Yeovil Town owner Scott Priestnall has said he will hopes that Sports Minister Nigel Huddlestone will cancel the almost £1m of loans the club has taken out from Sport England.
The club presently owes £998,538 after taking a series of loans from a fund created to support non-League clubs during the COVID-19 pandemic when the chairman said the club “lost £1.25m in revenue overnight.”
Initially the National League, of which Priestnall is a board member, told clubs the money was in the form of grants which did not need to be paid back, but the Government’s Department of Culture, Media & Sport disagreed.
In the fourth (or is it fifth?!) instalment of video updates from an address the chairman made to supporters in the Alec Stock Lounge ahead of Saturday’s 2-1 home win over Stockport, he said: “We have taken Government funds, I have been criticised for that, I have no shame in that, nearly all National League clubs have taken grants and loans from the Government and I sit here and go – show me a different way. Quite frankly there was not another way.
“We’ve taken not as much as some other clubs and only what we needed and we have been promised as a league by the Sports Minister that over the next four years, he is working towards getting those loans written off.
“So, in hindsight, we could have done what other clubs did and took a much as we could and used it for playing squads, but I didn’t want to do that in case we get to the point where we do get to the point where we have to start paying it back over the next 20 years. Money still had to be put in to fund last season.”
Other clubs in the National League have also taken significant sums of money from Sport England with promotion-chasing Chesterfield taking £1m in loans last March, whereas others including now-relegated Dover Athletic decided not to fulfil their fixtures.
Speaking about the future plans, the chairman returned to his point about trying to secure further investment with “local business people” reportedly being lined up to join the club’s board – see more here.
He said he understood fans’ frustration him “for not being more transparent, for not talking about takeover rumours” but said he believed a takeover of the club would have been finalised by Christmas.
In Saturday’s address to fans, the chairman said that no group seeking to complete a takeover had every “put money on the table.”
He said: “Putting my cards on the table I thought there would be a new owner in place by Christmas.
“That’s not been the case, so when you look at our accounts, we have lost money again and that has had to be found and put in to the club and that will be an ongoing situation.
“The balance I need to find over the next few weeks and months with other partners to see where we are going to be in terms of a playing budget. I know now that our playing budget is going to be similar to what it has been this season.
“I would like it to be more, but that will need further investment or a way of generating revenue by increasing attendances. No-one wants to put prices up.
“I am not going to sit here and say that our long-term vision is to have a new ground with a hotel in it, our goal is short-term to stabilise a new board, so it’s not just one voice, it’s a collective approach, bringing investment to the club.
“Between us we will work on what that plan looks like; we could have that plan in a month, it could be two months, but I would like to think this summer we do have a long-term vision in place.”