English Championship football club Watford has engaged US agencies Rhino Marketing and Gemini Sports Group to explore potential naming rights for a new stadium as speculation continues over its apparent ambitions for a new home.
Watford is currently fighting for an immediate return to the Premier League following relegation last season and reports over a potential new stadium have returned to the news in recent weeks. Along with exploring stadium naming rights, Rhino Marketing and Gemini Sports will also seek out kit sponsorship options for Watford, having been appointed as the club’s exclusive commercial agents.
Watford’s commercial director, Paul O’Brien, said: “We have worked with Rhino Marketing over the past year on developing our esports gaming platform and feel their in-depth understanding of our brand, values and culture, along with their international reach, give our club an advantage as we expand our sponsorship and fan base globally.
“With Gemini Sports, we have one of the global leaders in premium sponsorship and naming rights deals. Together this partnership gives Watford a powerful and trusted duo.”
Proposals for Watford to relocate from its Vicarage Road home resurfaced last month after the private owners of a nearby golf course put forward their land as a potential site for a new stadium. In October, representatives from the club were reported to have been in contact with Hertsmere Borough Council about a potential move to Bushey Hall Golf Club, which is located around 1.5 miles from Vicarage Road (pictured). The move was said to have been in the “earliest stage of the planning process”, with a number of sites being considered.
In March 2020, renderings were published of what a new stadium on the Bushey Hall Golf Club site might look like, with this project now back in the news again. A virtual public meeting of Hertsmere Council held last month saw Bushey Hall Golf Club proposed as one of 21 new employment sites put forward by landowners as part of the Council’s plans for development in the borough through to 2036.
Bushey Hall closed as an 18-hole golf course in 2019, with the clubhouse being redeveloped into 32 flats. The site’s owners, Veladail Leisure, have proposed a two-phase plan for development of a package of land spanning over 40 hectares.
The site, officially proposed by HGH Consulting on behalf of Veladail, names Watford FC as the proposed occupier. A 33,000-seat stadium would anchor the mixed-use project, which would also include the likes of a 6,000-seat arena and a hotel and conference facility.
Following the emergence of the documents, Donna Nolan, managing director of Watford Borough Council, told the Watford Observer newspaper this week: “Watford Borough Council is in ongoing talks with Watford FC and we have been clear we want them to stay in their home town.
“We are working constructively with the club in relation to Vicarage Road and looking forward to discussing any proposals they have for the stadium. We are actively working with the club including on how the plans for the redevelopment of Watford General Hospital may open up more opportunities for them to deliver their ambitions and remain in the town.”
In October 2019, it was reported that Populous had been enlisted to advise Watford on the expansion of Vicarage Road, specifically to finalise designs for a two-phase, £40m (€46.2m/$54.9m) project that would significantly increase the stadium’s capacity from 21,577 to 32,000.
Watford has played at Vicarage Road since the stadium opened in 1922. The ground last underwent expansion in 2015 when 700 seats were added to the Sir Elton John Stand.