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Is the Game Now Too Rich for Marcus Evans?
Written by itfcjoe on Sunday, 31st Jan 2016 21:07

As Ipswich look to be leaving the January transfer window with a weaker squad than the one they entered it with, it leads me to question what is Marcus Evans’s plan for the football club.

Evans’s tenure at ITFC can be split very simply into two categories – pre-FFP and post-FFP.

After buying the club and the debt at a knockdown price he immediately invested £12 million into the playing squad under existing manager Jim Magilton.

When Magilton failed to get promotion the reins and heavy financial backing was handed over to Roy Keane, who threw more money at the squad in both transfer fees and wages and didn’t even get close to achieving the goal of promotion.

The story remained the same through Paul Jewell’s disastrous spell in charge of ITFC, more of Evans’s money was squandered, again with little reward and after a haphazard attempt at cutting the wage bill down to allowable levels within the new FFP rules, panic ensued and £1.5 million was spent on Paul Taylor and a host of loanees were brought in.

This wasn’t enough to save Jewell’s job as ITFC were left stranded at the bottom of the Championship a long way from safety and looking down the barrel of playing their football in the third tier for the first time since 1957.

Enter Mick McCarthy, and a manager who has turned the club's fortunes around with a mix of canny free agent signings, developing existing players and a smattering of small fees spent. He has turned water into wine on a few occasions and worked expertly under the FFP regulations put in place by the Football League, taking ITFC to the brink of promotion in 2014/15.

However, in November 2014, the FFP rules were changed for the 2015/16 and onwards to be closer to the rules of both the Premier League and UEFA, now rather than a loss of £6 million before infrastructure and youth development spending, Championship clubs are now permitted to lose £39 million over a three-year period, and specifically £13 million for the season 2015/16.

As things stand these new rules seem to be too rich for Evans, or more likely much more money than he is willing to commit to ITFC after the previous poor return on his spending – once bitten, twice shy.

There are a number of clubs spending money with existing squads that are superior to ITFC’s – some in receipt of huge parachute payments (Hull, Burnley) and some without (Middlesbrough, Derby) and then further clubs coming from behind where we were but spending big money on a promotion push (Sheffield Wednesday, Brighton).

These clubs appear willing to spend up to (and in some cases) above the new limits, and if they plan to do so for a consistent period of time, McCarthy will face an even more difficult task to keep Ipswich competitive, especially when the new TV deal kicks in for the Premier League sides which will further increase parachute payments for the relegated clubs.

How long will Marcus Evans be happy to keep contributing £5 million+ per year to keep Ipswich as a club in the Championship with an ever diminishing chance of promotion? If we get to the summer transfer window, and the big spending clubs in the Championship continue to do so, then Evans will either choose to stump up the money to do so or look to step aside and find someone that will.

Ipswich were one of the clubs to vote against the changes in the FFP rules, wanting it to be kept at the previous level of £6 million allowed losses, and despite the sale of Tyrone Mings in the off-season the investment into the squad this season coupled with the accounts from last season appear to show that our losses will be more in line than the previous FFP rules rather than the current ones.

As an Ipswich fan, I’d prefer it if it is Evans that makes the large investment required into ITFC, he is a known quantity (of sorts) to the fans and has run the club well in the period that Mick has been in charge.

The club is (deliberately?) in a good position for a sale if Evans is willing to cut losses on the debt – a successful academy running at a position very close to Category One, a top manager tied down for the next two seasons, a strong spine of Championship players tied down for the foreseeable future, a loyal fan base and a stable balance sheet.

A smart businessman like Evans, who has been burned badly once by football will have the option of chasing a bad debt or cutting his losses. There is no guarantee of promotion out of this league, and the extra spending Evans would need to make could easily be a further £10 million a year until we get over the line – that could be another £50 million added to his investment, or quite easily another £100 million – and that still may not be enough.

The approach of spending around £5 million per year will make promotion very difficult, and the likelihood is we will get further away rather than closer as time goes on – if spending was to begin on the squad then the prize for promotion would be worth it, but is the game now too rich for Evans?

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peteswindon added 21:24 - Jan 31
What I can’t understand is he gave money to rubbish managers but now we have one that looks able to get us up he won’t spend. I think unfortunately it is the once bitten twice shy scenario.

Granthamblue62 added 21:29 - Jan 31
An excellent blog, and perhaps a little too close to the truth why there has been sparse investment. Uncertain times lay ahead I fear. This current crop are not good enough for a sustained promotion push.

shortmarine1969 added 21:53 - Jan 31
Totally believe that we are as far as we are going to get with the current overall set up..just floating around the lower top half , as this is a place we have only been in for the past season and looking like this one as well ,many are content , but quite are few are not given that in the main we are really poor to watch most games. Continued stagnation normally ends in a steady decline , so something has to give. What that will be can be anybody's guess , but i dont think it will be ended by ME stumping up more cash..imo our course is set with the current regime and manager..and i have to be honest it,s not one that i am over joyed about..dont get me wrong MM has done a great job in nearly all respects , but will he take us up on the current path ? sadly i very much doubt it.

A incoming sugar daddy (club sale) is maybe not the worst thing that could happen ?? unless your happy with the status quo.

xrayspecs added 21:56 - Jan 31
Sorry, this is pure speculation.

We simply do not know ME plan, as he has not shared this publicly. My guess is that he took over Town as a way to make money - promotion to the PL and for his business. He invested a significant sum, but has failed to get a decent return, backing the wrong managers with decent (but not top) funds.

I would argue that the club has less value as a business than you attribute. The academy is propped up by investment from ME (which is outside FPP) and contracts are transient (Mick and the squad), so have little commercial value to an investor. We are a well supported club but can you see us bringing in 40k per week, every week (I know the ground is not big enough, I am sure you get the point). To make money out of football, you need to be Premier League and a big club.

What is interesting is his end game. The club has little value to a potential investor yet ME will only get a decent return if he invest more. Let's see where we go over the next year or so.


Suffolk_n_Good added 21:58 - Jan 31
Great blog, I agree with Granthamblue, a little too close to the truth! it does seem as if Evans is reluctant to spend heavily on the real investment needed for a real crack at promotion, more & more clubs are making the investment needed, but we will only get so far on freebies, it does feel as if Evans is positioning the club ready for selling on, don't get me wrong he's steadied the ship, but I don't see us gaining promotion without heavy investment in the playing squad, we'll see.....

MVBlue added 22:07 - Jan 31
Excellent account of where we are. This blog should be kept for the history books on Ipswich Town FC. We are stalled. I was interested to read about the rule changes thanks for making that clear. So thats why Derby and Brighton are perfectly able to spend millions, while we, clearly short of 2 excellent players, buy no one of significance for 12 months!

MVBlue added 22:11 - Jan 31
I dislike being that club that got in a millionaire owner who pumped money into the club and branded his name all over the shirt and it went nowhere. Sigh.

jonbull88 added 22:18 - Jan 31
Granthamblue62 - correct me if I am wrong but haven't most of this squad had town around the top 6 for the last 18 months?

stevieiriswattii added 23:16 - Jan 31
The blog is well written, make some interesting and valid points, but along with many articles and opinions currently, they all focus on one thing. The only way to progress is to spend, money, money & more money. If 10 Championship clubs spend £10 million each, all 10 clubs cannot get promoted. Managers are allowed to coach players, improve them, create a team which is better than the sum of its parts. This never seems to be discussed anymore and with Mick's experience this is something that he is capable of. One or two additions wouldn't go amiss, but who? The clubs at the top of the Championship are in the market for strikers, but we don't really need additions there. Do we spend 5 million on a new defender? Would that make an instant impact? Unlikely. A progressive midfielder, maybe, but Teddy Bishop might be that man. We may have to gamble this season with what we have, but if it doesn't result in promotion, particularly with the type of football we are playing, then something will have to change and I don't think that will be spending more money, it will be Mick going.


Radlett_blue added 23:44 - Jan 31
Hugely sensible post, apart from the idea that Jim Magilton was given £12m to spend on the squad. Apart from that, spot-on. Evans is no longer chasing the dream, but seems willing to fund losses of a few £m each year.

horsehollerer added 23:46 - Jan 31
Thanks for a well-written, well-researched blog. One more thought: I think there's always a temptation to assume that Mick would do a better job of spending £10M-£20M than his predecessors did. I'm a big fan of Mick's, but just to play devil's advocate ... we know he's a great man-manager and a terrific motivator/galvaniser of unfancied teams. But would he be able to make an even greater impact if he had money to spend? I honestly don't know. Does Marcus believe he could? Does even Mick himself believe he could?

prebbs007 added 06:09 - Feb 1
Apologies to one fellow poster who has read all this from me before but here are my thoughts !!

I have been a season ticket holder for over 30 years and appreciated also the highs and lows.

While I agree that Mick has done well with limited resources I find it impossible to accept his stubborn backing and playing of totally underperforming players who clearly lack the ability to get us promoted. I accept he may be restricted by Mr Evans but that also annoys me as he continually selects players out of form and plays them out of position. The injuries have not helped but other clubs have injuries also, they still use the window to strengthen we don't and for Mick to say he can't get better I just can't accept.

Marcus' wealth is over £700m and he is in top 150 richest people in the UK, Middbro owners Steve Wilson has wealth of only £205m, Mel Morris at Derby £400m, asseem Allam at Hull £320m..... So I don't accept we can't compete with the clubs around us !!! Our no fee transfer policy is stopping us from being promoted and other owners are backing their managers and clubs better than Marcus !!!

To tell fans we are ambitious and committed to getting to the premier league and then not back that up with investment on the pitch is not acceptable. By spending money on bigger wages for players who are clearly not good enough is not what the majority of fans want. Yes I accept we would be far worse off without him but that does not mean we can't improve. In our current side very few players would get anywhere near the boro derby or hull sides and even less would hold their own in the premier league.

Things need to change in our approach both on and off the pitch or we will not get promoted.


Granthamblue62 added 08:48 - Feb 1
jonbull88 "around the top 6" isnt going to get the club anywhere is it? That's like saying "well we nearly won the cup" when you get beat in the final - where is the kudos in that? The point is we will be 'nearly' this or 'nearly' that until some quality players are brought in to fill key positions. MM has reportedly stated today that he is happy with the squad he has, because there is no one else better out there. So how the hell was JW allowed to slip under the radar and end up at MK Dons ffs! Town were a different proposition when JW played for us, a genuinely 'game-changing' player. MM even proved he could adapt tactics to accommodate him. When you have had that sustained momentum to be close to the play-offs it sometimes needs that little extra push to consolidate. Everyone else appears to have done that. It is my opinion that the current management are showing little ambition to get the club promoted. Until they do we will continue to be the 'nearly' team.

BossMan added 08:49 - Feb 1
Why would a self confessed Chelsea fan who lives (most of the time) in Dublin buy Ipswich ? The answer is because the tax breaks and the potential return on investment were compelling and very possibly because a couple more doors for sports ticketing purposes might get opened. Yet despite these dubious reason many of the posters on here talk about ME like he is a latter day saint. He lost my support when he started trying to buy the assets of the club and the true heroes are Suffolk County Council for telling him to do one. That attempt to buy the ground was the biggest threat we have faced and could of seen us do a Brighton and end up as a tenant at Layer Road once ME decided to bail. He certainly is no saint but since getting rid of Clegg things have improved dramatically but for the ME story to have a happy ending we will need a bright young manager with more tactical flexibility than we see from Mick. As a team I don't see Mick and ME taking us to the promised land and I'm anxious that season ticket sales for next year might be a shock for all concerned.

phillo added 09:21 - Feb 1
Still don't get fully this theory that ME bought the club to use for "tax breaks" ... surely if that was the case he would plow more in ??!!
Also possibly the idea of buying all the assets of the club was so that the club owned them rather than be a tenant ..... sounds like good business to me. Criticise him for that IF he sells the club without the assets.....not just assume that I what he is going to do !!!!
Also I think you'll find it is Ipswich Borough Council that owns the ground not SCC.

jayessess added 09:36 - Feb 1
Always confuses me why anyone thinks Marcus Evans owes the club more investment. It's his money, he's not obliged to splurge it around in order to get Ipswich Town back where we think it belongs. At present we have a football club where the owners are putting money in rather than taking it out. We have a football club whose league position has improved for the past 3 seasons. The vast majority of the 72 clubs in the Football League would kill for that.

Cambonbleu added 10:13 - Feb 1
Some very interesting points made in this blog, and it's absolutely true to say that at no point since Marcus Evans invested in ITFC, has the club been more saleable. Good manager, good assets and current decent gate receipts. Whether Marcus and Mick are (very belligerently) sticking to their strategy of spending nownt come hell or high water, or whether Evans is lining up to cut his losses and run is anyones guess. I suppose it comes down to how much he loves the club and owning the club, or how much his business brain tells him not to throw good money after bad.

terryf added 10:49 - Feb 1
What the hell is Jonny Williams doing at MK Dons?
We all love him and he should be here improving our midfield
Quality players are what we need to bring in, not waste £8500 on someone who looks unlikely to make the grade. If we want to get out of this division we need to up our game.

BossMan added 12:21 - Feb 1
@phillo The tax breaks are a matter of fact not theory but yes I concede that there is no proof that was why he bought the club. I would be really interested though to hear your theory on why he bought the club ? You do know don't you that it is an undisputed fact that he is a Chelsea supporter ? It is also an undisputed fact that his business headquarters are in the tax attractive city of Dublin so that's where he works and lives most of the time. He does own a pile in Cornwall which is being renovated but he doesn't own a home in Suffolk. The fact that Ipswich runs at annual loss is not such a big deal when those losses can be offset against profits of other parts of the ME Group. Please don't make him out to be a saviour because we had more on the field success under Sheepy than we ever have under him despite the latest fashion of all the happy clappy brigade talking (incorrectly) about 3 years of league table progress under Mick.

commuterblue added 14:38 - Feb 1
Bossman, Are you seriously asking us to believe that ME is better off having a loss making club? Clearly that is wrong (particularly if, as you suggest, so little of his profits are lost to tax anyway). So fine, you might not think he is our saviour. But let's not forget how close we were to going under.

commuterblue added 14:44 - Feb 1
Of course we can't compete with Derby and Hull financially, Prebb007s. Derby attract nearly 30,000 every week , compared to our 20,000. Hull still have the Premiership payments.

prebbs007 added 19:05 - Feb 1
Commuterblue you are totally correct but what about Middbro? Their crowds not massively different to ours and Gibson not in same league of wealth compared to Evans. If you think derby's 30k to our 20k makes up the shortfall I don't agree and yes hull have parachute money that's true but all of those owners have shown far more ambition. We then learn from Milne that it's not Marcus but Mick who won't spend. If this is true then MM should hang his head in shame. Is he scared to go up and fail, are the players worried they would all be cast aside. Whatever and whoever it is ITFC is being left behind by its rivals !!!!

RegencyBlue added 20:48 - Feb 1
The difference between Boro and us is that Gibson is basically a fan of the club whereas we are a business opportunity which went wrong for Evans!

Its fairly easy to see the original plan - acquire ITFC by buying the debt at a fraction of its face value, make money available to strengthen the squad to get promotion which would then give access to the Premiership millions. Evans could then get his original investment, along with a healthy profit, back from the club. Unfortunately it didn't work!


Hiltzkooler added 22:02 - Feb 1 on!....the most common sense I have read on here in days amongst all the hysterical missives!....that is the source of the investment gone wonky....good blog too.

Still, hysteria aside, it does feel a bit of a disappointment that one or two solutions along the lines of Keanish's suggestions have not been progressed....investment is required, but I recognise what has been achieved and many clubs would be very pleased to be in the circumstances of ITFC and the stewardship at the helm...aucto splendore resurgo......

Seasider added 23:59 - Feb 1
Well the window has closed and as expected no purchases by ITFC unless you include 1 loanee who couldn't get in Barnsley side who are doing well since he left.A short term 30 something fullback who has been without a club for over 6 months,and trialist Thomas a winger who started well at Arsenal;but again is over 30 and has only had about 10 games in 2 years at Palace.

I knew that the FFP rules had been relaxed.but did not realise by as much as stated.Thank you for info.This explains why Championship teams are spending more,except of course my beloved Ipswich,whos spending is on a par with the mid eighties,some 30 years ago.

Mr Evans only connection he has with Suffolk, as far as I know,is that he was born in Walsham-le-Willows.He is also a tax exile for both corporate and personal tax I believe;and tried to buy into Southampton before buying Ipswich at a knockdown price.The debt being shown at the original amount on the balance sheet.

He has as you said tried to buy Portman Rd,which thankfully he couldn't;although he did manage to obtain the training ground.For those who have not been there it is only just outside Ipswich to the North, which has previously been mentioned as a prime position for expansion of the Town.

If one reads about the man and his considerable empire,you get the impression that he is a businessman first and foremost,not a philanthropist;so I cannot guess his motives.

Clearly I think initially he was hoping to reach the Premiership,but his personnel decisions didn't work although getting Major Clegg with his connections to the Olympics did bring him some business,his lack of acumen regards the working of football club was a minus,and he was dumped shortly after the 2012 triumph.

I agree that he had to stick by the FFP rules;but now they are relaxed the club can no longer use this excuse.Mr Milne still seems to maintain that funds would be available putting the onus on his Manager,whilst Mickmac keeps trotting out the same line about his tight budget not allowing him to spend like the other clubs;and the club punching above its weight.

I do not however accept that he cannot improve his squad; always saying how good they we don't know really what the clubs strategy is now.Throwing the cup games which can be money spinners and the current transfer policy,makes me wonder if Messrs Evans and McCarthy are quite as keen on promotion as they once were.

Mick has now got secure employment from an owner who lets him get on with it,But it could be construed that by tying Mick to a longer contract he has decreased the risk of him being poached,and if he were then Mr Evans would receive more compo

In the unlikely event that Ipswich do get promoted then McCarthy's CV will be enhanced;but he will still be ok if more likely they don't.

I look forward to seeing Ipswich beat Reading tomorrow,and where we finish in May,as by then things will be a little clearer.
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