22 August ~ Twenty years ago Yeovil Town played their first competitive match at the brand new Huish Park Stadium, 4,169 people seeing the home side win 2-0. The fact that a non-League side had relocated was something to be proud of for fans even if it meant leaving Huish and its famous sloping pitch. Back then ground moves were almost unheard of – only two years previously Scunthorpe United’s Glandford Park became the first purpose-built stadium since 1955. Yeovil are an established Football League side now, in their sixth consecutive season in League One. Yet instead of seeing the Huish Park anniversary as an opportunity to reflect on how far we’ve come, the supporters are facing another battle.
A combination of underselling the old ground to Tesco and overspending on the new one plunged Yeovil into debt during the 1990s. As so often happens when businessmen leave a football club in a mess, the supporters rallied round and raised thousands of pounds to help keep it afloat. However, if it wasn't for revenue from an FA Cup third round home tie with Arsenal in 1993, the club would have gone bust.
Discontent with the club’s off-the-field operation has increased in recent years as attendances have fallen. It came to be said that the club was "Football League on the pitch but non-League off it", although failure to address supporters' concerns and lack of investment in a much-needed social club may have seemed like trivial problems when other clubs were slipping into administration.
However, on June 3 the club announced that the stadium and land around it were to be transferred to a new holding company, Yeovil Town Holdings Limited. Supporters were told in a short statement that "it will be significantly easier to attract the appropriate investment if our property assets are separated from the football club". Those familiar with the troubles that such a procedure brought the likes of Crystal Palace, Southend, Stockport, Rotherham and even local rivals Weymouth were immediately wary.
So far this is the only comment the football club have made on an issue that its supporters feel could have vast implications. While the local press seem unwilling to investigate, the Guardian’s Digger column has highlighted the story on a number of occasions with no response from the club; in response to an open letter from supporters group the Capital Glovers, the club has offered a private meeting which has been declined as the fans want a public discussion. This could yet end up being a positive step for Yeovil Town but the lack of information, and the previous negative experiences of many other teams in the same situation, make an increasing number of fans understandably fearful for the future. Seb White