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Hornets in dispute over control of Watford Former Players' Association
The founder of Watford’s Former Players’ Association and the club are at loggerheads over who controls the organisation.
Price ran the organisation unpaid for the initial few months, although Taylor and the previous regime of Julian Winter and the Russo brothers did provide the FPA with help in terms of office administration and work space.
A sales position then opened up and Price was offered the job, which resulted in him incorporating the two roles.
Price said the Former Players Association went on to help the club’s sales team raise a considerable amount of money in the last three years, assisting not only the newly-created Legends Lounge and annual dinners but also other functions, such as season ticket renewal schemes.
When he created the FPA, Price stated he wanted to help the fans feel part of the club again and events such as the legends’ cricket and football matches, and the ex-players’ work in the community, was warmly received by the majority.
It was well supported by the club’s old players and Price stated there are now around 250 former Hornets involved.
But last week Price joined the likes of former commercial director Raj Athwal and head of marketing Leigh Brooks in being made redundant by new chief executive Scott Duxbury.
Price claims he requested three meetings with Duxbury during July and August to discuss the FPA and the work it does following the takeover but said the new chief executive did not respond. Price also said that after he was made redundant, he asked whether the club wanted to work with the organisation on a consultancy basis, but claims he has yet to receive a reply.
Price said: “The Former Players Association was set up so that we could not only bring the old players and club together, but also to build a fund to help those former players who are less well off or struggling.
But despite the FPA becoming hugely successful and raising a lot of money for the club, that hasn’t happened.
"Before the takeover I was in three board meetings where we talked about setting up a separate account for the FPA and it seemed as though we were making progress.
"But following the takeover, it seemed the club wanted to head in a new direction and this seems to back that view up.
"I am of course hugely disappointed to leave the club where I have worked for the last three-and-a-half years and been associated with since I was 13.
"I wish all my friends the best and also the club every success. It is up to the new regime which path they want to take, even though I may not agree with it.
"A lot of people loved associating with their heroes and it is a decision I do not understand considering how much money it raised for the club."
However, Watford believe they control the FPA and when asked why the Hornets had ended their affiliation with the organisation, head of communications Richard Walker replied: "It hasn’t. In fact, the situation is quite the opposite. The club is making a commitment to continue to strengthen its links with all former players and is in discussions with a number of high-profile former players about expanding the reach of its Association."
On Price's claims that he requested several meetings with Duxbury in recent months and that the chief executive did not respond, Walker added: "Neil’s redundancy was directly connected to the sales part of his role.
"The club is currently formulating the Association’s plans for the future, and discussions have been opened by the club with Neil Price as well as a number of other former players as to how this may look. The club is unaware of any request for a meeting with its CEO or any senior members of staff made by Neil Price."
Watford have a sold-out '30 Years Ago' Reunion dinner on Friday, October 27, where guests have paid £50 plus VAT to spend time with the successful 1982/3 squad, many of who played with Price and have been active members of the FPA.
When asked if the event will go ahead, Walker replied: "Yes – and a number of ex-players who committed to attend originally have recently expressed how much they’re looking forward to it."
Price claimed 95 per cent of the former players who returned to Vicarage Road in a working capacity were not paid for their time or given expenses.
On whether players will be paid in the future, Walker said: "The club will keep its options open in this regard. It might well take the view that payment is appropriate where the context of the work and the profile of the ex-player concerned merits such a decision."
Price's brother Josh recently agreed a 25-year lease for the Yellow and Red Lion on Vicarage Road, alongside builder Dave Hashani, and the former Watford defender hopes to continue the association's work from the renovated pub.
Price said: "Hopefully the FPA can find a new home at the Yellow and Red Lion, continue the good work we have been doing and finally set up a fund to help the old players."
Hornets legends Luther Blissett, Ian Bolton and Les Taylor will be in the Yellow and Red Lion pub from 12.30pm on Saturday and will be hosting a question-and-answer session with supporters. It is hoped the trio will return to the pub after the Middlesbrough match also.
Watford owned the pub opposite Vicarage Road Stadium for several years but agreed to give the business, and the land, to former owner Laurence Bassini as part of the Pozzos’ takeover in the summer.
However, Josh Price and Hashani came to an "agreement" with Bassini over a new 25-year lease, with the option to purchase the freehold in a year’s time.
Hashani helped renovate the building and Josh Price was the pub manager when the club ran the business. When he spoke to the Watford Observer a couple of weeks ago, Hashani did not want to discuss specific details about the deal with Bassini but he did confirm that he and Price finalised the paperwork for a 25-year lease and that there is an option to buy the freehold in a year.
Josh Price, who spent time at Watford as a youngster, also stated Bassini is "out of the picture" and wants to "return the pub back to Watford supporters".
However, it is unclear whether all of the paperwork regarding the transfer of the freehold from Watford FC to Bassini has been processed, even though the 25-year lease has been agreed.
Watford refused to comment on whether the freehold had been transferred to Bassini or comment on the club's current situation relating to the pub.
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