Uncategorized - March 13, 2020

Gino Pozzo: When Business Meets Passion in Football

Gino Pozzo, owner of UK-based Watford Football Club, and co-owner with his family of the Udinese Calcio Club in Italy, was born to live, eat, and breathe football.  Born in Udine, Italy, to parents Giampaolo and Giuliana Pozzo, two die-hard football enthusiasts who had a lifelong loyalty to the Udinese Calcio Football Club, Gino was raised with football running through his blood.

For many years, the Pozzo family owned and managed a successful woodworking and tool making business, and currently owns an electrical appliance company in Spain, as well as several smaller businesses in Italy. In 1986, when their beloved Udinese Club hit upon hard times, the Pozzo family came to the club’s rescue, acquiring ownership of the Udinese club with profits earned from their family woodworking business.  The family injected the Udinese club with new life, and particularly, with new blood, importing players from southern countries that helped the team recuperate its ranking in the prestigious Serie A league.

The impact of the Pozzo family on Udinese’s success has been impressive. Within a few seasons, the Pozzos helped to elevate the club from a state of financial disaster and near-obscurity in the country’s lower division, back into the most prestigious national league in Italy, and even led them to a prestigious UEFA champions league competition. The Udinese club has managed to remain in the prestigious Italian Serie A since the Pozzo family purchased the club.

The success of the Udinese Calcio club fueled the Pozzo’s hunger for additional success stories in football. In 2008, the Pozzo family decided to sell their successful woodworking business, with the goal of diverting the earnings from this sale into investments in football clubs.

In 2009, Giampaolo and Gino joined forces and purchased the Granada Football Club in Spain, another floundering football club that had fallen from grace and was in need of a financial makeover as well as a major restructuring. The Granada club was crippled by debt and had sunken all the way down to Spain’s third division. Again, within a few short years, Gino Pozzo managed to overhaul the club entirely, helping it rise all the way to Spain’s Primera Liga, where players had the opportunity to compete against some of the best teams in Spain, as well as around the world, playing against giants such as F.C. Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Professional football is definitely a mix of business and pleasure, particularly for Gino Pozzo, whose lifelong passion for football has defined his entire life and earned him a reputation as one of the smartest club owners in the sport. This became clearly evident in the success story of the Granada F.C., when the Pozzos sold the Granada club for some 37Million Euros in 2016.

According to rumors, Gino’s primary reason for selling the Granada club was that he had become absorbed with his newest acquisition: the Watford Football Club, which he purchased in 2012.  Again, the Watford Hornets – a club once owned by the famed Sir Elton John, that experienced a period of glory during the 1970s and 1980s when Graham Taylor managed the team – was saddled with debt, and languishing in the lower division when Gino Pozzo stepped in.

And Gino came in with a bang. 

It became apparent that Gino meant business at Watford, when he made the decision in 2013, shortly after purchasing the Watford F.C., to relocate to London with his family and become involved in the day-to-day workings at Vicarage Road.

He began by putting the club through a revolving door of managers, which to many  seemed like an illogical or even reckless approach. But the proof lies in the pudding, and after only four short years under Pozzo’s leadership, Watford had made its way back up to England’s top-tier division, the English Premier League. In 2019, the club even played an impressive FA Cup Final competition, something that would have been an impossible pipe dream for Watford players and followers only a few years prior.

“I think a large percentage of Watford fans see him as a saviour, of where we were when he took over,” noted Mike Parkin, co-presenter of the Watford podcast From the Rookery End. “To rescue Watford and then transform the club into what we see today, I’m not sure there’s anyone who isn’t very grateful. Barely a match day goes past when I don’t think about what would have happened if he hadn’t taken over. He seems to get football and there’s comfort in the fact the family have done so well with Udinese. They seem to be football people who understand Watford, want to take the club in the right direction.”

Vincenzo Cardillo, a scout who works for Gino Pozzo recruiting players for both Udinese and Watford, describes Pozzo’s drive and passion: “He decides everything. He has people he trusts in Udine, a management, and he has trusted people in London. Geographically and economically they are completely different worlds. He is a perfectionist, scrupulous, honest, someone who anticipates things before they happen. He is very demanding: if you make mistakes you’re of no use to him – he doesn’t want to waste time.”

Part of the focus for Gino Pozzo appears to be on building the perfect team, and he’s a stickler when it comes to demanding a perfect performance from his club. His most recent lineup of coaches has included Javi Gracia, who led the squad to its first FA Cup Final in 37 years, and Quique Sánchez Flores, who has been appointed to coach the club twice since Gino bought it. Current manager Nigel Pearson is under contract until the end of this season, and it remains to be seen whether he will continue with the squad beyond that point.  

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