ARGYLE’S newest Director Simon Hallett shared his enthusiasm at being back at Home Park 50 years after he watched his first game at Home Park.
The former Plymouth College pupil has joined the Pilgrims’ Board, along with his Devon-based brother-in-law John Morgan, having invested a substantial sum in exchange for a significant minority share in the club.
American-based businessman Simon is now a part owner of his boyhood club and made clear how his personal ties to the region and the club add extra emotional meaning to his investment.
“It’s been a very long journey,” he said. “I first stood in the Devonport End in September 1966 and, in that time, I’ve lived in Oxford, London, Hong Kong, New Jersey and now Pennsylvania. Now I’m back here trying to help the club.
“We hope our money will be used for long-term investment and we think our goal is exactly aligned with the view of [chairman] James [Brent] and the rest of the board. We want to see this club become a vital part of the community. We want people to come here because they’re diehard fans but also because the club is an integral part of life in Plymouth, Devon and Cornwall.
“I’ve got no baggage here; I’m a long-term fan and my investment here is purely because I’m a fan. It’s not about financial returns for me; it’s about emotional engagement.”
Simon has been observing the club from afar in America and although his passion for the Pilgrims is evident, it is clear the businessman has thoroughly thought about his investment in the club and the people he will be working alongside.
“We’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the business of football over the last 4 or 5 months,” he said. “We’ve spent a lot time engaging with Argyle and trying to match where [the club] is to the business of football.
“The ideas we have are very consistent with the way has been club has been run over the last four or four years. We think that the club is suffering from a lack of investment from previous administrations and clearly James and [Chief Executive] Martyn [Starnes] and rest of the board have been limited by the financial stresses of that.”
Simon was also very keen to stress the importance of engaging with the Green Army and promoting the club as something that represents more than football to the local community, with the Academy and Community Trust at the forefront of those efforts.
“What I can bring to the club is that engagement with the fans. My favourite way to engage so far has been the Fan Fest; me, my wife and John only went down for 10 minutes and ended up staying for an hour and having a beer and a pasty.
“We want to feel like fans can approach us if they have any questions or just want to say hello.”
“Martyn, as CEO, and James, as chairman, have done a fantastic job of stabilising the club and building the role of the club in the community and I think we need to start emphasising to the people of Plymouth that Argyle isn’t a football club – it’s a club.
“We have a wonderful Community Trust and a fantastic Academy that trains youngsters all over Devon and Cornwall and helps them academically. I think the work of the Academy is a key part of the club going forward along with the community trust.”
Simon was in Plymouth to witness last Saturday’s feelgood 5-0 triumph over Hartlepool and his message about the Academy is even more relevant considering that all five goals were scored by products of the Pilgrims’ youth system.
“I was delighted that John invited [Academy head] Kevin Hodges to see it from the Directors’ Box and what an honour for us to be with Kevin to see those goals from Academy players. Louis’ [Rooney] first goal in particular was a contender for goal of the season. It was fantastic to see Derek getting the youngsters out and fantastic to see five players from the Academy finish on field.”
“I’ve enjoyed the different perspective from the Director’s Box and, when I spend more time in England, I’ll end up spending more time in the Devonport End as well because I’m looking forward to meeting the fans.”
Jonathan Standen, Headmaster at Plymouth College, where Simon studied, welcomed the return of their former pupil.
He said: “As a school with fantastic sporting credentials, we are delighted to see former Plymouth College pupil Simon Hallett keeping his connection with the city through his investment in Argyle.
“Like many of our past students, his career has taken him all over the world but his ties with Plymouth remain strong. I would like to think that Simon’s time at Plymouth College played some part in that and we are very much hoping he will visit the school once he has settled in.”