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By ESPN Staff

Hornets target lengthy stay in top division

Watford today pledged to establish themselves in the Barclays Premiership despite recording pre-tax losses of £5.6million for the latest financial year.

The Hornets, who are 19th in the table after 13 matches and face an immediate return to the Coca-Cola Championship, revealed debts which more than doubled those for the year ending June 2005, when pre-tax losses were £2.1million.

Chairman Graham Simpson insisted the losses were due mainly to the bonuses paid to players and staff as a reward for promotion in May - pre-tax wages and salary costs increased from £6.6million for the year ending June 2005 to £10million for the following 12-month period.

'The principal cause of an increased loss was the increase in employment costs of £3.4million, largely as a result of bonus payments to players (for) promotion to the Premiership and the league performances to get to the play-off final,' said Simpson in his statement to the Stock Exchange.

'Now that Premiership football has been attained, our goal is to build a club infrastructure that will support the on-pitch success and enable us to continue to drive the business forward on all levels.

'Our work is now focused on ensuring that we are able to compete at the top level of English football and continue to move forward on and off the pitch.'

Despite their outstanding form last season, and their mediocre showings the previous year, Watford made a profit of only 3.2% on their gate receipts for the respective periods.

And the Hornets also collected £150,000 less in television money than they had during the 2004-05 campaign, due mainly to their run to the Carling Cup semi-finals in the latter season.

Manager Adrian Boothroyd will hope to add to his squad when the transfer window reopens in January - but Watford had to keep a tight rein on costs during their promotion year, and are unlikely to change their philosophy drastically now.