Often Partisan

Affiliations and Loans

On Saturday Blues take on Watford in a clash that sees Lee Clark’s men pitted against a side pushing for automatic promotion to the Premier League. The Hornets have had a very successful season thus far but it’s not been without controversy due to their squad being underpinned by a large contingent of loanee players from abroad.

In June 2012 Giampaolo Pozzo acquired Watford from Stanmore-based businessman Laurence Bassini, making the Hornets his third football club after Udinese of Italy and Granada of Spain. Pozzo, who was elected best football club president of Serie A sides in 2007/08 after building Udinese up on the back of an excellent scouting system that brought in underpaid talents and made them into stars, has been involved in football since 1986.

Soon after replacing manager Sean Dyche (who ironically had turned down an apparent approach in the summer from Blues declaring his loyalty to Watford) with Gianfranco Zola, Watford started making loan signings. They have made 14 in all – 12 of whom come from Pozzo’s other clubs along with Geoffrey Mujang-Bia from Standard Liege and Nathaniel Chalobah from Chelsea. This is where the controversy starts, as Championship clubs are not allowed to loan more than four from any domestic club in England (you may remember Blues once loaning three from Arsenal in Nicklas Bendtner, Sebastian Larsson and Fabrice Muamba), and are not allowed to play more than five loanee players in a matchday squad. Blues have apparently held back further from loaning players due to this as they have five in their squad currently (Butland, Caddis, Morrison, Hall, and Thomas)

However, international loans between two windows are counted as transfers – and thus they don’t count into the total of loan players in a squad meaning Watford have just one player who is in their loan quota. Even more bizarrely, Watford have loaned out on-loan player Steve Leo Beleck to Stevenage (as they are perfectly entitled to do as it is between two transfer windows). Naturally, this has been met with some negative remarks with Crystal Palace Ian Holloway latest to voice his disapproval. Interestingly enough, considering his remarks on academy players being blocked from coming through, Watford managed to field four Watford academy graduates in their matchday 18 against Palace (as well as seven loaned players).

Affiliate clubs aren’t anything new – Arsenal formerly had an agreement with Beveren of the Belgian league, as did Manchester United with Royal Antwerp. Sheffield United have had affiliations with seven clubs internationally including a five year affiliation with Chinese club Chengdu Blades, who changed their name and badge to reflect their ownership by the Yorkshire-based outfit and even League One side Brentford have got into the act, signing a deal with Icelandic outfit UMF Selfoss.

But I must admit, the idea of being able to import a whole new first XI lock, stock and barrel doesn’t sit easy with me. It’s not just the idea of holding back players from this country – there are financial implications. As the Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations start to be phased in this could be an easy way to circumvent wage caps and limits on spending. Likewise, you can imagine a big domestic team challenging the rule about only international loans not counting in the courts and then maybe turning teams in the lower leagues into reserve sides in all but name. England is special amongst major football leagues in having so many professional clubs and I think it’s one of the major points of heritage we should hang on to.

I don’t blame Watford for playing the system as they have – the loophole is there and if you are in a position to exploit it I guess then there is no reason not to – no one else is going to hold back. However, I wonder how it will affect them if they get promoted as I am unsure if the same rules apply in the top flight – would the Premier League allow a team to have so many borrowed players playing week in week out? Will this be a new way for English teams to attract investment from abroad – and if so, will it be to the detriment of the game here?

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30 Responses to “Affiliations and Loans”

  • Bluenosesol says:

    Can anyone confirm, I read once that Birmingham used to provide financial support to Cobh Ramblers and in return would use them to develop players for which Blues had first refusal. We ceased the arrangement when Roy Keane signed for Forest, when they made a low bid for Keane which was accepted without any reference to the Blues.

    • Paul Carter want's shooting he says:

      Not sure about financial support but I think we chucked em a few quid in return for Keanes brother who came and trained with us but never got a contract. Remember being in the Cobh Ramblers social club in the pre season friendly (up the top of a mad hill as I recall) and their fans were telling me that the Keane we’d got was better than Roy. Sadly as is always the case this proved not to be true.

  • Miked2006 says:

    Well done for a pretty balanced article. I agree that being able to field a starting 11 of loanees is wrong, but we do have an option to sign all of the players, so it is not like we are just developing them for our parent club. If you take away the loophole, then they would just sign permanently. The Pozzo’s method is to invest in youth players, develop them amongst their teams and sell them when they are world class. In the days where the focus seems to be on financial fair play (look how much money our playoff rivals have spent) we clearly have the best model of the top 4. How dare a little club like Watford compete with their millions eh?

  • Andy says:

    Half a good article however your argument is floored through lack of knowledge. I do however like how you pointed out other affiliated clubs which not many others have.
    1. It’s not a loophole. There is no implied rule and Watford have not avoided any implied intent of a system, there has never been a limit on international loans, anyone can do it and it is no different in the Premier league, so no problem.
    2. Having said that, there will not be the need to loan so many players next season, especially as Watford will be in the Premier League. The reason there are so many now is due to Watford’s poor financial state when the Pozzo’s took over. We were on the brink or administration, with an average team. It was a perfectly fair way of getting new players into the squad for Zola to look at and work with, most of whom no one had ever heard of. It shouldn’t have worked so well as it has, that’s down to Zola. If Watford were bottom no one would even be bringing it up, other clubs feel threatened.
    3. It’s not to any detriment of any young players, quite the opposite. Watford’s academy continues to be one of the best in Europe – Harefield, with 8 academy products having played this season. The football Zola has them playing is continuing their development and benefiting the English game.
    4. It is doubtful this will be replicated anytime soon. Owning 1 football club has its pitfalls and is generally seen as a black hole for money. The fact the Pozzo family can run 3 is a credit to them and they are accomplished business men who have been doing it for years. There is nothing to guarantee success so who is to say if this was done with another English team that it would work so well.
    5.in reality it’s no different to an owner buying the club and throwing £200 million to buy whatever players the manager wants.

    It’s a shame so many in the media don’t know all the facts before publishing all that appears wrong with the way Watford are now being run, but we are more secure, with a better team that we have been for many years.

    • almajir says:

      Thanks for your comments Andy, taken on board.

      I agree it’s not a loophole per se but it is a situation that has been exploited for maximum advantage. I disagree that your position has anything to do with what people think of the idea also; I remember when Doncaster Rovers (who were also in the toilet financially at the time) brought in Willie McKay to source their players, leading to a ruck of short term deals for once-good players which was then derided by pundits who pointed to the poor league performance of Donny as the result of the scheme.
      As you say, it’s worked for Watford and Zola should be applauded for being able to handle some unknowns and turn them into players who are highly rated – I will admit here and now that Matej Vydra looks an outstanding player – but the concern is for me that others will try it without the success, and it will be to the detriment of the league.

      Good luck to you (except on Saturday) and I hope for your sakes it does continue to work out.

      • Andy1349 says:

        Very fair and unbiased comments from you thank you. Un like others such as Ian “it’s not fair Holloway”, Adrian “hasn’t got a clue” Durham and Martin “ate all the pies” Samuel!
        I was going to mention Doncaster but their experiment was very short term and very different. The Pozzo’s longer term plan will be to source and buy Britiah talent at Watford, but currently have such a good extensive world wide scouting system it would be crazy for it not to be used to maximum advantage.
        If it really isn’t that fair (which is the only argument here) then we have had the advantage of this season and FIFA will intervene (although I’m not entirely sure it will happen – we are only little old Watford after all!!), but we won’t mind as we still have great owners and the quality youngsters we have will be signed up. I also think it will be too hard to be replicated, and let’s face it no one else has done it incorporating this country.
        All the best for the season, hope you get out of the financial mess you have found yourselves in.

        • chris says:

          It is unfair as an owner is using his wealth to run one club to then support another, then another with potentially three scouting systems and academy’s in different countries.
          Many clubs of Watford’s statue cannot compete with this soley because they don’t have a wealthy owner.
          No owner is allowed to own more than one club in English football, should this be applied to all UEFA clubs?
          Calm down.
          On the other side of the coin, how is it any different to currently rich clubs either through fan base, wealthy owners or debt or all three (Arsenal, Man U, Chelsea, Man City, West Ham, Sunderland, Liverpool, QPR, etc), who buy the best players from around the world or mop up the best English talent and put them in their reserves for five years or bring in loads of foreigners and so distort the system and fair play for their own ends.
          It could be claimed this is one way to counter the greedy biggest ten clubs in English football.

    • Paul Carter want's shooting he says:


  • Vic Road says:

    Gino Pozzo owns Watford not Giampolo so theoretically this means both Udinese and Watford could qualify and play in Europe. Single ownership of both would make this impossible.

  • Mr T says:

    Andy can put as much sugar as on this situation as he wants but it’s a disgusting situation to everyone else in the footballing world and it makes a mockery of the loan and transfer rules.

    Andy speaks of being in the Premier League next season but at what price? The achievement will be hollow built on the back of another teams success, will Udinese be able to list “Championship winners” if you finish first in the league amongst their honours? I cant imagine any non glory hunting football fan would want this at their club, its wrong on so many levels and it makes a mockery of Watford.

    Pozzo and Zola need this becasue they seem to have their leagues mixed up –

    I would definitely not agree with this at my club and i would certainly rather languish in the Championship building towards Premier League status attainment than watch another team gain it for me. If your Udinese B team get you in the Premier League, I & the rest of the football loving nation will be hoping Watford get stuffed every time they step on the pitch.

    • Andy1349 says:

      It can’t make a mockery if it’s legal and fair can it. Any team can do it. Yes it’s not ideal, there are reasons why there are so many loans and they aren’t permanent but they will be permanent.
      We finally have good owners and are stable, yes our owners dad owns Udinese but will we see Di Natalie come to Watford? No. They will be buying players in who will suit the way Zola plays.
      How can you call it hollow when you don’t support the club? The players here are enjoying it and are improving, they ARE Watford players now. 4 players on loan from Udinese and 1 from Granada have become regulars, these will be signed, they want to sign, it’s not really hollow or wrong is it.
      And Zola having his league mixed up is just a non comment that smacks of jealousy. I guess you would much rather teams do it like Portsmouth and chick millions at it, no method is guaranteed success, Watford are doing well now but who knows how long it will last.
      And to reiterate, 8 academy players have played this season, more will continue to develop and want to be part of our success.
      Still I guess when you are at the top you are there to be shot at.

  • Letsby Avenue says:

    Crikes !!

    Polite and intelligent fans from another club.
    Well done Miked & Andy.
    There’s always 2 sides to any argument and it’s actually refreshing to read an articulate response.
    Even if you don’t agree with it—completely :-)

    I just want to make 2 points.

    The first is that the “loan” arrangement is for basically ‘Development Squad’ players, who, through skill or experience, have proven sucessful and adept in the Championship.
    Udinese and Granada were not going to loan out crucial players were they?
    They weren’t going to endanger their own teams were they?
    The crux is, I think, that if Watford do get promoted, are glorified Development Squad players going to be good enough for the Premier League?
    Perhaps not. And I that is my argument against Miked & Andy’s defence.
    This multi-loan may work in the Championship, the players coming in, subsidised wages as well, may well be better and a grade above what Watford already had – – BUT, they weren’t cutting it at their home clubs were they – hence, experience and playing time elsewhere.

    My second point is that — it’s only Watford.
    Like it’s only Blues.

    Foreign owners bashing time.

    The press aren’t going to do snidey articles on Man City, Man Utd, Chelsea, Liverpool–even Arsenal, no, the dubious practises and financial abuses at other clubs go by without ciomment.

    But a legal and prospering avenue to lift a club up is derided by the Kings of Snide.

    And it falls into the category of, —“Yes, I so bash Foreign Owners” – – when certain journos are questioned. By Blackburn fans and Man Utd fans etc.

    Thanks for coming on here you two and for your input.

    And thanks AJ. Again again.

  • Paul Carter want's shooting he says:

    If it’s within the rules then it’s a non story. If the rules are no good that aint Watfords fault.

    I still aint forgiven em for the cup 1/4 final and a cheeky van full of their fans steaming into us and coming off best at the bottom of Camp Hill flyover same day.

    I put it down to shock and still have the sheepskin I wore on that day where you can clearly see where the stanley knife one of em had has split it.

  • Paulo says:

    (ha ha ..Paul Carter ..Voice Of Historic Fact)

    To be honest, and from a simple layman’s point of view – it just doesn’t sit right with me. Bang out the politics like it’s a court hearing as much as you want, but quite simply it’s like having a workmate suddenly pull up in a Bentley next to your Ford Focus ..and carrying on like nothing has changed. I’m not saying it isn’t fair, but quite simply something like that changes things ..it changes the dynamics of a once equal footing, and the viewpoint of most around them.
    What pretty much every much football fan in the UK would say is a loophole, those fans of Watford would say it is an advantage that has been taken, nothing more. Oh well, some clubs have certain advantages and some have nothing more than a pot to p*** in, and some have a very small contingent of articulate fans!!

    • Andy1349 says:

      Watford are lucky these owners chose them, they wanted a club near London and were also looking at Charlton. And yes it couldn’t have come at a better time for us, I don’t buy the idea that it chases things though, especially as multi million pound owners have been ‘buying’ trophies for years. Blackburn did something similar, without so many initial loans many years ago, it’s continued from there. Not only is that football now, its life!
      Watford will be fine, it’s the start of a building project that no one expected to go so well straight away.
      I hope I am one of the more articulate fans!

      • chas says:

        We really are in no position to moan about any other Team..We borroew three os Arsenal’s better youngsters a few years back, mainly on the back of Karen Brady’s Father’s contacts. As long as they keep within the rules, thats the way it goes.

        • Paulo says:

          Hey, all I’m on about is that in my opinion, it just seems that a system like Watford are using seems a little different to the ones all others are using, including us. I am fully aware of all the arguments and protocols and when compared to our financial situation, yes it seems unfair ..but as it has happened already, then it isn’t breaking any rules. My point is that is just seems to change the dynamics amongst this league – when fans compare the team sheets and can see how the rules are applicable to one and somehow different to another. Dont get me wrong, we have loaned before and probably all other teams in this league have done as well, and all will continue to do so. I mean, we got Andros Townsend last season thanks to CH, and others previously also.
          I will be watching with interest anyway, and if they can get promotion ‘and’ have the ability to take on the likes of the top six with equal footing, then fair play to them. If we got promoted, we would be priced out of the PL in no time, and never get out of the bottom half. Survival is for us this time.

  • Atahualpa is a BlueNose says:

    Sorry to go off-topic Almajir, but just wanted to ask whether you were gonna be covering Paladini saying that his consortium were pulling out of the running for Blues and now leaving this one mysterious group that were allegedly dealing with CY directly.

    • almajir says:

      Covering it in what way? The consortium behind Paladini has pulled out (which I had expected) and there isn’t much else to say at the moment. Until there is firmer news on positive developments I think I’m going to leave it.

      • Atahualpa is a BlueNose says:

        Fair enough.

        It was to be expected that Paladini’s group were getting nowhere and there is no new details about this other group or what stage any talks are at.

  • Paul Carter - The Voice Of Reason says:

    Or whether they actually exist?

  • James says:

    Secret 3rd parties, Paladini, ” interested buyers” – let’s be frank, it’s all BS. Yes, Paladini made a bid but it was never going to be accepted.

    The stories from The Mail, forums, my dad, blokes who are “in the know” are tedious and are starting to grate. If there is a bidder, great. If not, bore off, pipe down or keep the info to yourself.

    This isn’t aimed at anyone on here but just the mention of another Paladini story has hit a nerve.

    Apologies in advance!


  • Dave mann says:

    why would pannu want to sell the club anyway when hes sitting on 16 grand a week!
    nothing will happen till the end off the season and thats that.kro.

  • carlos says:

    The loan system has been abused for quite some time, ironically I think Sullivan was one of the first to spot the short term gain of borrowing players from the bigger clubs. It should be limited to under 21s to allow them to gain experience, not to experienced pros who can’t get a game at the top teams. Someone such as Sinclair at Man City was never going to get much of a look in, but he signs up for the big contract knowing that he could probably go on loan if it doesn’t work out, with MC paying half of his wages.
    Joe Hart was brilliant for us against the likes of Chelsea and Man U, helping us take points off them, but he wasn’t allowed to play against City. Not illegal or against any rules, but hardly fair in my opinion.

  • roskoe says:

    No rules have been broken, just as no rules were broken by Blackburn, Chelsea or Man City when they “bought” their titles. Whenever i see/hear people writng/speaking of unfairness and hollow victories it does make me laugh. Any of these people would jump at the chance to have such resources for their own club but are so quick to complain when another club has such luck.


  • Dave mann says:

    totallly agree roskoe dont we all wish that we had billionaire owners but that is not going to
    happen while were stuck in the champinship.
    and anyway how are we going to attract anybody on crowds off 15;000.

  • Bluenosesol says:

    When the Oligarchs and Sheiks pick up their balls and go home, there will be a couple of also rans gracing the nether regions of the Premiership once again. Still, dont begrudge their fans their moment in the spotlight. Would love it to be Blues next! I say good luck to Watford and I would love to see them rub a few big boys’ noses in it!!

  • […] have been in the news recently due to the number of loans that they have, and how a number of these are classified as ‘transfers’, something that the […]

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