Sam Fielding/Fleetwood Town Andy Pilley: new Waterford owner also owns Fleetwood Town.

'The potential here is enormous' - Waterford taken over by Fleetwood Town owner

English businessman Andy Pilley has given his vision for the Blues after agreeing a deal with Richard Forrest.

FLEETWOOD TOWN OWNER and chairman Andy Pilley has been unveiled as the new sole owner of Waterford FC.

The 52-year-old completed the takeover of the Blues from Richard Forrest and faced the media in a press conference held at the SETU Arena on Tuesday afternoon.

Pilley attended Friday’s game against Galway United, that saw the Blues win 2-1, before witnessing Monday’s scoreless draw with league leaders Cork City.

He has finalised a deal with Forrest to secure the club in what he describes will be a “long term project”.

The immediate focus for Pilley is to stabilise the football club. Having purchasing Fleetwood Town 18 years ago before buying football clubs in Dubai and South Africa, the Blackpool native is now excited by the next challenge in his football journey.

“The immediate vision is one of stability and to put together a professional infrastructure, which will replicate what we have in the UK,” Pilley said, speaking on his vision for the football club.

We’ve had enormous success in the UK with Fleetwood. When I took Fleetwood over 18 years ago, the first gate was 80 people. A small population with a football club five leagues below the football league.

“We won six promotions. It’s not just an injection of money. It’s an infrastructure with a secret of success of everyone pulling in the same direction.

“I think what immediately needs to happen is that the football club needs come aligned with the community, the business community, the council, and this sports facility (SETU Arena). It needs to make the very most of what is in the offering in the city and county of Waterford.

“The potential here in Waterford is enormous. Of course as the prospective new owner, you look at the Irish Premier League, you look at Europe, but there’s an order of events, and in that order of events, the first thing this club needs is stability.”

general-view-of-the-rsc-in-waterford Cathal Noonan / INPHO Waterford's home ground, the RSC. Cathal Noonan / INPHO / INPHO

Since arriving on Thursday last to attend the two games, Pilley has been impressed with Waterford has to offer.

“My thoughts are that it couldn’t have gone any better on Friday for the game against Galway. The weather was so glorious that it felt I was in the Costa Del Waterford rather than Waterford. It’s a beautiful city and the people were incredibly friendly.

“I didn’t really know what to expect when I arrived at the stadium for the game. The first thing that struck me is how enthusiastic and passionate the supporters were. They were loud, right behind the team, and I thought that the players were great as well.

“They started slowly in the first ten minutes, but they put on a hell of a show. That was a really, really enjoyable football match. I went away with a great buzz, and I thought that this club has great potential.

“It’s in a good place now, but with an injection of infrastructure, some of the tricks of the trade, and the secrets of success that I’ve learned in the last 18 years that things can be even better.

“I really enjoyed Monday night in Cork as well because again against all odds for the club to get a point away at Cork after losing a man after eight minutes. I thought that was an immense effort. Again the supporters were fantastic, and they were there in numbers.

“That’s great to see because as an owner, you want to have a fan base. It was clear to see how proud they were of their club.”

So why Irish football?

I believe that Irish football in on the incline,” he added. “I think that there’s good times ahead. You’ve only got to do a little bit of research and you can see that Irish football is being recognised, [and] perhaps [with] Brexit and the Good Friday Agreement, that there is a pathway and roadmap to get them across to the UK.

“If I can help some of these boys fulfil their dream and get them across to the EFL — who knows then, if they progress, nothing would make me happier than shaking their hand and watching them on Match of the Day on a Saturday night.

“I think that these boys need that roadmap and need that pathway. Having a sister club in the UK gives us the opportunity. Equally, I see the potential for moving the players the other way. Maybe we’ve got fringe players that need football that we could bring over here.

“I would see it that it would be something that would benefit both parties. I really enjoyed the game in Cork last night because that really felt like a Football League game. I think that there is good times ahead. It’s going to get better.

“I think that stadiums will be developed, hopefully and potentially that there might be a broadcasting deal. It feels like it’s a good time to get involved with a natural understated market right now.”

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