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South Somerset District Council has completed the purchase and leaseback transaction of Huish Park and associated land of Yeovil Town Football Club.
SSDC’s District Executive committee approved the purchase as part of a proposal to not only ease financial pressures on the club but also to benefit communities across the district. The capital budget, and the funding for this, totalling £ 2.8m was approved by SSDC Full Council in February 2022.
The club’s short-term financial concerns have been caused by the Coronavirus pandemic, with crowds initially prevented from attending National League matches for public safety and then continuing to be limited by COVID-19 restrictions. While the club sought to reduce its cost base, the remaining costs led to significant financial issues.
The proposal gives YTFC the option to buy back the land the club occupies in the future when its financial outlook has improved.
Council Leader Val Keitch said: “This is a significant deal and it is certainly not a decision we have taken lightly. However, we strongly believe it is in the best interests of South Somerset and its communities.
“YTFC 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, Portfolio Holder for Economic Development, said: “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.
“I want to thank our officers who have worked so diligently in ensuring we protected taxpayers from any risk while also working successfully to support Yeovil Town Football Club.”
The club approached South Somerset District Council regarding the difficulties it faced during the pandemic back in autumn 2020. Our officers investigated options which benefited both the club and South Somerset residents.
While the proposal was agreed in December 2020, the status of the property being registered as two assets of community value meant there was a pause in the purchase process while the statutory process was followed. Some interim funding was made available to the club by the Government and Sport England which deferred the need for this intervention. That time allowed the club to work on interest from other parties to acquire the club but these did not lead to a transaction.
The details of the deal
SSDC has purchased the entire freehold and leasehold property and land interests held by Yeovil Town Football Club in the Huish Park ground. These areas are simultaneously leased back to the club. Part of the purchase price has been applied to securing the release of restrictive covenants that affect the title to the property.
Crucially, SSDC will not own or be becoming a shareholder of the football club. Instead, Yeovil Town FC has become a tenant of the council.
The transaction that has been completed gives the club a chance to improve its prospects for recovery and the structure of the deal enables the club to continue to pursue the potential for developments at the Huish Park site, in order to secure its position in the long- term. SSDC in return helps to promote these important ambitions while the council’s revenue budget revives a new net income stream from the rental.