On May 26, the measure which has stopped the sale and lease back of Huish Park from owner Scott Priestnall and South Somerset District Council (SSDC) comes to an end.
The pause (or moratorium to use the correct term) was brought about by the decision of the Glovers’ Trust to activate an Asset of Community Value (ACV) it holds on the land, which has given it six months to make a counter offer to that proposed by SSDC.
It activated this option about six months ago and in an email to members on May 10, the Trust said it was “serious talks with parties who are keen to form a consortium and put together a credible bid.”
That and a statement from the owner – see here – on February 24 is pretty much all we have heard from either party in recent months. However, with the clock ticking down to the end of the moratorium we can only assume things are happening in the background.
So, here’s a look at what we (think) we know….
THE SSDC DEAL
On November 24, Scott Priestnall confirmed he had approached SSDC to “buy Huish Park freehold land including the stadium, as well as the long leasehold parcel of land to the east of the site.”
In this statement at the time, the owner laid out the reasons why he felt the deal was necessary “in order to avoid serious financial distress in the coming months”.
On December 3, the council’s Executive District Committee met to approve the deal to “purchase and lease back property owned by Yeovil Town FC” including the Huish Park stadium.
In its press release following the decision, the council confirmed the deal would extinguish a 999-year lease between the council and the club and replace it with a new 30-year lease for the stadium and the land around it.
The full terms of the deal have remained confidential, but the authority confirmed it would be renting the site back to the club for a profit “of around 7%” per year.
It added the deal would also secure “the release of restrictive covenants” on the land which prevent its development of land at Huish Park.
The council added it would not be becoming the owner or a shareholder of the club, but recognised the value of the club to the community.
GLOVERS TRUST – ASSET OF COMMUNITY VALUE
In 2016, the Glovers’ Trust took out an Asset of Community Value (ACV) on Huish Park which gives it the right to make a counter offer if anyone sought to buy the stadium and surrounding land.
On January 2, the Trust’s board confirmed it would activate this option and had until May 26 to make an offer counter to that proposed by SSDC.
Importantly, as Scott Priestnall pointed out in his November statement, the ACV only dictates he must consider the bid and he is not under any obligation to accept it.
So, what has happened since activating the ACV? Well, we don’t actually know, but the Trust’s most recent statement suggests it has been having conversations with people interested in backing them to make a counter offer.
In their email to members on May 10, the Trust said:
“We would like to assure you that we are in serious talks with parties who are keen to form a consortium and put together a credible bid. These are early days in the discussions and we will update further in due course.”
If you do want to get in to the detail of the ACV, the Trust has published a document which attempts to make the mind-bogglingly complicated see simple – see here.
SO WHO IS INTERESTED?
Well, the only party interested in owning the club that we can talk about with any certainty is the current owner Scott Priestnall and his fellow director Glenn Collis.
As mentioned before, we have not heard much from the owner on this subject since his update statement on February 24 , however, Glenn Collis has been more vocal on his social media – albeit not on the subject of the land deal.
Although his posts did including this cryptic tweet a few days ago though….
The future is looking VERY bright!!! 😁#NoMoreWords
— Glenn Collis (@GCollisYTFC) May 11, 2021
So, with SSDC making it clear it has no plans to become owner or even a shareholder, we’re all really guessing about who else might be interested and who the Glovers’ Trust could be speaking with.
Scott Priestnall has poured cold water on some speculation of entrepreneurs interested in a buy-out, and the only person who has made any positive noises about the club is former director Andy Rossiter,
The well-known supporter and local businessman was quite publicly part of a consortium which held talks with then-owners Norman Hayward and John Fry back in May 2019, when the club was sold to Scott Priestnall and his then-business partner Errol Pope.
There’s no suggestion that same consortium is ready to bid again, although on one of the virtual Q&As held by Scott Priestnall has said he “knows where Andy (Rossiter) is” which suggests the door may be open for the possibility – but doesn’t go as far as saying it.
COATESIE’S VIEW OF IT ALL
Hopefully that’s given you something of a summary of what I think we know, so the only thing left to give you is my opinion on what I would like to see come of it all.
Here we go…..
- a first team squad and management playing attractive, committed and (hopefully) winning football. We’re all Yeovil Town supporters not because we expect them to win every week, but because we want to see commitment every time the players step on to the pitch and excitement as many times as possible.
- an off-the-pitch set up that benefits its community first and foremost with facilities open to that community, and an on-the-pitch set up that recognises the importance of the community. That is the importance not only to generate players for the first team, but to give young people all the benefits we know the game brings.
- a sustainable business model that washes it’s own face (as much as a lower league football club can) and is not a hostage to fortune.
- a club that listens and that does not mean bowing to the whim of every fan – including loud mouths like me!
If there’s a lesson we can learn from the European Super League debacle, it’s that fans will only accept so much of being held to ransom by greedy, self-interested businessmen. Yes, I’m looking at you at you Mr Glazer, Kroenke, Henry, et al!
There’s obviously a place for sound business minds in the modern game, we need that knowledge and investment to survive, not least at our level, but there’s limits that will be tolerated.
And that’s about it for my ‘demands’.
So, if Scott Priestnall and Glenn Collis, a consortium aligned to the Glovers’ Trust ACV, or anyone else out there interested in doing what is best for our club, our community and our supporters can deliver that, I’m confident you’ll find the support of almost all of us who call this club ours.