Sean Jarvis was a key figure in Huddersfield Town’s rise to the Premier League and although he left in 2020, he’s still a respected figure amongst the club’s fanbase. Born and raised in Leicestershire, Sean has now returned to his home county as CEO of Leicestershire County Cricket Club. STEVEN DOWNES had an exclusive chat to talk all things Town.

As a fan myself and someone who has had the privilege of working in the press box at Town matches I was always impressed by Sean’s passion and enthusiasm for the club.

He was a genial figure in the Directors’ Box and in the corporate areas, meeting and greeting. He always had a smile and a word (or three) and he was always one of the last to leave.

As commercial director it was his job, of course, but you always felt it wasn’t just a job to him. As a fan Sean made you feel confident that there was a man in a position of influence who understood the fan base 100%.

Having joined the club’s commercial department in 2006, Sean was tasked with building both the football club and Huddersfield Giants’ commercial activities.

He then exclusively moved to the football side of things in 2008 when Dean Hoyle took over as owner and chairman. Sean had previously worked for Oldham Athletic before joining Town who were in the same division, League One. 

Sean recalled: “When I joined Town it was challenging, you could see the supporters were not in harmony with the owner Ken Davy at that time.

“When I came to Town I could hear the unrest with what the fans and local businesses were saying about what was happening at their club. Let’s remember that it is their club. 

“I knew a lot about the club anyway before I joined because I only lived five miles away from the ground. So whilst I was working at Oldham I knew lots about Town and it broke your heart to see such a great club go through what it had been through. 

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“My plan was always to help turn that around and get fans and businesses really investing in the club again. That didn’t happen overnight. It took the best part of 14 years. 

“I remember I left Oldham who had just flirted with the play-offs and I was joining Town who had finished about mid-table in League One. However, I always knew Town had potential and so I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to join.

“In 2008 when Dean took over we all had the same vision and that was to get Huddersfield Town up the Football League and to reconnect with the fans and local businesses. I spoke to many people who had fallen out of love with the club and luckily we managed to get that back. 

“It happened bit by bit really. We played Millwall in the play-off semi-final and lost in 2010, we then got to the final against Peterborough at Old Trafford and lost and then beat Sheffield United at Wembley in 2012.

Goalkeeper Alex Smithies lifting the League One play-off trophy

“Aligned with that early progress on the pitch we started to build something special off it with the Town Foundation. I was there the moment we opened it. I remember creating the Huddersfield Hundred which was connecting a hundred businesses to the club and to each other, which was successful.”

With the board starting to come together, Sean’s commercial activities began to grow and one of the very first big milestones was the 2011 play-off final at Old Trafford against Peterborough United where thousands of blue and white shirts adorned the Old Trafford stands. Town lost 3-0 that day as Posh were promoted.

On that 2010-11 season Sean said: “We played Bournemouth in the semi-final for a place at Old Trafford. The atmosphere at the John Smith’s Stadium that night was amazing. That was the night we first created the clappers.

“We were one of the first clubs to ever use them. They are now used up and down the country, not least at Leicester City where they copied us.

“I always remember at half-time the players were walking off. We had printed the word ‘Believe’ on the clappers. One person held it up and then everyone followed suit, it always brings a lump to my throat. I thought at that moment that the fans are giving a simple message telling the players what to do.

“That day at Old Trafford was the most disappointing day I had whilst at the club. However, I do remember Dean saying to everyone ‘we go again.’

“I remember driving back on a bus with a lot of sponsors and, yes, we were all down. However, what lifted you was the fact they said they would continue to support us in what we were trying to achieve.

“We wanted Old Trafford to be blue and white that day and so I do remember ordering 35,000 shirts to be made before the final. Somehow we pulled it off and it looked magnificent.”

The club eventually gained promotion a year later when the Terriers beat Sheffield United at Wembley Stadium. 

Having gained promotion to the Championship the task was then to stay there. Town would eventually survive but it was a unique way in which they did it with a barnstorming game against Barnsley on the final day. 

Sean said: “I remember the Barnsley game because we had just finished a Pedal for Pounds and I was sat there in my cycling gear. I remember we were all chatting about how all the results had to go against us for us to go down, within 15 minutes of the game starting that’s what happened.

“It wasn’t until the last 10 minutes really that it all flipped and we managed to survive. Even though it was the worst five minutes of football it was exciting and I was delighted for Barnsley too who are a lovely club.”

Sean Jarvis came to Town from fellow League One club Oldham Athletic

Fast forward to 2015 and Town as a club would change forever with the arrival of David Wagner. A self-confessed crazy German, Wagner explained his football philosophy with a packet of raisins. However it was for another reason Sean remembered his first encounter with the former USA International. 

Sean said: “We had worked ever so hard on and off the pitch to create what we had. Creating the All Together Town panel, helping the Cowshed Loyal fan group become a success getting the South Stand for the home fans. All these things aligned and by 2015 with the arrival of David Wagner it just clicked. 

“David was a character, unbelievably passionate and talented. One of the funniest things I recall with David is when we appointed him. All the press knew his name but had no idea what he looked like, all they knew was he was 6ft, had dark hair, wore glasses and had a beard.

“When he was watching us against Leeds I walked out into the directors’ box. David was already sat in his seat with a baseball cap on. So I’m standing at the top of the directors’ box and have all these cameras clicking away at me, I’m thinking ‘wow David must be behind me.’ I didn’t think anything of it and just sat down in my seat. 

“Five minutes into the game my phone goes crazy, the press had only gone and thought I was Wagner. People were messaging me saying ‘God help us if you are the new manager’, which was funny. From that moment on whenever we exchanged emails we called each other ‘twin.'”

Sean Jarvis was thought to be David Wagner by the press when the German head coach first arrived in England.

Town were promoted on May 29 2017, a day no Huddersfield fan will ever forget. The Terriers defeated Reading in the Championship play-off final for a place in the Premier League. It was a return to the top flight for the first time in 45 years.

Sean said: “I remember when David first joined and in the first few games in 2015 things started to happen and I thought something special is about to take place.

“I went down to some of his early training sessions and when you watched him and his team work you were a bit nervous because you’d watch the players and none of them could get what he was trying to do. However it did thankfully start to click. 

“I remember our win at Newcastle in the 2016-17 promotion season. Dean was running up and down the boardroom steps celebrating. Then we went to Villa and got thrashed for 80 minutes but eventually drew with that goal from Heff (Michael Hefele). Those were great days but there were so many good days that season. 

“When we got to the play-off semi-final against Sheffield Wednesday I was sat next to Dean. With us winning it, Dean is a very superstitious man and so he wanted me to sit near him in the final. 

“After the game at Hillsborough I had to go and collect our tickets for the final. I met the Wednesday ticket officer who handed me 50,000 tickets and so I remember driving back to Huddersfield with all these tickets. I could have made a steal on the black market but I didn’t,” he laughed.

“On the day of the final itself I remember wearing a heart monitor which read a 107 whereas the Reading person was only on about 70 beats per minute. I loved the drive back and my phone not stopping pinging with messages of congratulations.” 

Having been promoted to the promised land the harder task was to stay there. Town had to play Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal in their last three games, needing a minimum of two points and results to go there way. Town eventually got the results they needed to survive. 

On that special season, Sean said: “For us to be at the top of the Premier League after three games was just amazing. The first match against Crystal Palace was incredible. Obviously the win over Manchester United was a big memory too. 

“I’ll never forget being the last person to sit down in a Premier League meeting I attended due to my train being late. I sat between Everton and Leicester and sat across from me was the Manchester United and Liverpool representatives. I will be honest, my knees started to tremble as I couldn’t believe we were sitting in a room with all these big names.”

Sean celebrating promotion to the Premier League in 2017

After surviving the first season in the Premier League the second campaign would be even more difficult. Due to a number of factors the Terriers were relegated back to the Championship in 2019. With a worldwide pandemic hitting the planet in 2020 and Phil Hodgkinson now in charge of the club there was plenty of chopping and changing with staff leaving and arriving. 

Sean departed the club in March 2020 after being with the club for 14 years. On leaving the club and looking back at that time, Sean said: “Unfortunately Dean fell ill and there were a lot of changes at the club with Phil taking over. As the stars had aligned for us to get to the Premier League they had fallen out of alignment in that second season. 

“Phil wanted to run things his own way and whether you agreed with the changes or not, that was down to the individual. I felt I’d done my bit, I’d been there 14 years.

“People came in who I didn’t see eye to eye with. I had offered my resignation to Phil four times before he eventually accepted it because I just didn’t feel I could go on working at the club.

“I don’t mind admitting I did shed a tear when I handed in my resignation, that’s how much the club means to me and my family. 

“I remember it was announced on a Friday and I got lots of messages of thanks which was lovely. I could have carried on but Phil wanted to take things in a different direction and so it was time for me to step aside and let the new person do their thing.”

During the time of Dean Hoyle taking back control of the club at the end of 2021 and start of 2022 there was a large section of fans who would have liked to have seen the return of Sean to the club in a CEO position.

However Sean himself took to Twitter at the time to clarify his own thoughts. He had built momentum at the cricket club and wanted to stay.

“When I saw those messages I was very humbled and honoured to be connected back to the club,” he said. “However it isn’t the right time for me to return and that’s not to say Dean would want me back either. He may want to build a new team and that’s right he does that.

“I also thought it was right to come out and say ‘thanks that’s flattering but no not for me’ straight away, as much for Leicestershire County Cricket Club’s sake.”

Looking forward, Sean said: “Things are going really well down here, the cricket season starts soon, Over the winter there’s been a lot of development plans put in place.

“I’m excited for the season to start, the cricket club is like Town in a sense that we are fighting against the big boys. The players have been through their winter training and are fitter than ever before.

“I want to concentrate on the next five year plan at Leicestershire but what I would say is that if anyone at Town needed help I’m just a phone call away.

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“What is nice is that when Yorkshire play Leicester in the cricket lots of Town fans have come to visit our ground. They have brought their flags and so I always say ‘hi’ to them and I will continue to do that.

“My connection with the fans and respect for them is total, I shall always be a Terrier.”

The feeling is mutual, Sean. Thanks for all your hard work for the club. and, yes, Yorkshireman or not, you’ll always be a Terrier!