Raffaele Riva has stepped down as chairman of Watford Football Club in the wake of the alleged forged bank letter that has led to an English Football League investigation. And owner Gino Pozzo has moved swiftly to fill the void and underlined his faith in Scott Duxbury by handing the chief executive the dual role of executive chairman.
As we first reported in the wake of the Daily Telegraph’s story surrounding the HSBC document, Riva’s position became untenable as it was he who instructed the third party to source the bank letter that was required to ratify Gino Pozzo taking sole ownership of the club in 2014. The outgoing chairman maintains he did not know the letter was forged and that he will “fully refute” and “protect vigorously” his “integrity against, any recent speculation.”
Riva, who is a trusted financial advisor for the Pozzo family, was installed as executive chairman when the Pozzos purchased the club in 2012. He says he is departing to “focus on my other business interests”.
“For the past four years I have acted with honesty and in good faith in all my dealings on behalf of the club, and the club has developed and grown a great deal in this period,” he said in a statement. “I fully refute, and will protect vigorously my integrity against, any recent speculation. It will always be a source of great pride and honour to have been Chairman during a period that has overseen such growth. Watford has done exceptionally well in the current season and I wish the club and its wonderful supporters nothing but future success.”
The departure of Riva and the promotion of Duxbury comes on the back of an independent solicitors’ report that we understand shows there is no wrong doing by any employee of the club. Duxbury was installed as chief executive by the Pozzos following their initial takeover and, in charge of the day to day running of the club, has overseen an unprecedented level of development both on and off the field, including the ongoing stadium redevelopment and the establishing of Watford as a Premier League club.
“Watford is a wonderful football club, deeply rooted in its community, and we are here to ensure its long-term well-being and prosperity,” read a joint statement issued on behalf of Gino Pozzo and Duxbury. “We share your pride at the progress the club has made over the past four years and we will not allow its name to be tarnished by the incident brought to light last week.
“Today the preliminary investigation from a firm of solicitors into that matter was completed and the findings will be sent to the EFL. We can assure every supporter the club acted with honesty, integrity and in good faith at every step and is not guilty of any wrongdoing and we are sure this will ultimately be recognised.
“The three key pillars of stability, sustainability and growth are just as important today as they were when we first met and spoke with Watford fans back in 2012. Since that time, with the backing of the supporters, we have built both a Premier League side and a stadium of which we can all be proud.
“More important is all the good work which goes on at the club every day, by each and every employee, supporter and members of the community. With your help, we aim to ensure this fine work continues to help build a club with a vibrant future.
“Thank you sincerely to all fans for their support over the past week, particularly the banner which preceded the Hull City kick-off at Vicarage Road this weekend. We would like to offer our heart-felt thanks for that.
“You have always been proud of your club – and rightly so. We will do everything we possibly can to ensure you continue to be proud of Watford FC and its achievements in the future.
“You can have absolute confidence and faith we will continue to drive the club forward with ambition, whilst always remembering what makes Watford a very special club for so many people.”