Tuesday, 19 April 2011

The Takeover: Time to talk

As the season draws to a close and summer takes the place of spring, it's not just the weather that is hotting up. The takeover of the club by Laurence Bassini hit a major new milestone over the past couple of days, with the quantity of shares he owns going over the 90% mark.

This figure is important for a number of reasons. Firstly, it means that those who have so far decided not to sell their shares, no longer have a choice. Mr Bassini now has a right to purchase all remaining shares. Secondly, this means that Laurence Bassini is now in sole control of Watford Football Club. He's our new owner. In my eyes, this means that we as fans now have the right to start expecting answers.

Let's be clear about this – Watford needed a new owner and a fresh injection of cash. We have been surviving, but only just. The long term future of Watford has been precarious for some time and there have been precious little offers to help us out. Mr. Bassini and his associates have been the only apparently credible solution to our ongoing financial woes.

Takeovers are complicated things and I'm sure I'm not alone in accepting that whilst negotiations are going on, it's hard for the parties involved to discuss plans in any detail. With the acquisition of over 90% of the shares, this is no longer an issue. Laurence Bassini has what he wanted – control of the club. Now it's time to tell us, the fans, how and when he is going to achieve what he told us he will.

The new pitch. A re-developed East Stand. Completing the half finished building work at Vicarage Road. Not things that can happen overnight, but things that Mr Bassini has openly said will take place under his ownership. Good to hear. What will be even better to hear is how and when.

Negotiations have been taking place for some time now, affording plenty of time to finalise plans so that work could commence, or at least a timeline approved and communicated. I don't know about you, but if I bought a football club that I was going to help out, stabilise and improve, I'd want to tell the world exactly how I was going to do it. I'd certainly want to tell the fans – my new customers.

So far, we've heard precious little. An interview in the Watford Observer some months ago outlined broad plans. An open letter in the same paper got a response from Mr. Bassini which asked for patience. Well, patience we can do. If we are told that the East Stand will be complete in the summer of 2012, we'll wait. If we are told the pitch will be relaid before the start of next season, that will be fine. If there are reasons that mean that the remaining work a Vicarage Road can't take place until 2015, well OK. We'll wait. We just need to know. Patience is all well and good, but we need to know exactly what we are waiting for in order to exercise it.

We as football fans are generally a pretty understanding bunch. Up and down the land, we come back week after week, travelling the length and breadth of the country, buying tickets and replica shirts regardless of how our team performs. This commitment shouldn't be misinterpreted though. We come back because we care. We come back because we are passionate. Fans don't just invest their money into football clubs, they invest emotion. They invest their souls. We don't actually expect much in return, but we do expect to be treated with respect and honesty.

Businessmen are busy. Especially ones who buy football clubs, and I'm sure none of us expect daily updates as to what is happening at WD18. However, businessmen also understand the power and the importance of the customer, so I'd be surprised and slightly alarmed if our new owner didn't find the time to tell us what he has up his sleeve in the coming days. Watford is his club now and as Hornets fans, we're very keen to get acquainted.

I'm not saying that we should panic or worry; we're supporters of the club and we should continue to do just that. Let's just hope that Laurence Bassini realises the importance of explaining to us exactly how he is going to do the same.

In his letter to the Watford Observer, Mr. Bassini wrote that 'actions speak louder than words'. Well, the time for action is surely upon us.

Come on You Horns.



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  1. Blog hits the nail on the head 100%... well said

  2. He's been there for 5 minutes. I would rather he got to know the place and the people, takes a good look at how things are running and then tells us what he's going to do at some point in the Summer rather than give us some flannel that wont happen. I had enough of that under Cashton and Simpson to last a life time.

  3. Mr B is "apparent" but is he "credible"? The trouble is he comes over as somewhat "incredible" as a businessman and as owner , especially while the source and scale of his new wealth remains secret. He may have been in charge "5 minutes" but he surely has been making his business plan for the club for a considerable length of time--you do not take over a loss-making , debt heavy business and THEN decide what to do with it, do you? So the time is certainly right for him to share his intentions for the club and his specific plans for next season. The customers/fans, who he needs to buy season tickets, expect it.

    The signs are not good. He now has complete control and will take the club private. He controls the resources of the club , and player sales can be used to pay off the debts he raised to finance the takeover, plus to pay back the bonds as a condition of the sale. There is no evidence he has fresh money to invest in the club, which is what a new owner was supposed to bring .There is no comparison with Simpson , who was known to be independently wealthy (but not wealthy enough) who first used his own money to save the club then gambled the clubs money to try to get back into the Prem. He was (mostly) transparent in his dealings, motives and flaws---this fellow is a mystery.

  4. The season ticket forms will be out soon. In this financial climate people need to budget. For that they need facts. So we should get some soon otherwise it will be too late.

    If people decide that they'll only go to the odd game and buy tickets on an ad-hoc basis season ticket take up will drop meaning the club misses out on up front cash.

    Unless he has a huge warchest and doesn't want to alert other clubs to our wealth, which I doubt is the case, I'd really like some clarity so we can all pull together and get behind the cause without any suspicions or paranoias.

  5. Good article Mike.

    I think we have a right to be concerned and in the current climate we're hardly over reacting to feel worried at the lack of information coming our way. It's essential that fans put pressure on the owners if we're not to go the same way as other failed take overs. Mr Bassini might be a perfectly reputable businessman with nothing but the best intentions for Watford FC, but until we start to get answers to some of the questions that you and the Watford Observer have raised, then we must remain seriously concerned about what lies ahead.

    I don't think any Watford fans are expecting new owners to go on a wild spending spree in the transfer market, nor do we want that (been there, done that, nearly sunk the club). Our much vaunted academy represents the sustainable way forward, all I really want is a plan to gradually move forward and maintain our status as a competitive championship level club. That's my perspective, I hope others share a similar view. Let's hope we get some answers soon so we can start to look forward to next season.

  6. A good and balanced piece, Mike.

    For what it's worth, I'd prefer to have substance...and if that takes time, then I'm greatly reassured by the continuing presence of three key, trusted figures (chairman, chief exec and manager) in the meantime. That suggests we'll have some stability; there's a great deal about Watford Football Club that doesn't need to be fixed, even though some things evidently do.

    Better to take sufficient time to lay down some firm, feasible plans than to speak first and be held to account for rash promises further down the line. (Ring any bells...?) To be honest, I'd be more worried if I were reading Premiership-in-the-sky pipe-dreams than I am by reserved silence.

    Having said all of that, the clock is ticking. And it's ticking because the supporters' trust (lower case) needs to be won before certain things happen...and top of the list of things is the sale of Danny Graham. If you trust the regime, that sale will be understandable, prudent and logical: it's what we planned for when we bought him, it's the way that our transfer policy and business model have been geared ever since the finances imploded. Seen in the light of that strategy, it'll represent a massive success for the scouting system, the coaching staff, the team, and, of course, for Danny himself.

    But if you don't trust the regime - and that's probably the majority right now - then that sale, rightly or wrongly, will be cast as a sign of things to come, as the first asset to be stripped. And if things don't go well at the start of next season...

    So it's about public relations at this point. It's about showing a willingness to communicate, even if you don't have much that's definite to tell people; show some enthusiasm for getting your message across. It's about using the honeymoon period before tough decisions are taken to win over some trust, to get yourself in credit. And that's why I'd like to hear more: because I fear for the consequences of not winning people over...

  7. Bye Bye Watford, Bazini will take you to the cleaners. This is the man who has had more bankrupt businesses than you have had hot dinners. His father has a very colour seedy past with the nice "club" he owns and his ex wife had Bazini banged up for an attempted contract on her life, which he was later released..certainly alot of smoke around this guy, he is well known in the stanmore area and has swindled and conned his fortunes with various swiss bank accounts filing up nicely. But hey what do I know...