Yeovil Town have released details of the discussions held last month with respect to the formation of a 'Supporters Alliance Group' at the club, acting as a replacement to the club's long dormant Customer Charter Meetings. Those meetings had run between 2004 and 2010, under various guises, notably the Achieve By Unity Fans Partnership (ABUFP), but died a death in after March 2010 and had not been resurrected until now.
The club reveal that they are responding to rules introduced at the Football League 2016 AGM which required all football clubs to meet with "a representative group of supporters at least twice a year to discuss strategic / major issues". Whilst some clubs were already compliant with what was seen largely as good working practice, Yeovil Town have needed to set up those meetings to fall in line with the League's new direction.
The club's initial meeting was held on September 20th, and was attended by Chairman John Fry, manager Darren Way and four other club employees including new Club Secretary Kirstie Baker, who is to act as the Secretary for the Supporters Alliance Group for the 2016-17 season. The Supporters Groups present at the meeting were the Disabled Supporters Association, the Green and White Supporters Club, the Junior Glovers Club, the Executive Lounge Members Group (formerly the Vice Presidents) and the Bridport Glovers Club. The Cary Glovers had been invited but sent apologies for unavailability. Actual individuals representing those groups are not identified.
The club have explained that they plan to form an official affiliation for all those Clubs attending those meetings, and that those clubs will have to apply for membership of the Supporters Alliance Group, which will include a set of rules:
"Yeovil Town Football Club recognises the Supporter Groups in attendance as the official supporter organisations of YTFC and as such these are the Clubs/Groups that are to be assessed for affiliation to the main club. As per the EFL regulation, Football Clubs are to engage with supporters and we see this Affiliation group as a way for the supporters to have one voice in the running of YTFC. We would like to get the Alliance formally underway. There will be a set of rules that will provide the guidelines to set up the process. These will be agreed with the Club’s Executive Group, and membership forms will be sent out over the next few months, to the supporter club/group officials. This will start the affiliation process to form the ‘Achieve by Unity Supporters Consortium’ that will meet with the Club Directors and Exec Staff, at least twice per season."
The concept of an 'official affiliation' with 'rules' associated with the process would explain why the Glovers Trust - constituted as an independent organisation - decided to turn down the club's offer to join the Supporters Alliance Group. The national Government's Expert Working Group had recommended that any such meetings should leave enough room for independent Supporters Groups and Supporters Trusts to be able to fit into such arrangements, but it's not clear if the Football League's final regulations implemented this.
Aside from establishing the purpose of the Supporters Alliance Group, the club also fielded a number of questions, on rather familiar topics, such as falling crowds, club income, and what the club is doing in order to attract supporters back to the club. One of the other topics brought up was that of recent comments made by Chairman John Fry in the media concerning the withdrawal of community facilities. The club's updated response to that question was as follows:
"If we do not get the ‘change of use’ consent from SSDC for the land at Huish Park and for our Community Pitch resource at Lufton, then we will not have the finance to develop any secondary spend facilities for our supporters, or to provide the resources to accommodate or to continue with our Community activities at the Huish Park Stadium. The resources for our Football League squad operations, is our priority. There is no spare capital from our normal operations to replace or provide better facilities for our supporters, staff and players. To raise the essential money to compete and stay in the FL, we need to increase value of the land around the Stadium; this will enable the North End Community Stand to be built, and the essential supporter, staff and community facilities to be provided."
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