is considered to be appropriate.
Finally our congratulations are due to the club and the academy on achieving the 50th youngster making his debut in the first team. This really is a notable achievement and is a powerful message to the football authorities if they are really concerned about the state of the game and the need to develop young British players. We are proud that our club is a development club.