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Sunday, June 21, 2020

David Keyte Part Three

David Keyte With His Son At Aldershot In April 2014
Below is a transcript of part three of former Hereford United chairman David Keyte's interview with Matt Healey for YourHerefordshire. The 4th and final part which reveals the selling of the club to Tommy Agombar will be released around 6pm tonight.

The interview started with off the field matters.

You bought back the leases and you also refurbished the Starlight Rooms. I think Graham (Turner) would put his hand up and say he wasn't interested in that, he was more involved in the football. How proud were you to see the Starlite Rooms back and functioning as it was prior to the fire?

"It's strange when you look back on the four years, I'm quite proud of a few things off the field. We enjoyed the FA Cup run on the field but we were sitting in the stand as a supporter, give credit to the football manager and the players. Off the pitch we had a lot of support from local people and we pulled that social club around so that the supporters had an entrance to the club if you like. Instead of going into a turnstile somewhere around the ground they were mixing at the doorway to the football club, getting their tickets, going upstairs for a meal if they wanted to, the bar and so on and of course Addison's Bar at the back which we created.

"Yes I was very proud of that, very grateful for the support of Terry Emmett and others. It was nice to go to various functions, tribute bands and whatever. Whether or not financially, it wasn't going to be a money spinner, but it was there for the football club supporters if they wanted to come to the club. We were very pleased with that one.

"But the biggest success really was getting the leases back and we did have a situation where Graham Turner came into the football club and took it on as chairman and manager in 1998 when the football club was £1.2M in debt and he had somebody else holding the leases above him. I left the football club in 2014 with the football club £1.2M in debt but with leases that potentially, if there was any developement at the two ends of the ground, would actually secure the football ground for 250 years at Edgar Street. And I read so much nonsense when we went into the Agombar era a bit later that he's going to build houses, do this do that. 

That, being very blunt, was an agenda that some local people were working on that could never ever happen because we spent twelve months having bought the leases back from the Richardsons we had a thirty year lease on the ground. And we negogiated, probably too long with hindsight, legal people and so on, with the local council who were extremely supportive of the football club. And we came out the other end with a lease that continuing for thirty years and if someone came in to develop other end or both ends, the Meadow End and the Blackfriars End, we, the football club, would get the land value and it was estimated at £500K to £700k each end, that would drop into an escrow account  held between us and the council ring-fenced for use by the football club for things to do with the ground, maintenance, the groundsman, and as you may know that could run out to £80K to £100K per year for the annual seeding and maintenance and so on. And nobody could touch that so you could have a developer come in and yes reshape the ground. I think Bob Pritchard joined the board, Ian the groundsman's father, and he was very helpful at these meetings. Yes the shape of the club would change and you would have what I would describe as a Burton Albion feel to the ground at the Meadow End and the Blackfriars End squared off. 

Behind it the developer could build 42 one and two bedroom apartments in Hereford city center and at the other end we had discussions with the people across the road at the Old Market, we had discussions with Premier Inn and the like. And the football club would have its own terracing built as part of that development But the key bit was that whatever the land value was, was paid into an account which the football club could use to maintain the ground. And a 250 years lease which confirmed existence of the ground. Nobody could build on it and all that was a big red herring, people with their own agenda to where we are today in my view. And I think also what happened was that it was such a good deal that the council had given us, it was never going to be offered again because there were a lot of councillors who eventually when they got into the detail, started to object and that was never going to be approved again. 

That was I think probably was one of my biggest successes in my four years there but it never touched a ball or the corner-flag but it was so important to get that through for the exsistance of the football club. Unfortunately the level we are at and the cash flow in the Conference together with our diminishing wish to continue with the abuse that was going meant that we just decided to step aside with the strength of that lease in our hand. And we set out throughout the fourth season, the 13/14 season, we were quite open in saying look we need to raise £300K otherwise the football club was in real danger. 

At least two occassions on the website I said I was quite prepared to stand down but we struggled to find potential investors until quite late on. I spoke quite regularily to the local names but for their own reasons they decided not to invest in the football club. And the numbers involved whilst people were carrying a coffin up Hafod Road because £1.2M debt, and I think I have said clearly the football club with a few ups and downs £1.6M at worst and £700,000 at best after a couple of promotions, the football club for the last 20 years/25 years was never any different situation financially.


And yet suddenly we had this social media agenda where people are carrying a coffin up Hafod Road, the debt is too great.And the fact that local people, in my opinion, didn't want to get involved, and from a business point of view quite a sound decision, but from a football fan point of view Hereford United I can't ever understand that, and one thing you do in sport is you never give up your status. And for somebody to say to me at a meeting well maybe we should go down to a level we can be sustainable at, so I knew there were no local people coming forward after that. So we did start to try and find that investor that could put in £300K and at every meeting I attended I said you would need another £300K for the years ahead. That's roughly what you are going to be spending in the Conference at Hereford."

Going back to the investment, there was talk of Arab investment. Was that just a rumour or close to happening?

"It was nowhere near close to happening. That was my fault in that on the day there were some discussions about it. I saw Richard Prime going up the steps to the stand and he said how are things going and I made the mistake of mentioning to him and then it seemed to grow like wild-fire from there. But it never came to fruition. You learn to keep your mouth shut, you can be too open at times."

Going back to on the field, Marin Foyle left and Pete Beadle came in. Was it a case that he was the youth team manager just give him the job?

"Yes, it was sh!t or bust if I'm allowed to use that phrase.  I don't know how many games Peter had, ten or twelve?  We played at Wrexham, it was poor and I was there and Dave Preedy and maybe Grenville and you just looked at each other. And I said I think we've got to make a change. And we spoke to Martin Foyle that night on the touchline at Wrexham and we agreed to continue the chat the next morning. We needed to make the change. He had lost his momentum and it had become very difficult for him I think and we were in danger of going down without doubt from the Conference. So we made the change and I can remember knocking on the door of youth office, Pete was there and maybe Steve Jenkins. And I just said what we had done and would you be prepared to take it on? And they did well. After the initial poor performance at Tamworth I can remember, it looked like nothing had changed, at the end of the day they were the same players for the most part. It was just a fresh voice trying to change things and again, rather like Richard O'Kelly, it started to turn and culminated in that great day at Aldershot and how that changed in the last five or six minutes when you were trying to pick up a result from Chester. You pinch a goal and you go up and down. An incredible day there. Great support.

"But I can tell you I sat all afternoon looking across at the flag that said David Keyte you murdered our club. You don't usually have directors running on the pitch and jumping into the crowd and things like that but such was the relief that Dave Preedy, who is Hereford United through and through, it was Dave on the pitch first, and then

Colin Addison and I probably took a more sedate route onto the pitch You've still got a game you've just played, you've got the appropriate decency to shake hands with the Aldershot people and a brief chat. 

Then the day next I'm reading about the look on my face, the disappointment that we hadn't been relegated. And you just think where do you start? Why do you bother to take on that sort of social media rubbish. Who in their right minds who is trying to step aside, trying to get some investment, would want their asset, if you like the football club, to be relegated to the a lower level of football. Who in their right minds would think if they saw any look on my face that's what it was. It's beggars belief really what some people think and together we don't have five or six lads in the pub Friday night talking about the football or Saturday night after the match talking about the football where they are quite entitled to say how you think it went and they finish their pint and go home. Now you've got a thousand, two thousand, three thousand people who either making these comments online or reading them. And as people used to say mud sticks and eventually you can't take that on in my view. You might say to counter it there's certain people who just wish to dive all over it and jump on it.

"I listened to an interview Paul McCartney gave about the break-up of the Beatles and how looking back he was always accused of breaking the Beatles up. He knew that wasn't the case yet he read it so many times and bearing in mind we are going back 40 years he said you start to believe it.Thankfully I know what we went through, I know why we made every decision we did at that time with the information we had. It's only with the benefit of hindsight that these people can become experts and say Keyte's mistakes etc etc.

"It rather like the situation we are in now with the Government where they are making decisions on the information they've got and everybody becomes an expert if anything doesn't go quite right. Social media is something else now. I met with Peter Hill once, I think it was the Alfreton match second last match.Jack Perks was in from the FA and Peter Hill and Peter said to me that he had it bad the abuse and what have you in his time in 1995 but he said it is not as bad as you get. And the difference twenty years later is social media. It's horrible the effect it can have on you. I didn't actually see it but one of my sons partners got upset by something on twitter that she had picked up about me, and it culminated in an arrest, and the bizarre fact he was involved in the church, Lyonshall/Kington way. You know Saturday afternoon in the Meadow End and they've had a few beers, they've got all the answers. He should have gone to court but I suggested that he signed up for a caution as long as he put an apology out. But that's the way it goes.

"No doubt the new club are edging towards professional football where things don't go right every week and they will expect I'm sure to have the abuse. I thought it was not appropriate to be abusive these days"