Watford have asked all season-ticket holders in the upper section of the Graham Taylor Stand to move a dozen seats along so they can honour their commitment to continue the ongoing redevelopment of the ground.
WD Sport have been shown by a supporter a copy of the letter sent to the affected 1,400 fans this morning. “Due to the ongoing stadium development, and in particular the need to complete the South-West Corner of Vicarage Road Stadium, all Upper Graham Taylor Stand (UGT) season ticket renewers will be required to move 12 seats away from the centre of the tier from the start of the 2016/17 season onwards,” reads the letter signed by Richard Walker, Head of Communications & Ticketing.
“All season ticket holders are being asked to move outwards by an equal number of seats, thus keeping groups of family and friends together wherever possible.”
Those fans 12 or less seats from each end of the stand will be relocated within the upper tier which has a capacity of around 1,700.
Talk of the reshuffle prompted strong reaction among several fans this week.
The club’s decision, we gather, is born out of making the most effective use of the concrete eyesore the Pozzos and Scott Duxbury inherited in the south-west corner when they took over the distressed club in 2012.
The original plan was for the structure, built by Origin on the say-so of Mark Ashton and attached to key-worker accommodation, to house the changing rooms but that was shelved after the dressing rooms were significantly upgraded as part of the £3.5m rebuild of the East Stand while the club were in the Championship. The home changing room is one of the biggest in the Premier League.
The ground floor of the south-west corner is being used as a storage unit for, among other things, the racks of 20 lights which were purchased last month to stimulate the growth of the newly-relaid pitch. The first floor is a TV studio and the plan is for the remaining two floors to be used for hospitality. The club, we understand, did explore the possibility of using it for additional seating but were told it was not viable. The diners in these newly-created lounges will walk through the back of the Upper Graham Taylor Stand and watch the game from the black seats designated for directors and other hospitality guests.
Moving the fans does not, on the face of it, appear to be the upshot of a desire for “the same seat to be sold as hospitality for more profit”, as one fan put it. The club will pocket £80m from this season’s TV deal and £100m next season, if, as seems increasingly likely, they remain in the Premier League. Revenue from hospitality is not a major driver of the club’s income and given the track record of Gino Pozzo and Duxbury since they took charge, it is difficult to imagine them putting pound notes over the satisfaction of long-standing Watford fans. “Our job is always to act in the best long-term interests of this football club,” said Pozzo once.
According to a statement in May 2013 from Lindley Venue Catering, who said they “will be responsible for overseeing the design and installation of new kitchens and two floors of new hospitality facilities”, the £1m refurb of the south-west corner will “feature a casual, informal dining area equipped with LCD screens giving it the ambience of a premium sports bar. The area has also been designed with the dual objective of attracting revenue from non-match day private hire business as well as enhancing the hospitality facilities for match-goers.”
Watford say they will handle the “relocation process” both “respectfully and efficiently”.
“Your co-operation and understanding is greatly appreciated,” the letter concluded.