It's the fourth day of February 2000. Nigel Wray leans back in his sumptuous
leather armchair in his London office, takes a deep breath and then sits
forward and taps his desk with his fingertips wondering how to pass the time
one Friday afternoon. I know, he thinks to himself, I'll surf the net and
have a look at that Watford webzine thing, see what they're saying.
With new found enthusiasm for the remaining hours of Poets Day, he logs on
and clicks on "Blind, Stupid and Desperate - Watford FC Web Site", naturally
already logged in the Favourites section of Internet Explorer. Heading for
the "What's New" section, he reads through the Gravelaine obituary then finds
an article entitled We are not the problem". An article written by myself
detailing my opinion, nothing more, on what our football club should do
regarding season ticket pricing for next year.
Nigel clicks on the link and the page unfolds before him. He pulls his chair
in, leans back and starts to read. He starts to read about how the club need
to think about ways to retain the additional six thousand season ticket holders that
promotion to the Premier League has attracted. My opinion. How the existing
core of eight thousand supporters are not the real problem. My opinion. How Watford
need to think about the long-term and try to increase the core support of
the club. My article. My opinion. Nothing more.
He finishes the article, sits back and thinks - this guy has got something
here. He picks up the phone and dials his cousin, relaying the salient
points of my article. Haig agrees with his recommendation and the two
finalise the details with sufficient time for Nigel to make the six o'clock
charge for the bar at the Plush London Office Arms. The front page of the
programme for the home game against Leicester carries two main headlines.
The first reads "Coming soon, it's our turn to thank you: FAN APPRECIATION DAY!". The other
reads "Are you UP for the long term? See page 62".
Page 62 details how the club's fourteen thousand season ticket holders have been
magnificent all season, sticking by the team throughout an unprecedented
winless run. Watford are going to reward them and offer them a discounted
season ticket for next season. Buy within the next thirty days and renew
your season ticket for £340. The thinking, they claim, is to reward
supporters and try and retain their support for the next few years when
Watford will be back in the Premiership.
The following thirty days sees eleven and a half thousand of the fourteen thousand renew their season
tickets. Watford get relegated. Relegated despite a magnificent effort,
which sees them beat Manchester United and Tottenham at Vicarage Road as
well as completing the double over Chelsea by winning at Stamford Bridge.
The next season sees them rebuild, get promoted and retain their Premiership
status for several years thereafter, playing to a core support of fifteen thousand.
Elton John steps down as Chairman saying his work is done and takes up his
previous position as a director. Nigel Wray, the new Chairman, reflects on
the last few seasons and how the core support has grown due to his long-term
strategy. His strategy of offering the cut-price season ticket deal several
years earlier had worked. Nigel, being the gentleman he is, admits that the
season ticket offering had been someone else's idea but elaborates no
further. I know, though. I know it was my idea and that it came from my
article. I know that Watford are now able to retain their Premiership
position because of me and my article.
Pure fantasy, of course, and this is not meant to try and suggest that my
article is better than anyone else's or anything other than my late night
ramblings. My literary ability ranks far behind most who write articles for
BSaD. That's the wonderful thing about opinion, though - it's
subjective, it cannot be right and it cannot be wrong. It's just an opinion.
Of course, I would love the above scenario to be true. For me to be the
saviour of the football club that means as much to me as anything ever has.
Reality bites, though. The Leicester programme does carry two headlines but
the second differs ever so slightly from my version.
The reality is that Watford are not offering a discount to retain existing
supporters and secure the long term future of the club. They are trying to
attract a few extra supporters for the remainder of this solitary
Premiership season. Trying to screw the last few pounds out of an
unsuccessful campaign before the Premiership bubble bursts. They might as
well have printed a headline which read "Guarantee yourself a ticket for the
Man United and Arsenal games with no obligation to come back next year when
we're in the Nationwide League". Is it me? Am I being unrealistic?
To me, this just smacks of short termism. Short termism at its inglorious
worst. Just my opinion, though. Nothing more.