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[Blog] Still To Be Converted to the Faith
Written by SanityBlue on Thursday, 14th Jan 2010 01:16

It’s not easy going against the herd on the issue of the takeover of our football club, particularly when big money has been injected for player acquisitions. Even if you take the view the jury is still out on this one, some healthy scepticism in the meantime is not a bad thing.

A number of fans felt I had strayed too far and pointed me to the Marcus Evans website, specifically the page on Ipswich Town, as though it contained the teachings of the Messiah. I’m grateful to them - not because I was able to see the error of my ways and convert to the faith - but because the vacuous, cliché-ridden, corporate-speak that littered the page provided great entertainment value.

It contains such beauties as: “The purchase of Ipswich Town Football club by the Marcus Evans Group is a natural extension of its activities considering the nature of it’s (sic) business portfolio”.

It gets even better: “This innovative approach of adding a highly recognised sports franchise to the companies (sic) brands signifies an exciting and ambitious expansion for the company”.

I have to confess my ignorance here. I was unaware our club had gone the American way and adopted the sports franchise model. Like everyone else, I’m very excited Marcus Evans has now come along to take the Ipswich Town franchise to another level.

Later on, the highly newsworthy statement is made that Ipswich Town “just missed out on entering the Premiership play-offs on the last day of the season but are in great shape with their brand of attractive attacking football to mount a successful campaign into the Premiership next season”.

I suspect our owner is in denial about the decline in the club’s league position since the takeover or it could be that he has spent so much money on the sports franchise part of the portfolio (Ipswich Town in other words) that he can’t afford to pay someone to update the site.

I was also bemused at the very end with the description of the “Marcus Evans brand as the world’s leading business information and hospitality company”. Wow! Bigger than Bloomberg? Dun & Bradstreet? IBIS World?

It’s a bit over the top when you consider that the Marcus Evans Group is essentially an army of cold callers on commission. The sort of people who call just as you’re about to sit down for dinner and try to get you to sign up for self-development seminars, except in this case the targets of the calls are office workers sitting at their desks.

There are two possible explanations for this piece of hyperbole: our Dear Leader suffers from delusional tendencies or the group communications junior assigned this spin job got a bit over-excited.

Despite the amateurism of the website and other more significant criticisms that one could make, I can’t allow myself to be entirely one-eyed. Under the current regime the administration of the club appears to be efficient, the youth academy has been maintained, in keeping with the club’s traditions support was given to Roy Keane despite his nightmare start as manager, and most importantly, significant funds were made available to the club.

We all know the money could have been better spent and it’s likely the blow-out to a £48 million pound debt (on my estimates) will act as a financial straitjacket in the longer term. But that is a separate matter. As it currently stands, Marcus Evans has largely delivered on what he promised when many owners of other clubs haven’t, so on that basis, credit must be given.

My argument is one of principle: the damage caused by the trend towards corporate ownership of football clubs. Those whose thinking is similar to mine are usually pitied as simple-minded idealists or pilloried for being unable to come to grips with the ways of the modern world.

I’m not financially illiterate nor am I a wide-eyed idealist. I just haven’t seen anything to convince me that private ownership will benefit Ipswich Town or football generally in the long run. Even the immediate signs since the takeover of the club haven’t been promising: significantly higher ticket prices, slightly lower attendances and a ballooning debt. It might be intra-group debt but let’s not bury our heads in the sand and pretend it will never have to be serviced.

There has been no net benefit to football from private owners pumping money into clubs. Most of it is borrowed money and to use Alan Sugar’s colourful language has been “like the prune juice – in one end and out the other” in higher player salaries. We could have stayed above this unsustainable mess. Now we’re another junky club relying on the injection of funds from one man.

We’re not a big club and so our fortunes will always swing more wildly than those of clubs with greater resources. However, we are capable of punching above our weight even as a stand alone entity. We have a large supporter base relative to the size of the Ipswich catchment area and our brand name is sufficiently strong to generate a decent income stream through matchday and commercial revenues.

In the long run we’ll have more respect as a club if we stand on our own two feet. But if our own means aren’t enough to get us to where we want to be, we’ll just have to learn to live with it. No one owes us a Premiership existence.

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SupportUrTeam added 09:52 - Jan 14
You're criticism is misplaced. ME should not be the target. Its the FA and Premier league along with all the rich clubs who are the issue. Cant compete anymore, without some serious investment. Football is on its way to hell in a handcart.


injuredanimal added 09:57 - Jan 14
someone likes the sound of their own voice dont they?

vestanpance added 10:10 - Jan 14
Good stuff, Sanity. I haven't read the previous blog but will now. Although i would like to know if "As it currently stands, Marcus Evans has largely delivered on what he promised ..." was tongue in cheek? I ask because the proceeding three paragraphs seem to suggest otherwise.

naa added 10:12 - Jan 14
injured: that's a complete unfair comment. Just because somone has a different opinion to you does not allow you to abuse them. Especially as he has quite eloquently explained his opinions.

Regardless of whether or not I agree with it, I think it's a decent blog. And the stuff from Marcus Evans' website is scary.

utrechtblue added 10:15 - Jan 14
Well reasoned, but are you hoping for a club owned by and supported by the fans? There are not too many models of that system working well in English football (sadly). That said although debt continues to rise alarmingly, clubs actually go out of business much less frequently that any other business sector. Largely thats because few industries can rely (and occasionally abuse) the loyalty and irrationality of the consumers/fans.
The debt has risen another 25% are we as a club any stronger? Is the football served up better value or more entertaining? You judge. Would you prefer to go to Ikea on a Saturday? Thought not

CherryHintonBlue added 10:19 - Jan 14
The most rational and informed analysis of the club's ownership I have read for a long time. As you conclude though, we're just going to have to live with it. It would have been nice to have just continued to plough our own furrow, even if it meant we would only rarely ever again compete at the top level, but that was always going to end one day. And far better that we're run by the seemingly well-intentioned Marcus Evans than by the nightmare owners which some clubs are getting. I find it equally galling to have our club described in ungrammatical "vacuous, cliché-ridden, corporate-speak" but that says it all - not just about the corporate world which the Marcus Evans Group operates, but about the way in which football is viewed nowadays. As long as there's something to watch on the pitch and discuss afterwards, I'm happy.

La_Paz added 10:37 - Jan 14
When two of our biggest clubs are currently 700m and 300m in debt (Man U and Liverpool) the damage that has been done by this financial 'boom' is there for all to see and can only end badly, although I hope I'm wrong. Our only hope is that our debt can eventually be converted to shares as in the Abramovich model, or gradually reduced over a period of success and stability, although as Sheepy found out promotion often makes the debt worse.

I think however that we seem (so far) to have got off lightly with ME. When you look at the actions of the Hicks family at Liverpool there is no comparison. We have no new debt (apart from possibly the 12m largely wasted by JM last season) and the club are at least making an effort with the fans. If we have to suffer a bit of corporate bullsh*t along the way then so be it, although I suspect there are many who share your dislike of this side of football.

Nice one Sanity, some good stuff to think about.

dobbie73 added 10:38 - Jan 14
I too hate the way that the soul of football has been torn out by the moneymen and corporate owners. The game is no longer a fun working class sport - it has become a business enterprise to make money and raise profiles (and profits), with the paying fans coming a poor second to corporate 'partners'.

Saying that, I think SupportUrTeam has hit the nail on the head. Certain TV broadcasters pumped so much money into the game in the early 1990s, and with the formation of the 'breakaway' Premier League (as opposed to the old four-division unitary Football League), a new elite was born that nobody could hope to keep up with, even WITHIN the top flight, let alone outside it. But in an effort to try and keep up, even many smaller clubs (like ourselves) now have wealthy sugar-daddies, all of whom profess to be 'fans', and I'm sure many of them are. But not all have the best interests of the club at heart, because at the end of the day, money talks. Just look at Pompey - FA Cup winners 2 years ago, now in financial meltdown.

I think we have to trust ME, and see where he takes us - like it or not, this is the way that football has gone, and I cannot see any other way for our club now. We are in a stronger position than many other clubs, and this is largely down to ME effectively rescuing us after the near-disaster following relegation. We could so easily have done a Southampton, or a Luton ....

La_Paz added 10:42 - Jan 14
Loving the new avatar by the way dobbie!

devontractorboy added 10:43 - Jan 14
I think Sanity puts a well written article forward for discussion, agree with naa pity some people choose to dismiss it rudely and out of hand!
I'm affraid 'corporate' & all the jargon that goes with it are a sign of the times we live in, as is spending more than you've got ,aka Gordon Brown.
I wish we still had the Cobbolds and life was simple, but it's not & we have to move with the times.
Am I in love with the Marcus Evans/Roy Keane dream ticket?...........Naaa.... well not yet anyway.....only time will tell!!!

dobbie73 added 10:50 - Jan 14
Thanks La Paz! Drake, Chris, Ray and the Guv send their regards, lol

BOjK added 10:53 - Jan 14
Having fired your scattergun at Marcus Evans corporate website for no effect other than to demonstrate your apparent bias (show me one that doesn't use corporate jargon, and which doesn't have parts of it out of date) you get onto the meat of your argument.

Firstly you state the club is being well-run. Good, I agree. The backing of Jim whilst some of our supporters painted on bed-sheets and marched up and down Portman Road when they weren't causing arguments between fans was admirable, as has been the wholehearted backing of Roy during the club's early part of the season.

You then say that its a shame that the majority of football clubs are run at a loss, and many rely on the largesse of their owners to fund their day-to-day existence. I agree with this. Football clubs as a whole are generally loss-making entities who seem to spend all their time finding new ways to generate income that they can give to players in inflated wages. The competition for good players is so strong that clubs spend all the money they have (and more) on trying to attract the best and any extra money the clubs bring in passes straight through. I agree with both you and Alan Sugar on this.

Finally you say that despite loads of other clubs in the division having an extra revenue stream from their owners (or from the PL parachute payments) we can compete with them without this. Sadly this is nonsense, which is why all clubs have either followed this funding route, or are attempting to. Even you then start talking about our "brand" (in a way you would no doubt criticise Evans for) and how that would allow us to level the playing field. This is just not true. We can't use the fact that 30 years ago we had an outstanding team, nor that we have a (well-deserved) reputation for standing by managers and bringing through Youth team players to magic money out of thin air (as you seem to be suggesting). The club will be trading on this brand at the moment AND using Evans' money. Its not either/or.

Frankly I think you should just be delighted that the owner we have seems to be (now at least) involved emotionally as much as financially in the club, isn't a mad egotist, appears to be able to fund the club on an ongoing basis, and continues to run the club as most supporters would want, with backing for both the manager and youth teams.

62WasBest added 10:54 - Jan 14
Naa: It isn't the fact that Sanityblue has a different opinion that is the problem for "Injured"; the problem is that he hasn't used one syllable words and has something to say other than "C'mon Town" or the like. Surely debate is what this site should be about or what else is its purpose? I think it is a long-overdue critique and perhaps we should all be considering now what we do if/when Evans pulls out.

nobrain added 10:55 - Jan 14
Some very valid point here - undoubtedly money (more specifically the love of it) has changed football for the worse and placed many clubs in very precarious positions.

Lets all hope that we can ride through this - but when you look at Portsmouth (and others), you do wonder what will happen next...


devontractorboy added 10:56 - Jan 14
Incidentally the Marcus Evans webpage is worth a look we are listed under 'Our Products'


injuredanimal added 11:30 - Jan 14
Agree totally bojk. Truthful,intelligent and when the original post derides the use of jargon, and then goes on to use 6 words where 1 will do,a breath of fresh air.

Just another chance for someone to have ago at the man who, in my opinion,saved our club.
I am a staunch supporter of our club,by that i mean i support the team and the management and as anyone who has read my previous blogs will know, the management infrastructure.
It seems to me that i have upset some over pretentious idiots on here.
If i have upset you sanity i do apologise,and i do mean it,we dont see eye to eye on this,and my harshness was uncalled for, perhaps i didnt exactly put forward my views eloquently enough for certain members (62was best).
Perhaps if these members were to put forward ideas, quite like yourself, and as i have done in the past,and stop just commenting on other peoples,as they see it, lack of intelligence,they would find that their life was more fulfilled and feel good about themselves, without the need to belittle others.

naa you are quite right, and as i have put forward above,my off-hand comment was,on hindsight,undeserved, and perhaps ill thought out.
I still think that in essence the writer wrote this with a smile on his/her face, thinking how clever am i.

All of the above is my opinion only, if i am wrong so be it.
I have only ever defended this club in all of my posts,and i have entered into several "heated" disagreements over the past months,all about how this wonderful club deserves support in whatever it does to continue to be the joy of our lives.
I have never tried to be personal, if i ever have it has never been my intention.
That is why after reading the original post, i felt that it was not worth a full comment,but after reading 62wasbest i feel the need to actually comment on a member who if they actually do remeber '62, should know better.

cooper4england added 11:50 - Jan 14
Wonder why Arsenal are as successful as they are? Read in the Guardian that Fabregas is paid "only" £60 000 a week, the same money as Utaka and others at Portsmouth and less than Bentley at Spurs.

Why do Arsenal achieve success on a tight salary structure and others flop spending millions? ( and just saying "Wenger" is not a detailed answer!!)

vestanpance added 12:30 - Jan 14

So, your opinion is your opinion but someone else's opinion is them "liking the sound of their own voice"?

superblueflude added 12:37 - Jan 14
Cooper - I believe the success of Arsenal comes from the top, I believe i've read that although they have effectively "new owners" which seem to change monthly lol, the same keys remain the same, lowish wages, from bottom to top and no player is bigger than the club, so when the likes of Henry or Viera etc ask for more money - Flamini is prime example, they are told they are free to go, you do have to mention Wenger as its his excellent talent knowledge means that no matter who goes there is always someone coming up, and also it's not just the foreign youngsters either you have Wilshire, Ramsey etc to.
I believe that with Arsenals football stance any club would be succesful, also the way Arsenal play keeps the fans happy yes when they loose they're not happy but i bet they have still been entertained, I have rarely watched Arsenal and then said my god they were boring, even loosing 4-1 etc.
So to sum up lol, a solid board room, solid manager and a ruling that doesn't allow any players to play above the rest - again look at adeboyer so dont know how to spell it but hey ho, he was troublesome now he's gone and arsenal have Vega, Van Persie, Bentnor, Wilcott etc.

WeWereZombies added 12:43 - Jan 14
cooper4england: very good point about Arsenal, but breath of fresh air that it is to watch Wenger's boys as a neutral supporters do you ever wonder whether Gunners fans look at Chelsea and Man U and wonder what it must be like to win trophies even if it means watching robot football?

Sanity: Excellent blog, wish I had been able to articulate that.

injuredanimal: Do you like the sound of your own voice when you are keying in a coment? I may not be as articulate as Sanity but at least I do not read out loud, could be very tiring if you try and takle 'War and Peace'

injuredanimal added 12:46 - Jan 14
ok then, if you want

superblueflude added 12:47 - Jan 14
WeWerezombies - as a fan what does winning a trophy actually do? yes you can brag about it but thats it, i'd rather be semi succesful and pay good money to watch good entertaining football especially against the man utds etc, trophies are there to win and winning them would be great but seriously its for bragging rights, us fans dont get any bonus for supporting a team to a title etc, so for me yes i'd like Ipsiwch to win the championship one year but i'd be happy with second - automatic promotion without a trophy same result really.

injuredanimal added 12:52 - Jan 14
Zombies at least i can spell comment! lol
glass houses and all that

injuredanimal added 12:59 - Jan 14
Seriously, i have apologised to sanity,i was wrong to post that comment.
I do not have to agree with it though.

Dont all of you wonder what would have happened if ME hadnt come along?
So his web site is full of jargon,name a business website that isnt.

I too would love the club to be succesful, as in bygone years, run as a family club.
The thing is it isnt, we are what we are, and as such must get on with it.
The truth is i get so tired of dragging over old coals,we are living in the here and now,the club is owned by ME,and i just feel that we should applaud his efforts at keeping us alive, and his enthusiasm for our club,thats all.

superblueflude added 13:09 - Jan 14
Injured' totally agree mate, Im really excited about the future, for me football is a money business football itself is a business and now our club has caught up and become part of this, I see a very bright future, and I dont care what league we are in the town are my team.
And being honest about this website thing, so what ITFC is unber our products, the fact is we are a product of the Evans group, his money is taking us along so as long as we the club never folds, take what ever action you need ME sell what ever you need to.
I think the traditionalist need to move on and realise that if they want success then the town has to become a business if they want traditional values, then thats when you have to except lower league football - its the way football has changed, if it wasn't you wouldn't get players worth £80 mill etc.
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