Who Owns Watford FC?

Watford Stadium

There is no doubt that Watford’s most famous owner was superstar of the pop world, Elton John. The man formerly known as the rather less glamorous Reginald Kenneth Dwight presided over some of Watford’s greatest times. But that’s all in the past, and this article is all about the current owner: Italian businessman, Gino Pozzo. Who is the man in charge of Watford, how did he make the kind of cash it takes to buy to football club and – crucially – can he help bring success to Vicarage Road?

Who Is Gino Pozzo?

Gino Pozzo

Gino Pozzo was born in 1965 and is the son of Italian business behemoth, Giampaolo Pozzo. Owner of Italian Serie A side, Udinese, Giampaolo made his fortune through his family’s company Freud, which manufactured tools. He sold the business to the well-known tool brand Bosch in 2008 and clearly made a tidy sum out of that. But less of the father, what about the son?

Gino, who studied at Harvard University, became a football scout in his 20s and helped develop various players and negotiated transfers to/from Udinese (which his father bought in 1986). Clearly having your dad as the boss allows for quick progression and when Watford became available, Pozzo Senior thought it was time his son had a football club of his own.

When Did Pozzo Purchase the Hornets?

Clearly, Gino got just a little help from the Bank of Dad when he purchased Watford FC in June 2023. The club was in serious financial trouble at the time and there was even talk of the prospect of the Hornets going into administration. Former owner Laurence Bassini was probably happy to get rid of the club, and Pozzo didn’t waste time in making an impact.

Within a month of buying the club, Pozzo sacked the manager, Sean Dyche, and installed Italian footballing icon, Gianfranco Zola, in his place. Pozzo’s willingness to change managers so early in his ownership should have been seen as a sign of things to come: Zola lasted just 75 games and since then there have been 20 managers (including two caretakers)!

How Have Watford Performed Under Pozzo’s Ownership?

Watford FC logoThe season before Pozzo took the reins, Watford finished 11th in the Championship, having finished 14th the year before and 16th the one before that. Since they had been relegated from the Premier League at the end of the 2006/07 campaign, the Hornets had only made the play-offs once. That was in the very next season, but they lost in the semis 6-1 on aggregate to Hull City.

Watford’s fortunes improved somewhat in Pozzo’s first season as they finished third in the Championship and made it to the play-off final. Unfortunately for Watford, they lost 1-0 in the final to Crystal Palace. The following season was a tough one and the Hornets finishing in 13th in the second tier. But in 2014/15, in a season that saw the club have three different managers, they finished second to gain automatic promotion back to the Premier League.

Five seasons in the top flight followed, although the managerial merry-go-round didn’t slow down all that much, as a total of seven managers (including caretakers) led the team before Watford were relegated once more at the end of the 2019/20 season. Thankfully for Hornets fans, the club were able to return to the top flight at the first time of asking, although sadly, that only lasted a season and they went straight back down again.

They finished 11th in the Championship in 2022/23 and, at the time of writing (January 2024), the club are hovering around mid-table in the second tier. Form has improved after a slow start and although they have a reasonable chance of making the play-offs, things are not looking particularly rosy for another immediate return to the riches of the Premier League.

To be fair to Pozzo and Watford, they have performed very well at times in the FA Cup, and in 2018/19 the Hornets made it to the final for only the second time in their history. Unfortunately, they faced a rampant Manchester City side who hammered them 6-0. They also made it to the semis in 2015/16, this time getting edged out by Crystal Palace in a match that ended 2-1 to the Eagles.

Summary of Watford Seasons Under Pozzo

Season Division Finishing Position FA Cup League Cup
2012/13 Championship 3rd (lost play-off final) Third Round Second Round
2013/14 Championship 13th Fourth Round Third Round
2014/15 Championship 2nd Third Round Second Round
2015/16 Premier League 13th Semi-Final Second Round
2016/17 Premier League 17th Fourth Round Second Round
2017/18 Premier League 14th Fourth Round Second Round
2018/19 Premier League 11th Final (lost to Man City) Third Round
2019/20 Premier League 19th Third Round Fourth Round
2020/21 Championship 2nd Third Round Third Round
2021/22 Premier League 19th Third Round Third Round
2022/23 Championship 11th Third Round Second Round

Can Pozzo Bring Success to Watford?

Whether Pozzo (and whichever manager he chooses that month!) can bring success to Watford really depends on how you would define the term “success” for a club of their size and history. In reality, establishing the team in the Premier League without the constant threat of relegation would be deemed a massive success. The Hornets have developed something of a reputation as a yo-yo club and, given the money at play, the first step would be to find the formula to ensure that when Watford next gain promotion, they are able to stay in the top flight.

In terms of challenging for silverware, the 2018/19 season showed fans that it’s okay to dream big. Okay, things didn’t go exactly to plan in the FA Cup final, but even to get there was a big achievement. The chances of Watford winning their first FA Cup (or League Cup, for that matter) are always going to be relatively slim given the clubs they’re up against.

But a run of several seasons in the top flight, along with shrewd work in the transfer market, could certainly improve those chances. The question is, will Pozzo ever give a manager enough time to lay solid foundations from which to build a truly successful Watford FC?