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HUISH PARK: A Somerset council can move forward with purchase

HUISH PARK: A Somerset council can move forward with purchase

Image: LDRS

A Somerset council can push ahead with its purchase of a football stadium after the end of a six-month moratorium imposed by supporters.

South Somerset District Council voted in December 2020 to purchase Yeovil Town Football Club’s Huish Park stadium and the surrounding land, protecting the team from short-term insolvency and giving it a platform to rebuild in the years ahead.

The Glovers Trust, which represents the fans, used the stadium’s status as an asset of community value to pause the sale for six months, allowing them to put together an alternative bid for the site.

This six-month period is now over and no viable alternative bidder has come forward – meaning the council is free to proceed and purchase the stadium from the club.

The trust said it still had concerns about the planned purchase, citing the recent political fallout surrounding the council’s Yeovil Refresh programme.

In a statement released on Wednesday (May 26), the Glovers Trust Board described the planned sale as “a pivotal movement in the history of Yeovil Town Football Club” and said multiple proposals had come forward during the six-month moratorium.

A spokesman said: “As early as December 2020, potential investors and consortia reached out to the trust board to declare an interest in the club and the land based on significant supporter involvement. This supporter involvement was at the heart of every proposal we entertained.

“Over the six-month period several groups have made contact with us, and we are aware parties have reached out to intermediaries at the club.

“Without the delay, the proposed deal between the owners of Huish Park and the council would have been rushed through by January 2021, long before any reasonable scrutiny could have been conducted.

“The delay has also given others the chance to reflect on the scheme and for the cultivation of a belief that a better route can be found to secure the long-term security of our club.”

The trust said the purchase of Huish Park by the council would bring a “limited short-term financial boost”, and admitted it was not in a position to buy the stadium and surrounding land itself.

However, it raised concerns that it would put the club’s long-term future “in jeopardy”, arguing it would make it harder for the club to buy back its own facilities if its finances were to improve in the future.

A spokesman added: “We note the public war of words between the council and Marcus Fysh MP regarding the decisions that have been made regarding the Yeovil Refresh scheme, and scrutiny on decision-making and finances involved with it.

“Surely we do not need our football club to get caught up in similar political criticism.”

In a letter to the council, trust board chairman Brendon Owen said the club’s finances were less precarious than had appeared to be the case when the council voted to approve the purchase in December.

He said: “Here we are in May 2021 with the club still operating, so clearly it has
been able to make alternative financial arrangements.

“Part of this includes a loan from Sport England, which now becomes a creditor. It is likely therefore that funds generated from the sale of the club will go to pay off debts and covenants that currently prevent development.

“With a rental figure of seven per cent of the purchase price, we estimate that the club will pay an annual rental of £140,000. By way of comparison, Exeter City FC pays £40,000 per annum to their city council for the rent of that ground.

“As custodians of the public good we urge you to reconsider the decision to purchase the club and its asset, as we firmly believe that the current deal is not in the interest of the club or the local community that you serve.”

South Somerset District Council said its proposals remained the best possible way to secure the club’s future in light of the lasting effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

A spokesman said: “Following the end of the six-month moratorium period under the relevant regulations, the owners of Yeovil Town FC are free to sell to whomever they choose.

“We do not believe there is a case for the council to review the offer that was made and approved in 2020, and it remains available if the owners wish to take it up. Ultimately, the final decision is with the owners.

“We believe that the council has taken the best approach possible in everyone’s interests.”

Words: Daniel Mumby, Local Democracy Reporter


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