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Watford Supporters' Trust chairman gives his views on Watford FC crisis
Following Tuesday's dramatic AGM, Watford Supporters' Trust chairman Graham Sterry released this statement on Thursday morning with his own views on the current situation:
'I attended the AGM of Watford Leisure etc in my capacity as Chairman of Watford Supporters Trust. Since the AGM, the Supporters Trust has not been able to meet to formulate its views and there will undoubtedly be differing views and interpretations of events – some informed by having been there and through experience. Some not.
My own interpretation of events is that the 3 directors representing the interests of Valley Grown Salads (Vince and Jimmy Russo and their nominee director Robin Williams) resigned because it was clear to them that they would inevitably be voted off the Board. A major shareholder had ensured that voting be on the basis of shareholdings of those voting. That is normal practice in a formal poll. Since the Russos between them own less than 30% of shares and the counter parties own in excess of 50% of shares, there could be only one result. The VGS directors resigned rather than be voted off the Board.
However, at the same time, they demanded the immediate repayment of loans made to the Club by VGS. That immediately would force the Club into administration since it would be unable to meet its commitments. Were that to happen, the Club would immediately be docked 10 points by the Football League.
Most of the clubs in the Championship have levels of indebtedness markedly greater than ours at Watford. In saying that, I am not making light of the loans that the Russo’s have had to make to Watford; nor of the efforts that they have made to make the Club successful. But I am astounded and disappointed that anyone with the best interests of the Club at heart would take such action. It is that single act of demanding immediate repayment of the loans that forces us into administration.
Jimmy Russo was understandably emotional when he resigned. He stated, quite rightly, that he had tried to keep the Club afloat since he had taken over as Chairman. During that time, the other major shareholders (Lord Ashcroft and Graham Simpson) had not invested any new money into the club. VGS had been forced to make loans to keep the Club going. The last £1million would have run out before Christmas. In previous statements Jimmy had stated that following that he would be forced to place the Club into administration unless the other major shareholders made money available. He told the meeting that despite his phone calls, Fordwat representatives had not spoken to him. He further stated that they, VGS, had the funds and would invest, but only if VGS could acquire the Club from Lord Ashcroft and Simpson, on their terms. VGS had made a proposal to acquire their interest, but had had no response at all.
During the course of the continued AGM, and after the VGS directors had all left the meeting, it was made clear that proposals had been received by VGS and also proposals presented by Lord Ashcroft and Simpson. The Board had resolved that both of these proposals would be evaluated urgently by a sub-group of the Board comprising the independent directors, including Stuart Timperley and Graham Taylor. That evaluation was incomplete. It was obvious that the independent directors were frustrated that VGS directors had resigned and pulled the administration trigger before the independent directors had been allowed to complete evaluation.
That makes it very clear that this is all about the outright ownership of the Club. We have two groups of people who have invested in the past – one for many years - both claiming to have the funds and, crucially, the desire to continue funding the Club. We should be comfortable but for their inability to work together. Instead we are being pitch forked into administration as a device to wrest control of the Club. The Supporters Trust can only regret and abhor such destructive behaviour. We should not be facing administration.
Just to finish off, with Graham Taylor as Acting-Chairman for the meeting, the AGM continued with voting on the Resolutions before the meeting. In particular these included the election or otherwise of the Board of Watford Leisure. Graham Taylor, Stuart Timperley, David Fransen and Julian Winter were re-elected. We shall continue to support them fully in their efforts for our Club. They are going to need it, and we need them to be successful.'