This post is from the Ciderspace Archives from 3rd June 2000.

When the club announced that we were to go full-time there were mixed reactions, but Ciderspace believes most saw it as a positive step forward. Going full time is certainly the trend being set by some of the more ambitious clubs in the Conference.

With promotion to and relegation from the League now a regular feature, and with the possibility of two or more up and down each season in the future, the number of fully professional teams in the Conference is only likely to increase.

Whilst understanding that this was a huge and radical step that would entail re-building and restructuring the club the majority of fans were probably prepared to go with the “no gain without pain” concept. The clear impression given by chairman John Fry was that the club had been thinking along these lines for some time and that the arrival of the new manager, David Webb, was simply the catalyst that put it in motion.

At the same time many fans felt that the publishing of plans for the new terrace roof (and the granting of planning permission) symbolised the forward progression of Yeovil Town into the new Millennium.

On the 4th of April the chairman John Fry went on YDR FM and stated, as part of a reply to a phone-in question, that the budget for the 1999-2000 season had been based on a figure of 3,500 average crowds. He said that the budget when the team went full-time next season would not be a great deal more than that.

The only surprise was the first part; no one could presumably have thought it likely Yeovil Town would average 3,500 over a whole season even if the club had managed to challenge for the title right to the end. Does this imply that the club has a problematic deficit that it is carrying forward?

The second part, that the next budget would be a little more, seemed reasonable (if tight, given the almost inevitable extra costs of full-time football) and tied in with the impression that had been given in previous press releases and interviews, including one conducted the day after David Webb’s appointment on the club’s Official Site.

A month later in the 4th of May edition of the Western Gazette, as part of an extensive series of comments including the position of the reserve side and a family enclosure, John Fry announced a new Three Year Plan. He said: “We have a Three Year Plan with a 1st June start date. We have a massive job to restructure the club for going full-time and developing the stadium.”

He was also reported as saying that the budget would be based on an average attendance of 1,800. The Western Gazette, in its inimitable style, completely missed the crucial import of this statement and chose to headline a supposed threat to watching the reserves!

In the four weeks that have passed no statement of any sort has emanated from Huish Park to refute this new position, or claim a misunderstanding: that the budgeting for the forthcoming season would be based on average attendances of just 1,800 and therefore the implication that the budget Mr Webb was working to was significantly lower than last season. Not only is this surprising when the increased costs of full time football are considered; it also heavily contradicts several statements made by Mr Fry in the past.

Alarm bells began to ring. Subsequently sources from within the club have suggested what this might mean in actual monetary terms. The budget set for the season 1999-2000 is claimed by these sources to have been around £350,000. This original budget was exceeded – Mr Fry has stated in public that this happened before Colin Lippiatt’s departure.

The budget for the season 2000-01 has, according to those same sources, been set at around £200,000. The proportions of these figures correspond closely to what one would expect from budgets based on 3,500 and 1,800 crowds given the rise in ticket prices across the two years.

Other circumstantial but telling evidence that has accumulated over the past several months supports the contention that the budget in ominously small. Ciderspace does not wish to publicly discuss the financial affairs of individuals but we will assert:

  • A number of higher-earning players would have been more than happy to discuss going full-time. They were not given the opportunity. In one case in particular, the club chose to give the impression that it was the player who was not interested in full-time football. That player has publicly denied that.
  • Several players whom the club wished/wishes to retain found that the money they were offered was no more than they were receiving part-time. Some signed, some didn’t.
  • A valued player would have gone full-time for what we consider to be a very modest recompense, hugely below what he would be giving up in alternative income. It became clear in negotiations that the money was not available.
  • Ciderspace has been led to believe that the sums quoted in The Clarion 2000 on April 19th as being offered to the younger players (150 pounds per week) are in fact pretty accurate despite many of us having a good laugh at Fat Harry’s expense at the time.
  • Dave Webb originally targeted five or six new players, and it was hoped to move for them quickly before the manager departed on holiday. There appears to have been little success on this front and the talk is now of half that number.

Unfortunately whilst the chairman is away no one seems to have been delegated to speak for the club. Manager David Webb also departs on holiday this weekend, and more than one journalist has told us they are finding it increasingly difficult to persuade him to speak to the media. Huish Park is therefore virtually “closed” as far as communication with the media is concerned.

What is left is leaks and rumour. One such rumour that has materialised recently, is that David Webb is no longer comfortable with the allocated budget Claims by the chairman in the past have suggested that he had agreed it, so if this is true, there must be a reason for the change of heart.

Despite being a man who keeps a tight lid on his transfer activities, names have been disclosed by various means, yet none have reached fruition. With Dave Webb now on a two or three week holiday, it seems unlikely that any dealings will take place until he returns. By that time we will be just a fortnight before pre-season training starts.

Leaving aside the number of young and inexperienced players and how they will cope with being thrust into the front line for an entire season, there is no cover in a whole host of positions. The cream of players who were in the Reserves last season have already been promoted to the first team, so there is little visible scope for recruitment from within.

One prominent person on the Huish Park payroll has recently told Ciderspace he is concerned that we may be building a squad of players fit for relegation, not promotion. Young players are inclined to be far more vulnerable to dents in team morale, and lets not forget that the Huish Park crowd are hardly the best for supporting their team through the bad times – that’s where experienced players can help the youngsters ride the storm.

Having a youthful team can act as a good investment for the future, and that is what we hope Yeovil Town Football Club invests in. However, being forced to over-do the “youth” factor, due to budget constraints, could have the same consequences as asking a group of university economics students to run the government. They might know the theory, but when problems arrive, do they have the support of more experienced people that will help them get themselves out of trouble? But what if Dave Webb can’t afford to get those people in?

Ciderspace feels that there is a huge amount of disquiet amongst officials, employees, players and supporters alike at the way things appear to be going. The issue of the budget needs to be addressed.

If the assertions above, which stem from a reported statement from the chairman made a month ago, are erroneous then the club should quickly make that clear.

If the above assertions are close to the truth, then the chairman, board and manager should talk as soon as possible and frankly appraise whether these projections are in fact realistic, and can meet the requirements of sustaining a full-time team that will survive in the Conference. And once they have reached a way forward, then it should be made clear to all concerned.

June is the month when many season tickets are bought. How many people are delaying their renewals because they don’t know what sort of a team they will watch next season?

We are into the third day of the Three Year Plan. We would like to have faith in it. Knowing what it actually is would be a good start. At the moment all the supporters of Yeovil Town Football Club perceive is an apparent gap between aspiration and reality.

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