It turns out that 280 characters of not carefully worded chunks is not a great medium to talk about football finance. Specifically, getting folks to understand what you’re trying to say requires a level of precision that I’m not willing to invest when firing off takes on a mobile phone, especially when there is an opinion embedded in said takes that some folks don’t agree with.
This began first thing Friday morning, when I checked my email to see that Companies House has sent me a notification about Watford registering a new charge. It turns out that the club had arranged loan with Macquarie in which we get an immediate cash injection secured on the remaining payments for Ismaila Sarr due from Olympique Marseille over the course of the next couple of calendar years.
I yawned, fired off a tweet about how I was surprised we haven’t done it yet and wondered what we needed the cash for, then didn’t think much of it. This is the type of transaction we’ve been quite used to given the aggressive loan repayment schedule and our revenue and cashflow being dramatically reduced thanks to relegation. Getting what football finance expert Kieran Maguire calls “posh payday loans” is par for the course: we need cash now, so we’ll pay a bank like Macquarie a cut of those future receivables in order to get the money now so we can meet our financial obligations. It’s not great, but this is what a relegated club has to do if it wants to pay down debt as well as field a competitive squad.
The next day, right before the Leicester game, I saw some concerns online (or what I perceived as concerns) about this, and how the club (via Scott Duxburry) said over the summer we’d be debt free by the end of the year, and taking this loan out puts into doubts the validity of that statement. I, perhaps stupidly, replied (this was someone I followed and whose opinion I respected) saying that this wasn’t a new loan per se, just exchanging future receivables for a smaller lump sum now to get additional cashflow for whatever reason.
What followed was odd. I had a couple of people relying to me, apparently annoyed at me for saying this wasn’t a new loan. One of them was has been replying to my posts for a couple years at least, always with something critical or nit-picky to say. If you’re a Watford fan on Twitter, he might have done it to you too. He kept saying I was wrong without actually addressing my points, and then started his usual tone-policing. He even corrected my grammar on an unrelated posted for improper conjugation on a collective noun! The last straw came when he replied to another tweet I sent asking folks to mute or block me if they don’t want to see my tweets (thanks, algorithm), saying I was playing the victim card. I then took my advice and blocked him so he won’t ever have to be annoyed by my arrogance or whatever. Funny thing: his replies probably made the algorithm inject more of my tweets into his timeline, which made it more likely he sees tweets from me that he won’t like. Like Thom Yorke said, you did it to yourself.
The other person replying was actually pretty reasonable. He said I was wrong for saying it’s not a new loan, and he’s right. I mean, it’s a new charge on Companies House, so of course it’s an new loan in the technical sense.
What I was trying to say that it’s not as if Gino rang up Macquarie and got them to wire £10M that is secured on something we don’t want to part with – like Vicarage Road. This is a new financial obligation, but we already know how we’ll pay for it – the future transfer fee instalments for Sarr from Marseille. We don’t have to find new cash to pay for it – it’s already on the books. It matters that the security isn’t Vicarage Road. Now THAT would be a problem, as defaulting on a loan like that means the stadium is Macquaries. This? The worst that can happen is that Macquarie takes the legal rights to those instalments, which is effectively where that cash is going to anyway.
What I *should* have said instead is that in my opinion, this new loan isn’t something I’d be overly concerned about given this specific charge will be settled by payments owed to us from a Champions League club over the next two years, which is pretty safe IMO given that Macquarie is also willing to accept it as collateral.
The reason I said what I said is because if someone concerned about the club’s financial situation reads that “Watford has borrowed £10M from Macquarie”, they might have a bit of a panic. And rightfully so if this means we are adding to our financial burden materially. But knowing that we are a club that has cash obligations greater than what we bring in, partly due to debt repayment to this very bank, I’m not surprised that we need money due to us in 2025 right now.
I was expecting this, in fact, given Scott said we’d be “debt free” by this year’s end, which I take for clearing the refinanced consolidated loan from Macquarie that was once worth £50M, and it doesn’t include payables or Gino’s loan. The club, like me, was imprecise with their language, and as a result, has drawn the ire of some fans, much as I have, to a much, much smaller degree.
So what did I learn? Be very, very precise when talking about technical details of something that people feel passionately about (Watford FC). If someone can blow pass your general sentiment and focus on aspects that you have verifiably gotten wrong, they will, especially when they disagree with your general sentiment, which I’d much rather they focus on instead. Whether this is or isn’t a loan isn’t the crux of what most people will have a problem with – whether we should be worried that Gino will piss this money away instead of paying down debt and effectively add to our future financial burden is.
For me, I’ll need to see more to be worried about this, like splashing out £10M+ for players in January, or refinancing the existing Macquarie loan to extend the payment schedule. If those things happen, then I’ll inch closer to the panic button.