VIRGO: Glovers fans de­serve say in their club

The Football League Paper - - FRONT PAGE - Adam Virgo

WHEN your club is in trou­ble, it’s easy to moan. But wouldn’t it be bet­ter to do some­thing about it? Ear­lier this week, I went down to my old club Yeovil, whose fans have be­come in­creas­ingly frus­trated at what they see as stonewalling from the board­room.

Sea­son af­ter sea­son, the own­ers fail to in­vest in the squad. Ev­ery year, 18 new play­ers walk through the door. And it’s not like, say, Crewe, who have a pol­icy of bring­ing through young­sters and try­ing to sell them on. It’s just a hodge­podge. There’s no real iden­tity.

They went up to the Cham­pi­onship. They had the big cup tie against Man United. But the fi­nan­cial ben­e­fits of those achieve­ments never seem to show on the pitch.

Sneers

Re­cently, there’s been an in­quiry about a plot of land next to the ground. The fans want to keep that for a train­ing ground, but they hear ru­mours the chair­man wants to sell it. That var­i­ous peo­ple are of­fer­ing this, that and the other.

They’ve gone to the chair­man for an­swers but not had any­thing sat­is­fac­tory back. They feel like they’re be­ing left in the dark about a club they love.

Now, they’ve had enough. Which is why, on Tues­day night, I chaired a meet­ing in which they unan­i­mously voted to es­tab­lish a sup­port­ers’ trust.

We had speak­ers from Sup­port­ers Di­rect and Ex­eter City, whose sup­port­ers have owned the club since 2003.

The Yeovil chair­man, John Fry, wrote a let­ter wish­ing them a suc­cess­ful night, adding that nei­ther he nor the man­ager could make it. That drew a few sneers.

Nat­u­rally, there were scep­tics. Peo­ple said ‘What can a sup­port­ers’ trust ac­tu­ally do?’ But the ex­am­ples are end­less.

Just look at FC United of Manch­ester. That all started be­cause fans were sick of the Glaz­ers heap­ing debt on their club. A few years on, they’ve got their own club in Na­tional League North with gates more than 4,000 strong.

Wim­ble­don fans had their club stolen and moved to MK Dons. They formed a trust, re­built their club and, within a decade, had re­turned to the Foot­ball League.

The guy from Ex­eter told us their trust was formed be­cause they wanted to buy a player the club couldn’t af­ford. At the time, they had 211 mem­bers and £11,000 in the bank. But it snow­balled. More peo­ple got in­volved and, sud­denly, they could buy shares. Now, they’re run­ning the club and do­ing it bril­liantly.

Thanks to the trust, they spend a third of their in­come on the play­ing bud­get, a third on the academy, and a third on fa­cil­i­ties. And, ev­ery time they sell a player or get a big cup tie, the same ap­plies.

Oth­ers said ‘The chair­man isn’t talk­ing to us – what’s go­ing to change?’ But just look at the sit­u­a­tion with Karl Oys­ton and Black­pool. That be­came very toxic and hos­tile.

James Mathie, of Sup­port­ers Di­rect, ex­plained that, if you just keep ask­ing ques­tions and get enough press cov­er­age, it be­comes in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult for a chair­man to avoid scru­tiny. They con­tinue to make Oys­ton very un­com­fort­able.

The silly thing is Yeovil fans don’t even want the chair­man gone. They want to work with him.

Man­agers and play­ers come and go, but fans will be there for the rest of their lives. Form­ing a trust is a way of putting pres­sure on the cur­rent regime and safe­guard­ing the fu­ture. I wish Yeovil well and hope more fol­low their lead.

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

POINT TO PROVE: Gary Hooper is still look­ing to make his mark south of the bor­der

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