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It's not every day a football club gets a new owner, so today was a big day for Yeovil Town F.C. It's not every day that a football club gets a new Chief Executive, so today was a big day for Yeovil Town FC. In this case there's only a single welcome to extend though, as one man has taken over both positions. Ex-manager (2000-er,2000) David Webb became the new owner and Chief Executive of the club.
In a statement from John Fry, who remains Chairman but steps down as Chief Executive, it was revealed that David Webb has "taken up" the entire shareholding of Mr. Jon Goddard-Watts, a shareholding somewhere in excess of £2 million. The reason we have carefully reported the wording chosen is that it leaves so many possibilities open. We hope more will emerge shortly that explains exactly what the new owner's position is. Has he bought the shares personally? Does he represent a wider group of interests? Are they paid for, or taken up against other assets? Even, did they change hands at their nominal value? Depending on the answers to questions like those a lot more questions may then spring to mind.
Whilst the state of Mr. Webb's bank account is a matter for him, his accountant and the taxman, we do wonder if the most simple explanation, that he had £2 million or so in cash to spare that he wished to spend on buying a football club, is in fact what has occurred. We feel that the situation is likely to be somewhat more complex than that.
Football clubs are interesting beasts. They do have owners, be they individuals, consortia, Public Limited Companies or occasionally Supporters' or other sorts of Trusts. But they also have a wider 'ownership' outside the legal and financial world : the emotional 'ownership' invested by fans. Do we care about the details of who owns in what circumstances the local car dealership, cinema or supermarket? Probably not one jot. But do we care about the ownership of 'our' football club? Oh yes, we most certainly do. With the Football Association's Guide to Governance, published in December 2005, encouraging more transparency in the running of football clubs we hope that Mr. Webb and the club will reveal more on the new circumstances of Yeovil Town F.C. in the coming days.
David Webb's previous connection with Yeovil Town is confined to 2000. On January 15th of that year the club announced it was going to appoint a Technical Director of Football within the week to assist then manager Steve Thompson. The man who appeared to have been chosen from a short-list of four was Dave Webb. However as January turned to February the messages began to get more mixed, and eventually on February 4th it was officially confirmed that Webb had been appointed as an "advisor" on a "non-contract consultancy basis". Seven days later the club announced, in a statement of extreme brevity, that Webb had left the club. Move on another eight days, and the club was still insisting it intended to appoint a Technical Director of Football, who wouldn't be Webb, "in the near future".
Fast forward to March 10th, and the fans were now thoroughly confused when David Webb was named as the new manager at Huish Park, with Steve Thompson returning to his earlier role of coach. In an interview on BBC Radio Bristol that evening Webb revealed that his main brief was to take Yeovil Town from part-time to full-time status. In the next days and weeks the club was turned upside down as players came and went, but mostly went. By the end of the season thirteen players (it might have been one or two more - we lost count) and several of the backroom staff had gone. Whether Webb was ever put on a contract wasn't revealed, with the Chairman verging on the huffy when pressed by the media on the issue. Given subsequent events one presumes not.
Twelve games into the 2000-01 season on September 30th, a few hours before the game against Morecambe kicked off, Webb told the chairman and then the players that he was resigning with immediate effect after the match. It subsequently emerged that he had been offered the position of manager at Southend United. In his short time at Huish Park, totalling 24 matches, Webb had a record of W13 D6 L5. Although the board was in a state of shock, particularly Norman Hayward who it appeared was most instrumental in bringing Webb to the club, John Fry had enough composure to say :
I keep a close eye on the stars. It said I was in for a shock and this was one............. He [Webb] has left on good terms and will always be welcome back here as a good friend.
He didn't add 'and as owner and Chief Executive', so perhaps his stars weren't completely accurate in their predictions.
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