Relegation shatters ‘The Hornets’ hive dreams


Watford new stadium June 2020 update Image: Watford FC

The relegation of English Premier League’s Watford Football Club to the lower tier Football League Championship in July 2020 has put on hold the club’s plans to shift from Vicarage Road, its home ground, to Bushey Hall Golf Club in England.

Watford Football Club is an English professional football club based in Watford, Hertfordshire. They play in the Championship, the second tier of English football.

The historic Vicarage Road at Hertfordshire, UK, is among the smallest arenas with just over 22,000 seats. Watford has played at the historic Vicarage Road ever since it opened in 1922. The ground last underwent expansion in 2015 when 700 seats were added to the Sir Elton John Stand.

Bushey Hall Golf Club is one of the oldest parkland golf courses in Hertfordshire, UK.

In October 2019, the golf course closed following the razing of the club house. A new clubhouse is due to be built on the site and the club to be reopened later in 2021.

For some time after the club had been demolished rumors circulated that Watford had purchased Bushey Hall and had mooted construction of a new 30,000-capacity stadium including hotels, restaurants and casinos within a country park on the vacant golf course.

Towards the end of 2020 season’s English Premier League matches, ‘The Hornets’, however, faced its worst nightmare when it lost out to Arsenal Football Club, finishing 19th out of the 20 clubs competing in the first class league and being relegated to the Football League Championships.

The club’s announcement in March last year of constructing a 30,000-capacity stadium, East of the Bushey Hall Golf Club and 1.5 miles away from the Vicarage, courted controversy and massive opposition from Bushley residents and Conservative party councilors.

A councilor wrote directly to the owners of Watford FC urging them to “abandon” plans to build a new stadium – just a couple of days before the Hornets were relegated from the Premier League.

The Liberal Democrat Party added its voice to the increasing opposition to the new stadium by writing a letter to the owners of ‘The Hornets’, expressing concern on how the “disastrous project would cause irreparable harm, both to our community and our local environment”.

Thousands also signed a Conservative party petition calling for Watford FC to be “given the red card”” as regards building a new stadium in Bushey.

The club had also begun pre-application discussions with Hertsmere Borough Council – although a club source had told the media that it was just “scoping out the opportunity”.

Watford after being dropped out of the top flight following a 3-2 defeat to Arsenal was tight-lipped on what relegation could mean for a potential new stadium.

Following relegation, the club released a statement which read, “We are here for the long term and we will not allow this one moment of great disappointment to stop the continued development of this club over the next eight years and beyond.”

The statement also spoke of the “great pride” it had in “transforming” Vicarage Road Stadium and building a club of “true substance”.

Earlier, media reports had stated that expanding Vicarage Road by up to 10,000 places had also an option for Watford but there are no further details regarding the development.

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