New Waterford owner pledges investment

Lee Power sells up — the buyer is UK-based company R & S Holding Ltd
New Waterford owner pledges investment

22 September 2017; Waterford United owner Lee Power watches his team in action against Longford Town during the SSE Airtricity League First Division match between Waterford FC and Longford Town at the RSC in Waterford. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile

Lee Power has sold his shares in basement League of Ireland club Waterford to a new owner Richard Forrest.

Mr Forrest – also an entrepreneur from England – earlier this year purchased a 33 percent stake in the club but has now completed the full takeover.

And in a statement yesterday the new owner promised to invest with an immediate aim of preserving the club's Premier Division status, as well as in its youth structures.

Forrest also pledged his faith in recently appointed manager Marc Bircham.

"Marc has really impressed me since he joined Waterford FC and there is a real togetherness and great buzz around the club. I can assure you the results will turn."

Forrest thanked Power for his contribution to the club and named Mitchell Cowling as the club's new chairman. 

Former Ireland B international Power had initially taken over the club when they were bottom of the First Division in 2016, pumping almost €3m into the south-east club since.

The support paid instant dividends, with the team ending their winning the First Division and crowing their first top-flight season in 10 years by securing a fourth-place finish.

However, as Power had changed the name from Waterford United to Waterford FC while establishing a new trading company, UEFA expelled them from the Europa League. Clubs must be in existence for three years before they are allowed to compete.

It has been a struggle since, with Power disappointed by the lack of crowds and sponsors before the pandemic hit in early 2020. He says the Europa League knockback still leaves him with a “bitter taste in his mouth”.

The playing budget has been continually cut and last month Marc Bircham became the side’s fifth first-team manager in less than a year.

“I would like to thank all the staff, supporters, and businesses of Waterford that have supported me and the football club throughout my time,” said Power, who also owns Swindon Town, the English club recently relegated to League Two.

“I would also like to think that I have left the club in a much better place than when I purchased it in 2016 when we were in the first division, attracting crowds of 200 and close to going out of business.

“After a lot of hard work and substantial investment, we managed to get the team back to the Premier League and also qualify for Europe, only for that to be taken away from us.

“Ever since that decision was made by UEFA it has left a bitter taste in my mouth and it was difficult for things to stay the same.

“However, yet again last year it came down to the final game where a victory would have seen us back in Europe but it was not meant to be.

“I have managed to steer the club through Covid-19 and cover the substantial losses that came with that and felt that now is the right time for me to move over and let someone else take the club forward.

“Me and my family will always continue to support and help the club in any way we can. Once a Blue, always a Blue.” 

Waterford are anchored to the foot of the Premier Division on six points, having lost 12 of their opening 14 games. Longford sit in the play-off position, holding a one-point advantage, but there is a further 10-point gap to eight-placed Derry.

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