Last week, representatives of YTFC fans’ groups met with the Chairman, Manager and Planning Agent to discuss a wide range of matters that are important to them as organisations that support and encourage the club.
John Fry opened the session and welcomed representatives from the Green & Whites, the Disabled Supporters Association and the newly formed Supporters’ Trust. In his introduction John praised the work undertaken by the Academy as a building block for the future and gave his thanks to Huish Park staff, some of whom are long serving and have seen significant change. He also spoke of admiration for the supporters, including people who work tirelessly in the interests of the club and those who travel to the away games.
In outlining some of the difficulties that the Board had faced and solutions that they had put in place in recent months he went on to say that “Darren Way has proved that he has the commitment and expertise that will drive the club forward. He is very well regarded by his peers. Such enthusiasm has reinvigorated the club to realise that it is possible for Yeovil Town to succeed again."
Darren Way took over the session and, in his own positive leadership and encouragement style, made it clear that he has high expectations on and off the pitch. In an inspiring presentation and discussion, Darren said he is “proud of the players for the determination and strength and depth of character shown in coming back from 3-1 down to win the game at Barnet” he also said that “the support from our fans was brilliant and made the event even more emotional." In finishing, Darren outlined the tasks ahead but said that “in football, anything is possible."
After a brief introduction and summary of the current development proposals, David Bell (Agent for the planning applications) talked about the overarching objective which is to support the longer term viability of the football club. David said “this is not about simply selling off land because that route does not protect the club in the longer term. We need to have a legacy that means the club will be in good shape for decades to come and for future generations. In coming to these proposals we have spent time considering a range of options including housing and a leisure centre attached to the club but, regrettably, such leisure facilities do not usually make money and there appears to be no funding stream available."
A range of questions were asked covering matters such as aspirations for the proposed hotel, clinic and shared facilities. Darren welcomed and commented about the proposals to share good quality indoor training facilities with the hotel, the opportunity to have player accommodation and the value and benefits that having top class sports injury treatment would bring.
Key elements of the proposals relate to facilities for the supporters and the spectator experience. There was a constructive exchange about the value of facilities and their importance. The matter of an all-seater stadium was raised, to which David responded “we have considered that and believe that the existing stadium capacity is adequate at just over 9500 but it will be possible to utilise areas such as the corners at the end of the stands to add additional seating to balance the numbers up”. In talking over the proposals for the area behind the north stand, matters such as health & safety, refreshment kiosks, supporters bar and social area were all mentioned. David said that “we are considering basic but modern facilities. Painted block work, screens hung from the roof, more tills for faster through put and areas to socialise before and after the game. There is a League proposal to have a live feed from away matches for those who cannot get to the game and this seems like a great opportunity to have social events in a multi-use area upstairs. The vital matter at the moment is to get a consent and then we can resolve some other issues and start talking to groups about the detail of the proposed facilities."
Supporters were concerned about timescales and queried levels of confidence in a successful planning result. David outlined his confidence in a successful result as some policy problem matters had been addressed. He added that some discussions were taking place during the planning process and was aware that commercial confidentiality meant that there had been a quiet period whilst some matters were resolved. David asked if everyone had seen the preview release information and it was confirmed that all had. He felt that it had been a success and valued good communication including the coverage in the local media which helped raise awareness and promote debate.
John Fry confirmed that the next steps were to make more information available to the Local Planning Authority in the coming weeks and continue to build constructive relationships.
The meeting ended after about two hours but that did not stop the debates. Discussions about bars and refreshments, social facilities such as a skittle alley and opportunities for supporter group inputs overflowed into the car park.