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45 years of love: How Elton John became the chairman of Watford F.C.

From Mike Ashley to Daniel Levy and every other damned fool in between, in recent years, football club chairpersons have become the Bond villains of the beautiful game with unfathomable designs on power, money and, seemingly, a total abandonment of ethics and even logic for that matter.

However, there was once a spiritually sunnier time, when humble pianists could purchase the club of their dreams as a passion project and plough pop-money into the team until it rockets up to the English First Division. This is the tale of how Elton John brought glitz, glam and Graham Taylor to Watford F.C.

Before he was the flamboyantly bespectacled pop star known globally as Elton John, Reginald Kenneth Dwight was a young lad like any other in Pinner, north London, with the same passion for the hornets as his cohorts. As the Rocketman once said, “It’s in my blood, in my soul, it’s a huge part of my life,” and it is worth clarifying that this quote was definitely attributed to Watford and not cocaine or song lyrics from some obscure B-side. 

By the mid-1970s, that humble lad from Pinner was now eternally gracing the charts with singles aplenty going steady, and by 1976, he was able to complete the purchase of his boyhood club for an undisclosed fee. In his second year, he sacked manager Mike Keen and brought in future England manager Graham Taylor, who secured promotion in his very first season and eventually led the club to the first division after a languid spell in the fourth. 

In the years that followed, Elton John oversaw five promotions and a journey to the FA Cup final, endearing himself to fans as a beloved leader who saved the club from lower league obscurity. And as far as Elton John was concerned, he owed it to the club for saving his life. “Watford might have saved my life,” he told the Mirror in 2019, “I’m incredibly proud of what we achieved together, but I owe Watford far more than Watford owe me.”

He wasn’t without his critics when he purchased the club, though. Even his friend Rod Stewart, who calls Elton John by his drag name ‘Sharon’, ridiculed him for buying his boyhood club. “What the f**k do you know about football, Sharon?” he said, “If you knew anything, you wouldn’t support this lot.”

Elton John signs contract employing him as Watford F.C. chairman. (Credit: Alamy)
Chairman Elton John leads his first team squad in a song at Vicarage Road. (Credit: Alamy)

However, despite the warnings, success followed his takeover. In 1987, Elton John sold the club to Jack Petchey but remained president, only to repurchase the club once more a decade later. It was a fairytale story that sadly had to end at some point.

In 2002, he relinquished his role as chairman after developments in the game called for the position to be a full-time role. While he is no longer a majority shareholder, he is still involved in the club financially and in a presidential role. 

His legacy is also set to continue at his boyhood club beyond the fact that they have a stand in his honour, as his son Zachary currently plays in the clubs junior academy set up, so who knows, perhaps we’ll see him rocketing down to wing in the hornets colours, but at only ten years old I think it’s going to be a long, long time yet. 

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