In a wide ranging interview in today's Western Gazette the Yeovil Town chairman, John Fry, offers up a range of views in a week that has shaken the club and fans. As one might expect in the present circumstances there is a lot about supporters trusting and keeping faith with the leadership of the club, and believing in the Board's good intentions.
As with most Fry interviews, it is possible for the reader to extract what he or she wants, and zero in on particular points that chime in with opinions already held, as his style is - how shall we put it? - discursive. We make no apology for the headline giving away which aspect this site immediately picked up on, as it covers an area we have long argued is of fundamental importance to the future of this club. Unless progress is made in this area all else remains wishful thinking, and those charged with bringing success to Yeovil Town on the pitch are fighting against the odds.
On the situation concerning Russell Slade, the chairman had this to say :
"I am extremely saddened by what has happened. The situation has not been one of my making and has caused me great distress. I am the one who extended his contract and I was the one who supported him with all the things that were going on in the boardroom.
But I have been here before and I feel we can move on. The club is bigger than everybody and the fans – it will be here for ever. We would like to say more but all I can say is trust myself and the board. We have the best interests of the football club at heart otherwise we would not have been here for all these years.
There would be many managers around who would be grateful for the budget we have got – and that is not an issue as far as I am concerned. We are one of the smallest towns to have a Football League club but we have a very big future providing it is done a particular way.
We will carry out due process and we are in that final process. We have our lawyers working on it and so has Russell. We try to avoid it but there we are.
I am trying to do my best for the football club and other people but if anyone wants to come and challenge me for the chairmanship then they should do so. It is my fifteenth season here and my wife stated I should have given it up three years ago.
I spoke to him [Russell Slade] on the way up [to Peterborough]. It was cordial and it still is. That is my style. I have discussions and arguments with people but in this game you cannot afford to fall out with people. The disappointment is you have to deal with this sort of situation which makes me very sad."
The chairman maintained that the now rather infamous statement released at 3.00 p.m. last Saturday was not directed at the then manager. He recognised that things had been drifting at the club, with the areas featured being the stadium plans, the financing of the club and the structure of the board :
"It was all about the club moving forward. There are massive changes taking place with regard to the restructuring of the club and how we deal with things so we can be more efficient.
People are throwing insults at the board. They need to trust the board and the people who make the decisions and who know what the facts are. From the chairman down we are looking at how we progress this club forward – there is a need for change and that is not related to the problems with Russell Slade at all. It is linked with the stadium plans, the refinancing of the club and the restructuring of the board. There could be a different structure within the club and the way we do things. This has been on the cards for three years and to a degree we have allowed it to move on (drift).
We have been discussing positions within the structure in order to make sure it goes away from one or two people running the club to a number of people running the club. We are looking at an investment plan but the investment these days is very limited and we need to ensure that the investment we can get is secure.
We are not going to be exposing ourselves to the problems of company voluntary arrangements. I will not put the club under threat of losing its real assets. We have to look at where we are in trading terms. The industry is in financial meltdown. We are dealing with several problems – the immediate problem, the short-term problem and ongoing problem and that is players’ contracts and what have you."
When asked directly whether there were going to be current directors leaving the club, Fry was cautious, as one might expect. Ciderspace has heard one name mentioned so far, but in the present climate of a maelstrom of rumours and speculation it is better to await actual developments.
"I do not know. It could be that more directors join the business representing different groups, that is the idea. If not, it is all to make sure the business is broken down into a more-effective commercial operation in all areas. The business has grown and has a bigger turnover than it had ten years ago but nothing else has changed within the business. It has not progressed.
The requirements of these people who want to get involved is to make sure their investment is secure. Some board members may not agree with this but we need more people who understand football better and have the expertise."
Finally, he was asked about the present relationship between some of the club's support and the board and also Adrian Hopper, the Media & Publications Manager :
"Football clubs are an unusual thing at this sort of level. There is a lot of dedicated and volunteer work that goes in outside that for which we get paid. Part of the reason is they are here is they love the club and know its importance to the local community."
So the chairman does appear to be accepting that the club off the pitch has so far failed to keep pace with its progress on it, and that there has been a period of stagnation in this area that must be addressed. For if it is not, that success will be lost, as the club's lack of investment and revenue streams will make it harder and harder to hold on to the advances that have been made and our position in the second tier of the Football League. As ever, we await to see what is actually done, but at least the chairman is now looking in the right directions in our opinion.
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