- Yeovil Town chairman Scott Priestnall has spoken about the different debts the club has in an update posted this morning.
The owner confirmed the following in his update published on the club’s website on Friday morning – see here:
- The club still owes Sport England almost £1m from loans it took out to handle the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic – but the chairman is still working with the National League to get these written off.
- £600,000 in shareholder loans have been written off by Yeovil Town Holdings Limited (YTFC Holdings), one of the two business which operates as part of the club.
- The £1.35m loan taken out by Priestnall and Errol Pope, the businessman who he bought the club with in 2019, has been paid off.
The writing off of £600,000 in loans appears to be a financial arrangement between YTFC Holdings and Yeovil Football & Athletic Club (YF&AC). We’ll certainly not claim to be financial experts, but any figure of that magnitude being written off certainly sounds like a good thing.
The two companies were set up back in 2010 when then-owners Norman Hayward and John Fry separated the clubs assets with YTFC Holdings taking ownership of the land around Huish Park and YF&AC taking ownership of the stadium and the club’s football operations.
Priestnall is the only director of YTFC Holdings whilst YF&AC counts the chairman and fellow director Stuart Robins among its board members – and, according to another part of the update, soon will include Martyn Starnes, who is returning as the club’s Chief Executive Officer, read more on that – here. Starnes was previously involved in the club for six years up until 2013 when he joined Plymouth Argyle.
In his update, the chairman confirmed that any charges owed to MSP Capital, the Poole-based finance group which lent money to Priestnall and Pope when they bought the club in 2019, had been removed.
We reported back in May that the money had been repaid to MSP Capital following a filing made at the time – see here.
In his Friday statement, Priestnall said: “All MSP Capital charges have been removed from Yeovil Town Holdings Limited and Yeovil Football & Athletic (Club) Limited. Any MSP Capital charges still showing as outstanding at Companies House should show as cleared when their website is updated.”
In summary, nearly £1m still owed to Sport England but discussions to write it off still continuing, £600,000 in shareholder loans written off and money owed to MSP Capital written off as well.
The Sport England loans get quite a bit of focus in the update with Priestnall first confirming that the almost £1m (£998,538, to be precise) has not been paid off by money raised from the sale of Huish Park and surrounding land to South Somerset District Council in May.
The chairman has reiterated that at the time the club took the loans the National League “were given assurances that in time these loans would be written off“.
Now, when the Gloverscast contacted the Department for Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) last month to ask them what the current situation was with regards to the loans they gave out as part of the Sport Survival Package and they told us: “The terms of the loan repayment remain the same as when it was provided in early 2021. We expect every loan recipient to fulfil the terms of their loan.”
However, it seems Priestnall, a member of the National League’s board of directors, is working alongside his counterparts to keep up the fight to get the debts cancelled.
He added: “I will continue to work with The National League, who have regular meetings with DCMS, and other National League System clubs to get these loans written off.
“Like all National League clubs who took loans, a four-year holiday period was granted before repayment begins and I will be pushing the National League to ensure those assurances are upheld.”
The chairman’s update also makes reference to a documentary – titled ‘Gate Money: Inside Non-League Football’s Funding Fiasco’ – which he says has “been produced to investigate the distribution of payments to National League clubs to help support them through the recent lockdown due to the Coronavirus pandemic.”
The documentary, produced by SPNJRT Media Productions and Moody Shots Production, is due for broadcast in November and a trailer can be viewed – here.
In his update, Priestnall says he opposed the way the money was distributed despite the club receiving “the highest level of distribution” of funding.
The chairman said: “As board minutes will show, although YTFC were one of the clubs that received the highest level of distribution, I was one director who voted against and regularly opposed the formula and the way the process was dealt with.
“I never believed it directly addressed what the funds were for. While primarily it kept the League operating, it did not replace lost revenues as publicly stated by DCMS and, in my view, was disproportionately distributed to clubs.
“Clubs with higher average attendance in the National League, National League North and National League South lost out, while clubs which had lower average attendances in the National League pyramid benefited dramatically. Additionally, I also endorsed the publishing of the so-called “Bernstein Report” and could not understand why it had not been published in full at its completion.”
The (so-called) Bernstein Report was written by former FA chairman David Bernstein who led an independent panel charged with looking in to the way money was distributed by the League.
There’s been no statement made by the National League in response to the documentary’s trailer which features Bernstein, so we will wait to see what happens when the full version appears next month.
The other parts of the update make reference to “recent reports” and “comments on social media” which the chairman is responding to.
The first relates to Worcester Warriors, the Premiership Rugby side which has been wound-up by administrators after running in to financial difficulty responds to “recent reports.”
Priestnall says: “I have not been involved in any capacity with Worcester Warriors Rugby Club or any consortium looking to acquire the club since taking over at Yeovil Town FC. I have not had any and have no plan for discussions with any parties regarding an involvement in a new ownership or management team.
“I sincerely hope the club finds a new owner soon who can help get them through a traumatic time for everyone involved with the club.”
In October 2018, the rugby club announced the Glovers’ chairman was part of a consortium which had bought it. That consortium included Errol Pope, who would work with Priestnall to take over at Huish Park a little more than a year later, Jed McCrory and David Seymour, a former Premiership Rugby player.
McCrory took a role on the club’s Executive Board, but there was no mention of either Priestnall or Pope after the initial takeover.
In June 2019, it was announced that Colin Goldring and Jason Whittingham had taken over as joint owners at Worcester with McCrory stepping down from his role on the board.
By this point, Priestnall and Pope were completing their takeover of Yeovil Town and it appears no longer involved with Worcester.
In the other part of his update, the chairman said that CV Leisure, the company which he used to take over at Huish Park in 2019, had not claimed support through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, the initiative otherwise known as ‘furlough’ set up by the Government.
The updated said: “There have been comments on social media regarding a Coronavirus job retention scheme claim for CV Leisure Ltd. I can confirm that CV Leisure never made an application to claim support and therefore any information circulating on social media is incorrect.“
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