Yeovil Town's consultant Mark Palmer spoke to BBC Somerset presenter Richard Hoskin on Saturday Sport after he appeared live on the programme on Saturday 18th November 2017.
Photo © 2019
RH: A bit of background then. A lot of people won't know a lot about you. Tell me a bit about yourself and your company.
MP: Thank you for the opportunity of having me on today, and I'd like to share what we're doing at Yeovil Town Football Club. Insight 63 is a company and we're based in London. We are consultants to the football industry, in terms of getting alongside club owners, and boards, and directors to help the roadmap their future and set out a plan for a sustained future within football. Each club is completely different from each other, so kind of like a human fingerprinting where there are no two sets that are the same. I class football clubs as very similar to that, and we look to get into the club's culture and background and what's going on, and help to set out the future for those clubs.
RH: So what clubs have you worked with in the past?
MP: Well a number of the clubs that I've worked with have been on a confidentiality basis. But some of the clubs I've finished with, so for example I've worked on projects with clubs like Burnley, Rochdale and also clubs like Grimsby Town, to enable them to roadmap their future, and take them from a certain position to what I'd call a natural ceiling or a natural fighting weight for a club to be at a level where the club should be able to fulfill its future and it's promise, not just for the fans but for the wider community for the club as a whole.
RH: You mention success have you had success at these clubs you've mentioned?
MP: We have if you look at Burnley, they are now in the Premier League. I helped them sustain that Premier League status. That's a nice position to be in, and clubs in the area like Yeovil and Bristol would love to be in that position. They were yo-yoing up and down between the Championship and the Premier League, and we just helped them sustain that Premier League status. That's all about the future. As a club you've always got to look at about three or four years in the future and down the road. You have to roadmap that future out.
RH: You mention your confidentiality agreements. I guess that rather pleasantly, you haven't here. So why have you been so open from the start that you're working with Yeovil?
MP: I looked at the situation, and thought that particularly with Yeovil, the last four seasons have not been the best four seasons in the club's history. They've performed not that well in terms of league status, and I think finished 24th in the Championship and then 24th in League One, and then bounced down to League Two. It's difficult for the club. It's then very difficult to then go out to the supporters at a wider level, and the community, and say we're going to get this right. It's important that the fans at large at Yeovil need that type of vision, and need to know that it's being addressed. That's why I decided to go public on this one. It's the first one club where I've actually gone public on within the last nine, ten or eleven years, whilst I'm actually still doing the consultancy.
RH: What are you hoping to achieve, or what are Yeovil hoping to achieve, and how long do you think you'll be working with Yeovil Town?
MP: On the first question, it's all down to looking at the club at two levels. One is on the football side, so you have to look at the football side. The first thing that I do when I go into a club is look at the football operations, look at the first team squad and the Academy, and look at the set-up. You have to run the two in parallel. If you want to say that a club is, for example, a sustainable League One club as a natural fit for Yeovil Town for example. You have to make sure where your starting point is. If the football side isn't that up together, then you can't roadmap your way through to a sustainable League One status.
I'm very encouraged by what I've seen here on the football side. I think Darren and his backroom staff are excellent. I've been involved in a number of different clubs, and I'd rate them as very high on that side. They have all of the right assets in terms of what they are doing. They're probably right on the preparation side. It's like everything - it's what they're working with; it's the budget and the materials that they're working with. If you were in an ideal world, the club would still be in the Championship, but it's not. You have to start, and look through that point.
In terms of how long I'm going to be here, you can't rush into this. You have to make sure that things are done properly, because it's the club's future at stake. So I'm not rushing it, but at the same time I'm recognising that the club is probably at a bit of a crossroads in terms of making sure that things are being done correctly. But you can't take forever, so I hope to get a report off to the board fairly soon.
RH: Not all of them, but some fans aren't happy at the moment. Crowds are low, and I think they're at their lowest since Yeovil won promotion to the Football League. So how can you put supporters minds at rest that the club is not on a downward spiral?
MP: I think again you have to look at it on that wider basis. The last four years have been disappointing in terms of what the club has achieved on the pitch. I think it's still suffering from a hangover from the Championship days. If the club hadn't reached the Championship, and the club had always been in League One and League Two then I don't think today's situation would look so alarming to fans as it does now. But having said that, you have to present the fans with some hope and a vision. Hopefully that's what I'll look to achieve as I work through this with the current ownership and the board.
RH: They don't want to be a club where staying up is deemed a success.
MP: No, and you've got to look to the future. You're rightly saying that if you do that, then you're not setting the bar high enough. But you can't set the bar realistically too high and too quickly. So for example on the playing side, I'm a great believer in saying that it takes two years to build a squad from where it is now, to where you want it to get to. So it's not an overnight quick fix. We're looking at everything though - not just on the pitch, but all of the facilities at Huish Park. So I'll be looking at that and the current facilities, the matchday experience for fans, and put all of that into the same mix, and hopefully take the club forward at the same pace as it's going on the pitch.
RH: Have you met fans so far, and are you prepared to arrange more meetings with them?
MP: Absolutely - I've met with all the fan groups now at the club, and I've taken on board what they've said. I'll be looking to keep them updated. I've already arranged further meetings for them. So very much - if it wasn't for the fans, there wouldn't be a club here. I'm very much a believer in that.
RH: One of the most important questions I'll ask today - are you preparing for Yeovil Town to be sold?
MP: No, I haven't got that remit. The remit that I've got is to plan the club's future, and provide it with a sustainable business plan and take it through the next three, five or seven years. As a consequence of that, if it is looked at, that there should be a succession in place during that plan, we'll talk about that, at that stage. But at this time, it is purely looking at an overview of the club, to see where we can take it. I personally do have a number of contacts with investors, and potential people who could be interested in the club, but we haven't had that remit to do that yet.
RH: So has anyone shown an interest in buying Yeovil Town?
MP: Not as yet, because it's not on the market. But if it was on the market, then I'm sure we could look at that. But again purely at the moment, it's an advisory role, in terms of assessing where the club is at. I'll make those recommendations to the board, and then it's down to them as to whether they'll follow those through.
RH: What's motivated John Fry here? Is he happy or does he want to end his interest in the club?
MP: No, I've been involved with a number of clubs over a period of time over eight, nine, ten or eleven years. John is a Chairman who I genuinely believe has the best interests of the club at heart. He wears that sometimes very much on his sleeve. However, saying that at the same time, if there was a succession plan that was put in place, I'm sure John would be open for those options.
RH: How important is PR at a football club? I guess I ask that question based on John Fry. He's not spoken to Saturday Sport for fifteen months now.
MP: Right, I wasn't aware of that. But PR is very much part of the club. Again, that's one of the recommendations that I'll be putting into the report, in terms of how the club reaches out to the media, the community and the wider fan base. A club can't afford just to be here and hope people come into the ground. It has to be very active in terms of what it's doing, and be open and transparent.
RH: What's going to happen to Huish Park? Plans to redevelop the ground have been unsuccessful so far.
MP: Yes, I've looked at that, and I've already had a discussion with various stakeholders in the community about ways in which we can look at regenerating the area around Huish Park, and importantly the stadium. That would be part of my recommendations as well. Whether we look for inward investment into that, or whether we do develop the land around Huish Park, it's all about insuring that the uplift goes back to the football club - any financial uplift will go back to the club to develop and increase the facilities of the stadium. So that's all part of the vision report that I'll be presenting.
RH: Do you have to spread the word to the local authorities and the council, to try to get them onside as well?
MP: Yes, I think that's a very important part of it. I've already reached out to the local authority, and we're in discussions at the moment with the local authority, and I'm very enthused with that reaction. So it's all about putting the right pieces in place. I've come into this from a completely outside background in Yeovil. I've got no previous politics or history here. So I think that makes it easier because I'm looking at it really from a fresh pair of eyes on that side.
RH: So do you look at Yeovil compared to the other clubs that you've looked at, and think there's work to do here?
MP: There is, but also I look at it with a lot of optimism. I've been involved in clubs that have been in a lot worse positions than Yeovil. I think that it's a great club, and it's been in the Championship as recently as 2013-14. The club is not in a position to get straight back there overnight, but we can certainly get the club back into a position and place where it can be challenging to get out of League Two, and then looking forward.
RH: What is your involvement with manager Darren Way? Do you have anything to do with him?
MP: I do - I speak to Darren on a daily basis. I see Darren quite often when I'm down at Huish Park a couple of times a week. I've been in to see him already about his preparations for today's game. I think Darren is a great guy. He's a young manager, and we can all learn. Darren has done well. He's got the dressing room, and he's got a young squad. One of the things on that side at Yeovil, is to just put a bit of consistency into the squad. There's a lot of changes this year. I believe there were 13 changes over the summer. Like anything, you have to have a consistency to build a team over a couple of years.
RH: It was announced recently that Harry Redknapp had agreed to informally help Darren in an advisory role, and yet since the announcement nobody really knows exactly how it's going or how much involvement Harry Redknapp has had at Yeovil Town.
MP: As far as I'm aware, Harry came for one training session, and we haven't really heard from Harry since. So the door is always open, and I'm sure Darren would say the same. If Harry wanted to lend some experience, and help or put an arm around him, I'm sure that would be accepted. Harry has got a great bank of information within football and experience. So we'd like to lean on that. But we're certainly not asking Harry at the moment to come back in, or chase him. But as far as I'm concerned, Harry is always welcome to come back here.
RH: The cynics said it was a bit of a publicity stunt. Is that a bit harsh?
MP: I think it is, yes. I think it all took us a little bit by surprise actually. Harry is full of good meaning and good intent, and he's enthusiastic about football. So I think he'd like to get involved in various bits around football. But sometimes it's maybe not right on both sides.
RH: Finally as we wrap up today, what is your message to the Yeovil Town public on their way to Huish Park? There will be some Yeovil fans listening not going to Huish Park today. What's your message to people who have got Yeovil at heart?
MP: I would say it has been difficult, especially over the last couple of seasons. It appears that the club has stagnated, but I think what I'm doing at the club now, in working with the current Board of Directors, is certainly to move the club forward. We can't promise everything overnight. But things are moving in the right direction. What I would say to people is keep in there and give it a go. But actions speak louder than words, but I'm pretty confident that we'll be presenting a vision to the wider fanbase and the community very shortly, which hopefully they'll be excited about.
Back to Top of Page