THE future of crisis-hit Watford FC is on the line after a senior director revealed if the Hornets were involved in any other business "we would be stopping it".

This dire prognosis was issued by chief executive Tim Shaw, who also refused to rule out the possibility of the Division One club being placed in administration if a key part of what effectively amounts to a financial rescue package were to break down.

With the club and its fans still reeling from the sacking of manager Luca Vialli last week, these latest worrying revelations are certain to come as another major blow.

The ITV Digital disaster is expected to deny the Vicarage Road club between £4 and £5 million in guaranteed income over the next two years, and Shaw described the Hornets' current financial predicament as "pretty appalling".

However, Watford's troubles have been exacerbated by the collapse of the player transfer market, and what amounts to the refusal of financial institutions to lend the club any money in its hour of need.

"If, God forbid, we had to go into administration it would be because it is the only choice left to us, but I can't say it would never happen," Mr Shaw said.

"But it is not the intention or desire of this board of directors to go into administration.

"We don't see it as a tactic or a strategy, but we do want people to understand this is a very, very, very serious financial situation we are facing, and if this was any other business than a football club we would be stopping it.

"That is not just Watford Football Club. If you went and did a poll of every First Division club out there, I think you would get the same response.

"Quite rightly, and I mean this genuinely, there is criticism levelled at the directors for some of the things we've done. Yes, we've made mistakes.

"But I also want people to understand it is because of the care for the club the directors have, that we are working so hard to make sure this continues, and we get financial stability quickly."

The Carlton-Granada debacle has effectively killed off the transfer market, thus denying the Hornets a potentially valuable source of income because several of their bigger-name players could be sold for significant sums, while financial institutions are no longer willing to lend money to many clubs because they are now seen as a bad risk.

June 21, 2002 14:00