Well, it’s finally happened. After periods of prolonged silence, a couple of false starts and dubious excuses, the owner of Watford Football Club, Laurence Bassini has at long last responded to supporters. Following the publication of an interview between the evasive businessman and the Watford Supporters Trust, the official club website has published details of a question and answer session, in which Mr Bassini answers fans questions.
Let’s start with a positive. He has answered all the questions sent in. We’ve been crying out for responses, so to answer each query – the club have confirmed that none were omitted or censored - is welcome. On the downside, adding up the questions asked, it appears (I say appears – my maths is dreadful!) that there were just 32 questions sent in by supporters. Now a session in which an individual asks 32 questions may initially sound quite impressive, but with around 8,000 season ticket holders, that means around 0.4% of that number took the time to get in touch. 0.4%. That’s pitiful by anyone’s standards – and if Watford fans are serious about finding out what is going on at our club, if they are serious about making sure the club is in safe hands, then these are the kind of opportunities that shouldn’t be passed on. There is nothing more deadly than apathy. Have a quick chat with Darlington fans if you think that who is in charge doesn’t matter…
As regular listeners to ‘From the Rookery End’ will know, we’ve had some questions for our mysterious owner from the start. We made a list of five simple questions that we felt, if answered, would provide us with an understanding of our new owner and what his plans were. Nothing more, nothing less – just an understanding of why Mr Bassini was here and what he planned to do. Fair enough, right? Well, as regular listeners (and readers!) will also know, getting these answers has been hard, giving rise to increased concern about his motives and plans.
The club’s question and answer session has helped. We reckon he touched on answers for each of our questions, which are listed below:
1)Why did you decide to 'invest' in football?
2) Why Watford?
3) As owner, what will represent a successful tenure?
4) What are your plans for the Stadium redevelopment and the timescale for completion?
5)Where is the money for bond repayments, stadium redevelopments and future player purchases going to come from
The full transcript of the questions asked and the answers given is available on the official club website but we’ve been through the detail and here at FTRE, we think that it’s a start.
The answers provide a brief outline of what Mr Bassini hopes to achieve, his aims, hopes and dreams for our beloved club. In short, they are; promotion, a completed Vicarage Road Stadium and a profit. I think we can all agree that if the first two come to fruition, then no-one will begrudge Mr Bassini making some money out of the project – he’ll have earned it, having succeeded where businessmen the world over have failed – making money out of a football club.
In terms of our questions – the first two were answered quite clearly. Why football? Simple, this one. As mentioned above - to make a profit. Mr Bassini has made it clear he sees it purely as a business venture. Whilst people may be sceptical about just how he is going to make money out of a club such as ours, at least he has admitted this isn’t just some sort of philanthropic gesture. On this score, it feels like he is being honest – which is something. As for Why Watford? His main answer is locality. Having lived relatively locally to the club for much of his life, Mr Bassini states that it is his proximity to WD18 that encouraged him to get involved. I think the initial way in which Mr Bassini dealt with both the club and it’s fans shows that he didn’t have a deep understanding of football, so I’m not buying the fact that he has ever been a fan of the club or indeed football in general, but at least as a local(ish) resident, he should have some understanding of the way Watford works and what it means to the fans. Having said that, would anyone who understood the ‘Watford way’ choose to pick such a public fight with Graham Taylor?...
Our third question, what will represent a successful tenure? received a three pronged answer. 1) Stability for the club, 2) a completed Vicarage Road stadium and 3) success on the pitch. Mr Bassini’s answers did seem to make it clear that he isn’t underestimating the task he has undertaken in delivering these three targets. Each of them will take time, a considerable amount of money and no little luck along the way. Ultimately, it will be against these three targets that Bassini as an owner will be judged, but I think in identifying these aims, he has at least shown that he shares the same hopes of us, the fans. Let’s hope he can deliver.
In response to question four, What are your plans for the Stadium redevelopment and the timescale for completion? He stopped short of providing actual timescales, but did explain that the East stand is the third priority out of three major building projects, falling in line behind The Red Lion and the fit-out of the South West corner. Questions remain over the viability of The Red Lion as a pub and so as a fan, I have to ask why this would be deemed a priority ahead of the corner of the Rookery and Rous – currently a concrete shell after work was suspended a few years ago. As home to a number of vital facilities, including the dressing rooms, completion would enable a move away from the East Stand – obviously no longer fit for purpose. Would this have been a more suitable focus than the refurbishment of a pub that will see little custom on non-match days? Only time will tell.
As is to be expected, in his answer to our question number 5 - Where is the money for bond repayments, stadium redevelopments and future player purchases going to come from? -there is no mention of exactly where the money is coming from, but in fairness, that’s nobody’s business but his. However, in talking about the scheduled bond repayments, a large amount of money still owed to former owner Lord Ashcroft, he did say that he is planning to pay all of them off in one go, meaning that for the first time in a long time, Watford Football Club would be in effect, debt free.I don’t think there can be a Watford fan on earth who wouldn’t be pleased with that particular outcome.
So. we’ve been asking questions and finally, we’ve got some answers. They are by no means extensive, in depth or conclusive, but at least it’ something. At least we understand our new owners aims, why he's here and what he hopes to achieve. It's a start.
As fans, there is no way we should have had to wait this long to hear from the owner. Supporters are the lifeblood of any club, never more so at relatively small, community focussed clubs such as Watford. Mr.Bassini misjudged this and as a result was met with scepticism and mistrust, whilst his appallingly handled withdrawals from two events at which he was due to speak lead to a combination of anger and ridicule. Hopefully these experiences will have highlighted to Mr Bassini the need for open and honest communication with fans – his meeting with the supporters trust and the Q&A session would seem to indicate this is the case. Let’s hope it continues.
In his interview with the Supporters Trust, Mr. Bassini made it clear that he wanted to be judged on what he achieves for this football club. Our football club. Well, the time to deliver is upon us. Over to you Mr.Bassini. Over to you.
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