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Watford fans offered the chance to buy shares in the club

Watford fans are being given the opportunity to buy shares in the club as the owners turn to unconventional methods to raise funds to steer the club back to the Premier League.

The ownership at Watford has long been a point of contention among Watford fans with match-going fans frequently protesting against Gino Pozzo in recent years. The Italian's tendency to sack managers quickly has drawn criticism from all corners while financially, the Hornets have been burdened by debt since his takeover.

watford fans
Watford fans are being given the opportunity to buy shares in the club as the owner, Gino Pozzo, looks to raise funds – Photo by Icon Sport

In a bid to raise funds to help the club grow further, a statement was released on Tuesday explaining that Pozzo is seeking investment from the fans. It read:

“In common with many other clubs, we have been exploring opportunities to bring investment into the club as we look to grow the club further and bolster revenue streams which, in turn, allow us to strengthen the playing squads.

“Having looked at a number of options, we have decided to take the exciting and innovative step of becoming one of the first major English clubs to offer true ownership to fans and investors alike.

“Put simply, we are aiming to offer approximately 10% of the club at a value of £17.5million, on the basis of a valuation of £175 million. Having posted a pre-tax profit of £24.1 million for the last financial year, reported to be the highest in the EFL, we believe this is a fair valuation.”

What's in it for Watford fans?

Given the club are essentially asking fans to hand over their hard-earned money to invest in the club, there needs to be some kind of incentive. Football is very rarely a business where money can be made, particularly with the club stuck in the Championship.

Watford have said that fans will be able to start trading their shares in 12 months time, which could potentially be lucrative if the club get promoted to the Premier League next season. On top of that, they have said fans who invest “may” also be provided with exclusive offers.

Finally, the club have promised that some of the investment will be used to invest in the playing squad. The statement said:

“Part of the funding will be channelled into recruitment to strengthen Tom Cleverley’s playing squad as we seek a return to the Premier League. We believe this project can form a key strand of football’s future finance, where investors and supporters alike can enjoy the fruits of the club’s future success.”

Watford have told fans to be cautious, however, and warned that nobody should invest any money that they can't afford to lose.

‘A number of significant questions' – Watford Supporters Trust respond 

In response to the announcement by the Hertfordshire club, the Watford Supporters Trust released a statement questioned the motives for opening up investment opportunities. They said: “While some supporters may view this as a way to help the club meet its immediate financial needs, the Trust have questions about the nature of this appeal for investment and the wider implications as to our club's financial stability.”

It is worth noting that Watford posted a pre-tax profit of £24.1 million in the last financial year, finishing 15th in the Championship in the 2023/24 season. The Trust statement added: “While the club showed a substantial pre-tax profit in 2022-23 which was driven by player sales, we have a number of significant questions about the rationale and timing for this appeal for cash injection.” You can view the full statement by the Supporters Trust on X.com (formerly Twitter) below.

Watford respond to criticism from Supporters Trust

In response to the Trust’s statement, a club spokesperson at Watford made clear that the decision to open up ownership opportunities to supporters was not “rescue capital”. The spokesperson said that the club “had discussions with potential investors to strengthen the club yet, for a variety of reasons, these talks have not yet materialised into concrete investment. The door is certainly not closed to these discussions, but the club felt there were other avenues to explore.”

The statement added: “The end goal is to strengthen the financial position of the club and achieve on-the-pitch success, not to prop it up.

“The scheme also sets a strong value and profile for the club while opening up channels to traditional and non-traditional investors that have not previously been explored.”

So far, the scheme has been relatively successful, as it has reached the monetary targets set in both the U.S. and the UK. Over on X.com (formerly Twitter), football finance expert Kieran Maguire said: “Watford partial sale to fans/investors appears to be reasonably successful to date, with the US offering raising over $5m and that in the UK hitting its target of £2m, so has some of the criticism been overstated? A look at the sales pitch may make you more cautious.”


Andy Delaney

Andy is a freelance sports writer with ten years of experience covering major sporting events across Europe. He has also been a season ticket holder at Old Trafford since 2008 and has visited over 40 football stadiums in the United Kingdom and abroad following the Reds.

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