South Somerset District Council has confirmed it has completed its £2.8m purchase of Huish Park and land around it with Yeovil Town chairman Scott Priestnall.
In a statement on Friday afternoon, the authority said that the deal, understood to be worth £2.8m, was done and it would now rent the stadium and “core land” around it back to the club under a 30-year lease.
Priestnall said the deal had released restrictive covenants enabling it to deliver “a viable plan to grow our infrastructure off the pitch” including putting together plans to develop the land around Huish Park, carry out maintenance work and invest in the playing squad.
He also revealed that he expects to follow through on his promise to announce new appointments to the club’s board in “the next couple of weeks.”
In its statement, SSDC said the deal would “help with the club’s survival, generate a new rental income, while protecting our ratepayers from loss or excessive risk.”
Scott Priestnall said: “When I first came into the club, I saw the opportunity to grow this already amazing club into an organisation off the pitch that could provide revenues all week, not just on match days. While I had very positive conversations with local planning (authorities), developers and funding partners, the pandemic delayed our options to grow, at the same time causing huge financial difficulties to our ongoing operations.
“There is and has always been a massive opportunity to develop the club’s infrastructure, but over the last 30 years the custodians of this club have never been able to put a plan together that works for all related parties.”
There is no value for the deal in either the council or the club’s statement, however, £2.8m was set aside in the council’s budget to acquire both the core and non-core land around Huish Park, see map, left, for an explanation of what that means.
The chairman added that it would use the funds to pay off unpaid debts, including deferred salaries to staff.
He said: “I believe we are now in a position to not only sustain this Club financially but also move forward with a viable plan to grow our infrastructure off the pitch, to help with gaining future success on the pitch.
“The funds will help pay for costs incurred during the pandemic such as deferred payments with some of our key partners and deferred salaries to our incredible staff and players who accepted a reduction in wages during lockdown when the Club could not operate.
“In addition to this, the funds will also allow us to engage contractors and consultants to put forward a planning application for the site as well as allowing us to sensibly invest in required maintenance work and our playing squad. Fundamentally, it has also allowed us to negotiate and remove the well-publicised restrictive covenants held over the site since the football club moved to the site.
“I would like to thank everyone who has been involved at SSDC over the last 18 months. Especially for their understanding and patience over the last year while the Club explored all other possibilities for investment, including the potential takeover that has dominated the Club for the past nine months.”
Looking to the future, the chairman said he expected appointments to the board – which he trailed in The Priestnall Tapes, a series of recorded statements made to a group if supporters in the Alec Stock Lounge a couple of weeks ago – to arrive soon along with new manager Chris Hargreaves’ backroom staff.
Former chief executive Martyn Starnes, who left the club in 2013, is now a permanent fixture at Huish Park and seems certain to be part of a new set up with the possibility of a supporter representative being appointed to the board.
Priestnall added: “I am pleased to say that I will be announcing appointments over the next week. The new board will have a combination of specialist football operations, a voice for supporters and a wealth of experience in business, that will come together and help shape the future of Yeovil Town.
“Our new first team manager, Chris Hargreaves, has also been announced and is in discussion with members of our existing squad, as well as potential targets, while his backroom staff will be announced over the coming weeks.
“I do appreciate that it has been a frustrating time for supporters this season with so much uncertainty. I acknowledge that mistakes have been made.
“My aim for the upcoming season is that as supporters you have clarity on our plans. That starts with the manager, then with player signings and his backroom staff. Then over the next year you see progress and see sight of our long term vision for Huish Park.
“It has been a difficult time for everyone involved in the club, there is no doubt about that, and there will be those that will put a negative spin on this deal, but it’s an exciting development and gives the club a clear route for growth for the first time in its life at Huish Park. Providing future additional revenues that will give us competitive advantages down the line.
“It’s important that we come together and work together to ensure a successful future for YTFC, and with the new board, continue to provide clarity on the club’s’operations.”
Councillor Val Keitch, the leader of South Somerset District Council and Yeovil Town season ticket holder, said the deal was “in the best interests of South Somerset and its communities.”
She added: “Yeovil Town is the only professional football club in Somerset and it makes a significant contribution to both the local economy and more widely in terms of community, education and local civic pride.
“This includes the community impact of the club’s charity, the Yeovil Town Community Sports Trust, which strives to make a positive difference for all through sport and learning for thousands of local people through its work with local schools and its own Soccer Schools.”
John Clark, the council’s Portfolio Holder for Economic Development, added: “It is important to remember that it is not the council’s intention nor desire to play any part in the running of the football club, which will remain a matter for the shareholders. Our interest is to help with the club’s survival, generate a new rental income, while protecting our ratepayers from loss or excessive risk.
SSDC is due to be scrapped from next year when it is swallowed up in to a new unitary authority which covers the full county
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