Supporters Alliance Meeting 13th November

NOTES OF A MEETING HELD ON TUESDAY 13TH NOVEMBER – 3.00PM – HUISH PARK

Present for YTFC:  David Lee, Solicitor, Legal Director, David Mills, Chief Operating Officer.

Present for Alliance Group: Richard Rendell, Chairman (Green & Whites), Marilyn Cottle,(Junior Glovers), Sharon Swaine, (Disabled Supporters Association),  Simon Woodland,(Disabled Supporters Association), Paul  Hadlow (Green & Whites), Brendon Owen (Glovers Trust).

Apologies were received from The Community Trust and Mr John Fry.

There were no representatives from Castle Cary Glovers, Bridport Glovers.

Mr Lee had responded to a request from the Alliance Group to attend and discuss the legal aspects of various covenants that pertain to freehold land held by Yeovil Town Holdings Ltd and YTFC. He produced a map showing the boundaries of Huish Park and indicating that one or more covenants applied to the whole of the area outlined.

Mr Lee explained that he was not prepared to give confidential information or information that did not appear in the public domain.

His first duty was to the Club as the internal Solicitor and Legal Director and he was not going to betray any confidences.

He expressed the Board’s disappointment with the Glovers Trust for having sought and obtained an entry on the Community Assets register held by SSDC. Reasons had been sought but not given. The Glovers Trust representative asked if he would like to hear those reasons. He declined.

He advised that the covenants were all registered at HMRC Land Registry and so were in the public domain. He therefore believed that all of them were still operative.

Opinion had been sought from Counsel, a QC who had expertise in this area and he advised that as the area had not substantially changed and that it was still owned by the same parties that it would be futile to try and change things by taking the matter to the Upper Tribunal (previously known as the Land Tribunal).

Mr Lee then read the wording of a covenant held by Abbey Manor Estates & Homes and Bartletts in 1989 for the protection of the Arrow Public House. It was emphasised that this had been at the time contractually agreed between the above parties and YTFC.  It applies to alcohol sales at Huish Park as follows:   

For the benefit and protection of the freehold interest of Abbey in the public house known or intended to be known as “The Arrow” situate at Abbey Village Centre, Abbey Manor Park, Yeovil in the County of Somerset and so as to bind so far as may be the property hereby conveyed (namely Huish Park) and each and every part thereof into whosoever’s hand the same may come the Purchaser hereby covenants with Abbey that the Purchaser and the persons deriving title under it will at all times hereafter observe and perform the restrictive covenant hereinafter contained that is to say:

 Not at any time hereafter to use the property hereby conveyed or any part or parts thereof nor any buildings at any time within a period of eighty years from the date hereof ( namely 30th November 1989) erected thereon or on some part thereof or permit or suffer the same to be used for the sale by retail to members of the public at large other than members of the Purchaser and their bona fide guests or at private functions at which members of the public at large are not admitted or intoxicating liquors of any description for consumption on or off the premises so used provided that this shall not prevent any building which forms part of the football stadium of a gross area not exceeding 1,200 square feet (which for the purpose hereof shall mean any building or structure forming part of the stand block providing accommodation for football spectators) being used as a restaurant at which the provision of intoxicating liquor is ancillary to the consumption of food.

In order to release this covenant it would be necessary to reach either an agreement with the beneficiary or alternatively go to arbitration as provided for in the documentation. The value may well be the difference between the value of the property with the covenant attached and the value should it be discharged.  He was unable to give a possible cost.

The Club had spoken to the holder of this covenant and it was accepted that until such time as a sale of the land was undertaken, it was impracticable to seek to buy the covenant out.

Mr Lee advised that the purchase price of the land had been £112,000. Without the covenants it would have been worth considerably more.

Marilyn Cottle asked what constituted a ‘member’ as referred to in the documentation ?  Mr Lee could not give a definitive answer but thought possibly a shareholder might come within that category but not a season ticket holder.

Richard Rendell stated that just about every away ground welcomed away supporters into their social facilities and it was only Huish Park where ordinary supporters were not welcome.

Brendon Owen asked that if alcohol sales were only to be ancillary to the consumption of food were the Club not in breach of the covenant at every home game? Mr Lee said that the Club’s interpretation was that the lounge situated nearest the Thatchers Stand was designated as a restaurant and the Alex Stock lounge was members only and there was no breach of contract.

Brendon Owen asked, as he was not a member but part of the public at large how was it that he could enter the Marquee and purchase alcohol? Mr Lee explained that there had been a relaxation of the covenant by the beneficiary to allow ‘non-members’ to drink in the Marquee.

Paul Hadlow queried why the Club had not thought to pay off the covenant many years ago, saying that if it had cost £100,000 some 20 years ago, a social club would have repaid that sum by this time. Mr Lee agreed that that it might have been a possibility at that time (subject to funding).

Brendon Owen raised a further covenant held by Abbey Farm Estates (Western)Ltd, Abbey Manor Homes Ltd, Bartletts Construction Group Ltd also made in 1989. The covenant states that the Club may not sell the land within an 80 year period to another party for ‘non-football usage’, i.e. residential usage. Again there is a financial release clause in the covenant based on market value of the land.  Mr Lee agreed that this covenant was operative but was confined to residential buildings and would not affect for example the building of a hotel.   He confirmed that the Club had no intention of seeking planning permission for residential development.

Further covenants were raised by Brendon Owen.  He suggested that Wessex Water held a covenant in respect of pipes that run beneath the present training pitches and the covenant could be discharged by payment by the Club to re-route the pipes away from any development.  Mr Lee agreed that if there were such provisions in the documentation (which he was not aware of) he was unable to give an estimate of cost of such work. It was the view of those present that it would not be cheap.

Brendon Owen suggested that whilst not a covenant in name, a considerable sum of money , loaned by Mr Norman Hayward was secured  by a legal charge that applied to any sale of the land at Huish Park.  Mr Lee confirmed that Mr Hayward had made various loans over a period of time and these were secured by a legal charge.

Marilyn Cottle and Richard Rendell both asked questions relating to the televised World Cup matches in the Summer.  Both suggested, having heard the wording of the ‘alcohol’ covenant, events could have taken place at Huish Park for supporters to watch and enjoy the competition together as per the Alliance Group’s suggestions that had been put to the Club some months before the event. Mr Lee agreed that it might have been possible.  Richard Rendell pointed out that the Club had missed out financially and whilst all of the surrounding public houses had experienced large numbers of people enjoying the event, Huish Park had stood empty. They felt that there had been a call from the Club to find alternative revenue streams but chose not to follow up this suggestion.

Brendon Owen asked Mr Lee if he agreed, should planning permission ever be granted for the land at Huish Park, that having satisfied all of the financial claims relating to the covenants, there would not be a great profit return for YTFC.  He said that it would depend on the value of the land and the factoring in of the payments. Brendon Owen suggested that if a proposed developer offered X for the land and the Club had to pay Y to discharge the covenants, the Club would have to weigh up carefully whether the difference between the two was worth pursuing.  Mr Lee agreed that this would be the balance YTFC would need to consider. Mr Owen said that it was necessary to bring details of these covenants to the attention of the Club’s supporters. If they were unaware of them they may conclude that the Club is not making any attempts to improve the situation at Huish Park.  By understanding the situation it may well be that supporters will have some sympathy with the Club and might even be prepared to mount a campaign to assist with any financial implications in the future.

Brendon Owen asked if it was also necessary to factor in the cost of bringing to fruition the Lufton site project. Mr Lee stated that whilst it was not cheap to develop the land at Lufton into sports pitches, there were various grants that could be applied for. He confirmed that the maintenance costs of such a site would be borne by the Community Trust.  He agreed that the initial cost of the land would fall upon Yeovil Town Holdings.  He further stated that the two projects at Lufton and Huish Park were not connected. Each was a separate planning application and the project at Lufton was being pursued as part of the Club’s ongoing community development.

Richard Rendell asked about the use of the lounges in the main building and why it was not possible for the Club to find a way for supporters to drink upstairs as they had done in the past. He said that making supporters drink in a dreary tent was not acceptable.  Mr Lee said that the Board had looked at ways to improve the situation with the lounges but at present there were no plans to alter things. He said that the Board will continue to do whatever is possible to get things back on stream and improve the match day experience. We are concentrating on the business in hand to run a successful football club.

Brendon Owen asked, when the opportunity arose some years ago to purchase what had been the old cinema at the Houndstone Army Camp, which is now a builder’s merchants, had the Club considered buying it and turning it into a supporters’  social club. Being outside of the Club’s boundary it would not have been subject to any covenants relating to alcohol sales.  Mr Lee stated that this had arisen before his involvement with the Club and could not help with the detail but did add that he thought there had been a potential problem with asbestos in the building.

Richard Rendell and Paul Hadlow both asked if the Club had looked at any other site, possibly to the south of the Huish Park site as alternative venues to site a social club.  Mr Lee confirmed that this had not been done and expressed an opinion that with the present demise of many public houses there was not a lot of money to be made from such social facilities.

The meeting was ended by Richard Rendell thanking Mr Lee for his attendance and for the information that he was able to give.

The meeting ended at 4.20pm.