The Hornets chief executive admits it will be “many years” before the club breaks even but claims they are no longer planning to balance the books through player sales.
In recent years Watford have made no secret of the fact they needed to sell their star players on a regular basis to compensate for annual loses.
CEO Scott Duxbury refused to state how much debt the Pozzos inherited when he addressed supporters at the recent fans’ forum but he did add that Watford’s accounts will be published at the end of November and “the record will be there for everybody to see”.
Duxbury said: “We were aware of the debt, we are managing it and what we said at the start was that our aim is to implement a business plan that makes the club self sufficient as quickly as possible.
“The previous business plan was based upon significant operating losses that would be covered through player trading. We don’t want to do that, we want to keep players and remain competitive and we think the best platform to get to the Premier League is to be a viable, sustainable Championship club.
“So we are reducing the debt and getting to a position where we will move towards breaking even. That will take many years but with the new business plan and new initiatives; we are moving the club in the right direction.”
Duxbury was chief executive at West Ham United during an extremely turbulent period in the club’s history.
He joined the Hammers as their in-house lawyer in 2002 from Manchester United and was promoted to CEO in 2006.
Duxbury was criticised for his role in the Carlos Tevez affair which resulted in a heavy fine for West Ham and when the club were took over by David Gold and David Sullivan in January 2010, he resigned soon after.
Duxbury, who worked with Gian Luca Nani and Gianfranco Zola at Upton Park, said: “I don’t particularly want to talk about the past because our whole focus and passion is Watford.
“What I can say about the past is that I am a far better chief executive now because of my experiences in the past. There were successes and failures and as long as you don’t make the same mistakes twice, then you are better because of it.
“The three of us [Duxbury, Nani and Zola] are better individuals because of our past experiences and our whole focus and pride is being here.
“All we can promise is we will give everything for this football club and we are better because of our past.”
The fans’ forum had a good blend of serious answers and humour on Thursday night.
The event started with a joke about the well-being of the panel, which consisted of Duxbury, Nani, Zola and John Eustace, after Laurence Bassini’s no-show last year.
Zola’s poor memory was an on-going feature following his inability to remember Eustace’s name, after having to refer to him as “the skipper”.
Another funny moment was when a school teacher asked the panel what the club were going to do about the majority of his class supporting bigger clubs such as Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea. Zola turned the tables by stating that he should give those children more homework.
It was also confirmed the successful ‘At Your Place’ events will continue this season.
- After last week’s interview with Duxbury, when he stated the Academy would be run “exactly like it has been”, we were informed that four members of Academy staff were made redundant since the summer takeover and three others had left without being replaced.
Watford had applied for Category One status as part of the new Elite Player Performance Plan – the highest level – but after the takeover decided to opt for Category Three, which is on a par with clubs such as Stevenage and Luton Town.
When asked about the departures, Duxbury said: “The club budgeted for Category One status in the budget that we inherited, which cost £1m plus, so they had to start recruiting staff to have in place for the Category One audit.
“We hadn’t fully gone through that process but certain staff had been hired to get within budget. Some of those Category One members of staff were made redundant. Some were part-time and some were full-time. It was a mix.”
When asked if Watford’s Academy could be run “exactly like it has been” considering the loss of seven members of staff, Duxbury replied: “Yes, completely because these were Category One additions ready to be in place should we run it as a Category One Academy.
“We are going to continue as we were, with Harefield and the same scouting, but we don’t need Category One. It is like the fourth-generation astro-turf pitch, we are not having that. For Category One you were meant to have something like five conditioning coaches but we are not having that, we are having what we always had – one.
“It is not misleading [the ‘exactly like it has been’ comment], it is just that these people were brought in for Category One status and we are not going for that. That is why they were moved on.”