‘The Hornets’ may fly out of Watford



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Watford FC stadium update April 2021 Image: Watford FC & Watford Observer

The Watford Borough Council (local authority for the Watford non-metropolitan district of England) (UK) has claimed it is “working constructively” with the English professional football club Watford F.C. to try and keep the club’s stadium in the town.

‘The Watford Observer’ recently revealed plans for a 33,000-seater carbon zero football stadium after the private owners of Bushey Hall had put forward their site for rehabilitating as part of Hertsmere Borough Council’s (local authority for the Hertsmere non-metropolitan district of England, the United Kingdom) local plan, proposing the club as the occupier of the site.

As per a planning document, a sustainable stadium could come up on a golf course within the next five years.

Detailed first stage proposals to transform Bushey Hall Golf Club have emerged, most notably providing a new home for Watford F.C.

In fact, developers are proposing a new 33,000-seat stadium for Watford F.C. alongside a 6,000 indoor arena on the former site of Bushey Hall Golf Club. The plans will see a new complex built on the current green belt land, as well as offices, fan zone and football pitches.

Watford Football Club is an English professional football club based in Watford, Hertfordshire (UK). They play in the Championship, the second tier of English football, having been relegated from Premier League in 2020.

Vicarage Road is a stadium in Watford, Hertfordshire, England, and is the home of association football club Watford of the EFL Championship. An all-seater stadium, its current capacity is 22,200.

Those plans were met with polarized views from supporters, some of whom said the new site could prove to be a springboard for the club to move forward, while a section of the fans want ‘The Hornets’ to stay in their historic digs.

‘The Watford Observer’ further stated that the Watford Borough Council is keen to see the club stay where they are now – the club should remain in the town.

Following the emergence of the documents, Donna Nolan, Managing Director, Watford Borough Council, maintained, “The Watford Borough Council is in ongoing talks with Watford F.C. and we have been clear we want them to stay in their home town. We are working constructively with the club in relation to Vicarage Road and looking forward to discussing any proposals they have for the stadium.”

Added Nolan, “We are actively working with the club including on how the plans for the redevelopment of Watford General Hospital may open up more opportunities for them to deliver their ambitions and remain in the town (read Watford).”

Watford Mayor Peter Taylor has also recently stated his desire to keep the stadium in Watford.

Despite the Council’s best intentions, repurposing of the current arena of ‘The Hornets’ could depend heavily on the development of Watford General Hospital next door.

The Council explained that talks around those developments, and how they might affect the club, are ongoing between both parties.

The Council did not provide any inputs as regards any height or building restrictions could definitively prevent Vicarage Road from being expanded further.

The club is also mulling on the possibility of expanding the present site.

Back in 2018, Watford F.C. CEO and Chairman Scott Duxbury said he had “engaged a company to conduct a survey to see how we can expand the stadium but still keep the aesthetic look we have now. We are looking at two scenarios, one taking us to 25,000 and one taking us to 30,000. I would like to take us to 30,000, because it puts us in that tier of clubs just outside the top six.”

At a fans forum in 2018, Duxbury said he was still happy with the current site, but moving to a new site would be considered if it was worth it.

He added, “I’ve always been happy with Vicarage Road, I think it’s a great stadium and we’ll continue to develop it. If commercially it made sense to move stadium, and it’s not just an ego move, because the infrastructure was better, access for supporters was better, we would explore it.”

The observations made way back in 2018 have at least begun tentatively, as last year talks had reportedly taken place between the club and the Hertsmere Borough Council about a potential stadium move to Bushey.

However, the club maintained that they were just “scoping out the opportunity”.

The recent submission provides no guarantee that the golf club will be taken forward in Hertsmere’s local plan, due to be published later this Spring, nor that a new facility will ever come up there, or that Watford will even leave Vicarage Road.

However, the latest planning document claims the club supports redevelopment of Bushey Hall as an extract from the document revealed, “Watford Football Club endorse the promotion of the BHCG (Bushey Hall Golf Club) site for a new stadium as part of Hertsmere’s new Local Plan, for proposals that would provide them with the opportunity to develop a new stadium and community hub in a location within the catchment of the club’s existing supporter base.”

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