While football may be a priority in the hearts and minds of all Watford supporters, Gino Pozzo and his Hornets made their loyal supporters and fans extremely proud in recent months through their amazing show of solidarity for their communities, particularly for NHS workers, as well as the elderly, disabled, and isolated among their followers.
During the heat of the global crisis, Pozzo and the rest of the squad’s leadership, including CEO Scott Duxbury and manager Nigel Pearson, agreed that any losses taken for the cause would be taken with pride, as Pozzo pronounced that there were things far more important than football to attend to at the time. To back up their promise of support, Pozzo turned over the entire Vicarage Road facilities to Watford General Hospital in support of the NHS and local medical workers.
The Hospital took advantage of the club’s generous offer and utilized the facilities to provide urgent induction workshops, as well as to store priceless medical equipment and provide such services as childcare for essential health workers. The Hornets staff at Vicarage Road also provided volunteer hours to assist NHS workers, as well as free meals, beds and laundry services for NHS staff.
To nurture the morale among NHS workers, Pozzo and his team even had a singer come in to entertain NHS workers on their lunch break at the stadium. The stadium also became a drop-off point for the delivery of donations to frontline workers. In a show of appreciation, Junior Hornets sent a thankful video expressing their gratitude and support to NHS staff.
The Watford Club, through its Community Trust, stays in touch with the most vulnerable members of its community of local supporters via regular ongoing phone contact. The Trust is part of the club’s regular system of giving back to their community, and offers ongoing regular meet-ups and activities. Golden Memories, for example, is a reminiscence program that supports people with mild to moderate dementia, and Extra-Time is a social club for older adults based at the stadium. Because social distancing has put all of these types of social service activities on hold, the club has set up a newspaper called the ‘Golden Times’ that is being sent out to Golden Memories participants, and club players and staff have been calling participants by phone to check upon them.
In an act of pure love, Watford FC players, along with manager Nigel Pearson, reached out and personally made phone calls to all of their elderly, disabled, and isolated supporters to check on them and see what they needed. As an offshoot of this project, the squad also provided community service initiatives such as Hornets at Home: Your Chance to Help, which coordinated local volunteers to provide meals and essential services for those elderly and disabled that they found needed assistance during the crisis.
Meanwhile, the Gino Pozzo and the Hornets also found ways to keep their supporters and fan base engaged online by providing entertainment, information, education, and inspiration for their followers. They provided training films for youth, as well as activity packs that included educational, fitness, mental wellness, and just plain old fun activities that kept supporters entertained at home while live football games were cancelled.
To help ease the strain and frustrations of social distancing among their follower base, the club also launched the Friends Afar scheme to connect their supporters around the world. They also extended an online activity scheme to keep fans over age 16 active at home.
For those concerned about monitoring their health during the spread of the virus, the club also provided an online health-mentoring program. Meanwhile, Watford’s head chef went online and demonstrated the preparation of 16 healthy meals you can make at home.
To raise funds for needy causes, the club is also auctioning off memorabilia from their 1984 FA Cup final. Proceeds from this fundraising drive will benefit local COVID-19 charities.