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Tuesday, 24 September, 2002, 17:02 GMT 18:02 UK
Watford in financial peril
Tommy Smith
Watford's players will be asked to take a pay cut
First Division Watford face an uncertain future after announcing they need to raise "at least 9.5m" to avoid slipping into administration.

Hornets director Tim Shaw announced on Tuesday that Watford could "cease to exist" unless they can raise the money to avoid slipping into administration.

And the Division One side's players have been asked to accept reduced salaries as part of a three-point plan to drag the club out of trouble.

Shaw has announced a campaign aimed at persuading supporters to donate money, and Watford also plan a share issue to raise capital.

Shaw said: "This is a real crisis point in the club's history. It's heartbreaking to think if we don't raise the money Watford would cease to exist but that's how it is.

"We simply have to reduce the wage bill as the major way to achieve this."

Shaw claimed the club's financial state is a direct result of the demise of ITV Digital and the knock-on effects this has had on the transfer market.

"If we can't construct a firm plan to cover the gap in the next few days, the club will unfortunately have to go into administration," said chief executive Tim Shaw.

According to a statement made to the Stock Exchange, Watford hope to raise 6.3m from "existing directors and current shareholders" but are relying on fans or shareholders to stump up the remaining 3.2m.

Huge losses

As well as feeling the effects of the collapse of broadcaster ITV Digital - and the subsequent loss of television income - Watford have suffered since relegation from the Premiership in 2000.

The Vicarage Road club drafted in Gianluca Vialli as boss but, despite signing a string of highly-paid stars, never threatened to reclaim their place in the top flight.

Several of Vialli's backroom staff were fired earlier this year before the Italian himself was axed while Vicarage Road was also sold in an attempt to offset huge losses.

The club sold their ground for 6m to an unnamed buyer in August, just six months after buying it back.

The problems off the field have taken their toll on it and poor performances have led to a slump in crowd figures which have also hit Watford in the pocket.

Watford were recently linked with Dennis Wise, who has now signed for Millwall, but admitted that they would not be able to pay him.

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