New Yeovil Town owner Martin Hellier has spoken for the first time since completing his takeover of the club.

The local businessman and owner of Hellier Group spoke with BBC Somerset’s Claire Carter on Monday morning having announced he had taken over.

In case you had missed it, the owner has acquired the majority shareholding previously held by ex-owner Scott Priestnall in Yeovil Town Holdings Limited, the company which owns the club’s trading business, Yeovil Football & Athletic Club, and holds the exclusive rights to buy back on land at Huish Park which is now owned by Somerset Council.

In a wide-ranging interview, the chairman confirmed the following:

  • The club will remain full-time in National League South next season.
  • Manager Mark Cooper will remain in place for the start of the campaign.
  • On the pitch, the club’s main goal for next season will be to win promotion back to the National League Premier.
  • Off the pitch, the new owner has a number of short, medium and long term priorities which he is working on from his first working day in charge today.
  • Player contracts including those now out of contract will be reviewed between the new owner and the manager.
  • Finances are available to support the club’s develop with “£2m in the bank account” to “assist and feed in order of priority.
  • The new owner will be communicating on club matters via official channels only and apologised for his “passions” using his own Twitter account in the past.
  • Priestnall has no role at Yeovil Town FC any longer.

You can listen to the interview on BBC Sounds – here – with the interview beginning at 2 hours and nine minutes in to the Breakfast programme.

Here’s how the interview went:

CC: How are you feeling this morning?

MH:
I am feeling a mixture of things. A little groggy and tired from the weekend, there was a lot of phone calls, questions and continued speculation but at the same time I am jubilant and very proud.
Off we go – it’s Monday morning, let’s do this!

CC: Can you confirm exactly what you have purchased?

MH:
I own the majority holding of Yeovil Town Holdings which in turn owns Yeovil Town FC and, as part of owning Holdings, we have the buy-back rights on the surrounding land and stadium.

CC: Do you intend to buy-back the land?

MH:
Absolutely. This has to be the undoing of 13 years of what was a mistake, it is a community club and there is no reason at all why those grounds would be separated without leading to a few questions as to what hidden agenda there may be there.
From this morning, the line is transparency, we have nothing to hide. There are no doubts at all that sometime down the line there will be development on that land, the difference being that development will be on land which belongs to the football club and which the revenues will benefit the football club.
It needed doing and it has been done.

CC: How quickly can you buy back that land?

MH:
I can buy it back as quickly and slowly as we would wish. There is clearly a timeline by which we probably shoould buy it, but we have to remember it is Monday morning and the deal (to buy the club) was done on Friday night.
The first thing to ensure was we have that right (to buy back the land) and it is safeguarded and will belong to the club. We have bought enough breathing space to tuck that one away and concentrate on the priorities we have now.

CC: Is the ownership with you or the Hellier Group?

MH:
Hellier Group owns all of it and technically I am the ultimate beneficiary of Hellier Group, so whichever name you want to put to it, it is one of the same thing.

CC: What is your top priority for the football club?

MH:
Tongue in cheek I would say paying the rent (on the Huish Park stadium to Somerset Council) in a couple of days time, but really stabilising where we are at.
We have not waved a magic wand and all the problems have gone away with cashflow, what the club owes and so on. So there’s urgent audits to conduct as far as finance and the management of the club.
It is really about a stabilising the ship, getting in to some calm waters and creating some breathing space. There are obviously priorities in different verticals of the business.
There is the team, the players, the coach and how we are moving forward next season. We have the financial and management side of it, the brand output, the matchday experience, the decor of the building.
That gives you an idea of the size of the task and that is what I will be doing as soon as I drive up to the club this morning and we start doing that business.

CC: A listener, Nathan, asks that you said you have £2m to pump in to the club – was that to buy the club and the land, or an extra £2m to invest in the club after purchase?

MH:
The latter. Any fairly astute business person does not come in, chuck £2m in to the bank account and say ‘off you go, enjoy yourselves’.
That budget is set aside and will be fed in in order of priority, there are things we need to clear first and get sorted, but rest assured that is not an issue.
I would not have been embarking on the six month journey we have been on if that was the case. It is full intention (to invest in the club).
You cannot buy a club and say ‘I hope we score some goals’ and hope that will bring some ticket revenue and then we can improve ourselves. With any business you have to make investment and see it make results.

CC: Did you mortgage the club in terms of how you purchased the club?

MH:
Absolutely not. I own it outright. I hope eventually to quash some of the doubters and in two or three weeks or whenever the paperwork is filed in Companies House, it is an open book, you will be able to see the directors, the owners, and any charges on the club.
Therefore that’s the only way that I can satisfy those that, even when you tell them what the facts are, they need to satisfy themselves.
There has been no mortgages, no charges, no loan, there is no secret investor. I, Martin Hellier of the Hellier Group, have purchased Yeovil Town Holdings and therefore the club and therefore the buy-back rights.

CC: Robin has asked on Twitter – Martin, how do you plan on maintaining good communication with the fans as chairman?

MH:
The one thing I have never understood was why it was such a problem for the club owner to sit down with the (Glovers’) Trust, fans’ forums, etc on a regular basis.
There will be people who sit at that table who sit at that table who suggest things which are unviable, unfeasible or unreasonable. I will only use a perfect rationale to explain why that might be.
I would suggest a bi-weekly, once a month sit down with the various forums is absolutely simple. I can probably understand if the previous owner might not want to sit face to face with fans who are going to ask questions about the land deal and so on. That is gone, that cloud has lifted, there is no big question mark hanging over it.
The questions we will answer will be about things like our performances on the pitch.

CC: Social media has been a bit of a minefield with the conversations which you have had previously with fans. How should a chairman now behave towards fans on something like Twitter and what position will you take on how you behave and tweet?

MH:
I can openly apologies for the passions during the process of trying to buy the club which may have led to a few outbursts.
When you are this person in this community and you are witnessing something which should just not be happening, whether it was done by people who live far away owning the club or by certain people within the council, you are watching these things happen and not being able to control them.
Anyone around me would tell you that I am a passionate person and will say and do things that were wrong. My personal input on Twitter stopped this morning. Any output from me will come via the club.
I activated Twitter in September/October to begin the process to try and buy the club. We can talk about my outbursts and I can list quite a few tweets I could send to anyone which might give good reason why I made outbursts.
There were personal threats on my family and different things and I think that is part of the cloud back there which all contributed to where we are sat this morning and that is part of the past. That is sat on the shelves of history and the beginnings of the future are here and now.

CC: Listeners Toby and Lilywhite Glover are both asking, will the club turn part-time or can Yeovil afford to stay full-time?
MH: We will be full-time. I can confirm that.

CC: What is the situation around who will be running the team in terms of (Mark) Cooper?

MH:
It will be Mark Cooper. There was a period where would be owners or stewards were encroaching on his territory of choosing players.
I am not going to ask Mark Cooper to come upstairs and finalise the end of year accounts, no more than I am going to go downstairs and tell him how to manage players.
That is the job he is employed for and he certainly has more experience on that than me.
As far as his performance (as Yeovil Town manager) goes, everyone has a different opinion, but you cannot give a carpenter a bent hammer and a rusty saw and ask him to turn out a Chippendale side cabinet.
(Mark Cooper) has had zero resource in all the time since he arrived, the club has had zero resource in the last four years and it comes back to the fact that if you want someone to do a good job, you have to arm them with the tools and resources to do that job.
If after that we underperform and don’t do what was expected, we review it at that point. I’m not looking to destabilise things, change managers because that would be a desperate approach to things.
We need to look at things which are in place at the moment and ask are we getting the most out of them, rather than throwing them out and starting again.

CC: Ross asks have we been able to secure any players for next season beyond the announcement around Morgan Williams’ contract extension?

MH:
There are some player contracts in place. Until I am at the club today, sat down with Mark (Cooper) and various people, I am not going to comment on that side of things.
Very soon we will be able to announce things through the correct channels.
It was difficult to have those sorts of conversations before the deal was done given the wobbly nature of it all, but that will be a first priority.
Fans will start to get solid announcements through the correct media channels, and these are all things which will be resolving and doing at the club this week.
We have removed all the obstacles which has impeded us, we have removed that dark cloud of suspicion and we are now a club that is going to be doing our best. That starts today.

CC: Boxer asks do you have any ideas to make the matchday experience more enjoyable and how do you intend to attract supporters back and new supporters to a club which has had some bad headlines following it in recent years?

MH:
There are various ideas which range from the short, medium and long term. We don’t want the matchday experience to be a 90 minute experience, we want to give fans a reason to turn up a couple of hours earlier, leave a couple of hours later, make a day of it.
There are issues about the look of the site from smaller things which could have been done anyway to much larger things which may need planning permission to do them.
I want to walk in that club as I would be if I was going to stand on the terraces and I want to recognise the experience they currently get and the one that they could get.
It is a long journey and I would urge that people need to be patient. This is not a quick fix, we would expect when fans turn up for the first game of the season, there will be tangible changes which hope will allow them to invest their beliefs in what our motives are.
We are intent on improving every aspect of that club.

CC: But trust has been broken between fans by previous owners in the past, do you understand why fans need that time?

MH:
Indeed. All I can say is that I cannot influence the past, I can only influence the future. Any lack of trust or animosity they have had, I am very sorry for but I was not involved in that at the time.
We are the people that have removed the problem which has been with us for a number of years. We have done that and we ask people to have patience and belief. We will be measured on (what we do from now).
I made statement the other day that I would still like to be able to walk around Tesco on a Saturday morning. I have to because this is my home.
We cannot do much more to convince fans except for them to let us get on with the job and see and believe.

CC: Is the main goal for next season to win promotion back to the National League Premier?

MH:
That has to be our aim. In anything you want to do, you need to aim much higher than you might be aiming for because you are going to land a little lower than that in most cases.
That is absolutely our ambition and I don’t think anyone would have a reason why it would not be. We have to be back up there.
There are no guarantees and ultimately it comes down to sticking the ball in the back of the net, but we will try and design the structure and invest in the structure to let that happen.
But, of course, that has to be our absolute ambition at a minimum.

CC: I will just end of Ray’s question – does Scott Priestnall still have any part of Yeovil Town FC?
MH: Absolutely not in any way, shape or form. That can be proven by anyone astute enough to search Companies House in the near future when all the documents have been updated.
Scott Priestnall has absolutely no control, no share, no input on Yeovil Town Holdings Limited, the football club or any of the buy-back arrangements.
It is over, he is gone.


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Gavin Trott
11 months ago

Very interesting. I thought the interview was good with some pointed questions that were not ducked. He appeared open and passionate about the club and regrets some of the things he said on SM. So he is prepared to admit mistakes, which must be a good thing. Let’s hope MC can now get the squad he wants and therefore will have no excuses if the team fails to deliver. I hope we do see some big improvements around the ‘matchday experience’ but recognise any feelgood factor only returns when the team starts winning again. I guess I now have some modest optimism, which has been lacking for a while.

Essex Glover
11 months ago

Success in the new season will undoubtedly hinge on recruitment.The staff we have at present for the most part was nowhere good enough for the National League and I suspect
for NLS likewise.Yeovil will want to be the biggest fish so I hope the manager is given far more freedom with new signings, likewise getting rid of the dead wood.It is all about getting
bums on seats and if we start well I can see crowds of 2500 to 3000 if not more.Hopefully
this is the start of a new exciting journey. Finally Mr Priestnall, I am sure we all wish you
all the very worst as far as your future money making ventures are concerned.

11 months ago

Glad there’s an experienced head running things now at Yeovil Town. Exactly what is needed. (That isn’t to say that the SU Glovers weren’t genuine, they did seem like they cared).
It’s great in some ways to collaborate on recruitment, but at the end of the day I think you do need the manager making the final call. Everyone operating within the scope of what they are supposed to do.

SU Glovers will probably go on, learn from what happened and be better. Good luck to them.

Robert Talboys
11 months ago
Reply to  Anon

I believe we have to give martin hellier time l belive if can recruit the right players particular defence and a decent striker as we are staying full time l we will be in a good chance for promotion

11 months ago
Reply to  Robert Talboys

Yeah and somewhere near the top of the list of recruits should be someone as good or better than G Smith! It’s like building a house without solid foundations if you haven’t thought about the goalkeeper first. Whole thing comes tumbling down.