Consecutive relegations and planning application withdrawn
9 June ~ “After that performance, it’s going to be a long season.” My team Yeovil Town, had just got a thumping, losing 3-0 in our first game back in League One, to fellow Championship relegatees Doncaster Rovers. Unfortunately, those wise words from my father would continue to resonate with me throughout the rest of the season as we tumbled down into League Two for a second consecutive relegation. We now have a manager with a proven track record in lower-league football, Paul Sturrock. But at the time of writing, we only have four players (two of whom are injured), with the rest either released or told to find other clubs.
Yeovil had always had one of the lowest budgets in League One, so promotion to the Championship in 2013-14 was expected to prove a challenge. But it seems we could have invested more on the squad and facilities in trying to stay up given that a profit of £1.4 million was made in that one second-level season.
The ground at Huish Park continues to be largely unchanged since our elevation to the Football League in 2003. The away terrace remains uncovered and not utilised to its full capacity (promotion to the Championship was the ideal opportunity to at least complete the terrace, if not cover it), fans drink in a temporary beer tent that is over ten years old, and the female supporters in one of the stands have to share toilets with away fans as they don’t have their own separate facilities.
Couple this with an increase in ticket prices when we arrived back in League One and an afternoon at Yeovil is now one of the most expensive in the division. When you consider that the South Somerset region has twice the national average number of retirees and that wages in the area are at 80 per cent of the national average, this seemed a rather an odd way of building a positive relationship with supporters.
In February 2012 the club had plans for a food retail development on land to the north of the ground, which would generate funds for stadium improvements. This land is owned by Yeovil Town Holdings, a company 92 per cent controlled by the current chief executive and co-owner of the club respectively, John Fry and Norman Hayward. How these funds via the sale (or leasing) of the land were to be fed through to the footballing side of the club was not entirely clear.
Statements from club officials suggested that Yeovil Town’s future might be in jeopardy if the application was not approved but parts of it failed to meet required guidelines and it was eventually withdrawn in June last year. Understandably, many supporters now wonder about the future direction of the club, not least with Fry and Hayward now both over 70. At the time of writing a new planning application for the retail development is weeks away. The club’s general downward trend needs to be addressed urgently with much better leadership required to rebuild fans’ trust. Barrie David