|While the history of the Watford Mailing List
(WML) is not as long as our glorious Golden Boys, it has a colourful
past and an exciting future.
In August 7th 1994 (in Internet terms the prehistoric era), Gary Smith, a Watford fan living in South Africa, posted a message on a news list trying to contact fellow fans and WML was born. In the early days, messages were sent to the person who kept a list of emails and then forwarded them out to all members, a slow process and where the name list-owner came from.
In April 1995, Tim Brennen, who was based at the University of Tromsų in Norway, took over this task and “borrowing” some of the resources at the University, automated the list in November. A year later the list had grown to over 200 members.
In November 1996, feeling that the burden of having to deal with over 300 ranting Watford fans was too much, Tim created Watford Advisory Group (WAG) to help him manage technical and content-related issues. Initially, membership of WAG was composed of long-standing listees whom Tim trusted, two of whom continue to serve on WAG to this day!
Eventually, in November 1997, Tim decided to pass the technical aspects of the list over to Leo Mindel who set up wfc.net as a site to host WML, moving it from Tromsų to servers in Orlando, Florida. Tim stepped into the background and Leo took over as list-owner and figurehead. By this point, WML had grown to 450 subscribers.
With the sudden growth in the Internet, WML also saw a large increase in interest. WML was featured on 3 Counties Radio, in the Watford Observer and even in the match programme. Membership swelled to around 1,000 in 1999 and, while WAG believed that this resulted from their brilliant running of WML, it may possibly have been connected with the fact that GT took Watford into the premiership. This was a halcyon time for WML with many of the most memorable members joining. That said, it was not all a bed of roses (supporting Watford never is). As with all fledgling supporters groups, WML clashed a few times with the club and a few of the original members left as the size grew and the dynamics changed.
By 2002, Leo was finding the responsibility of list-ownership too time-consuming and stepped down from fronting WML. Although he continued to host the list, day-to-day responsibility for its smooth running was passed over to a small group of long time members of WAG in July of that year. Mark Main emerged as the most prominent member of this group and became de facto list-owner. Mark gave up this role in May 2003, although he and Leo remained in the background to oversee technical issues. Meanwhile, members of WAG co-ordinated the list’s day-to-day management.
In June 2005, the server that had run the list for eight years finally gave up the ghost and WML ceased to function for three weeks. To restore service to the list, Jon Sinclair – a long-standing member of WAG - moved WML to its current set-up as a Yahoo! Group and took over as list-owner, supported and advised by WAG.
The list has had its share of controversies and disputes over the years, including over how it should be run, but has always survived and has become a long-standing feature of Watford FC support, reflecting the opinions of regular match-goers and exiled Horns alike. A number of smaller groups have spun out of WML over the years including the successful WIFC football team and the ever growing New England Watford Fan Club. WML has also forged strong connections with Watford fanzines, including the lamented Blind, Stupid and Desperate, and played a role in the formation of the Watford Supporters Trust. As with the number of season ticket holders, the number of subscribers to WML has always fluctuated as old members leave and new members join - with the current number hovering around 870. However, the debate remains as lively as ever.