Ipswich Town – økonomi og fremtidsutsikter

For en del år tilbake så skrev jeg en artikkel i medlemsbladet vårt vedr den økonomiske situasjonen til klubben i våre hjerter. Husker jeg ikke feil så var gjelden dengang på rundt £32M, og det var status da Marcus Evans kom inn og overtok klubben gjennom sitt selskap Marcus Evans Group:
«In 2007 Ipswich Town Football Club announced that Marcus Evans would be buying a controlling stake in the club subject to contracts, due diligence and shareholder approval. The deal saw Evans purchase Ipswich Town’s £32 million debts with Aviva (Norwich Union) and Barclays Bank. The official announcement did not stake the terms of this deal: various unsourced media reports speculated that he paid anything between 20 pence and 100 pence in the pound, without giving sources.[12] He injected £12 million into the club in exchange for an issue of new shares, which gave him an 87.5% stake, and reduced the existing shareholders stake to 12.5%.[13] The deal was finalised following an EGM on 17 December 2007, at which the proposal was backed by shareholders speaking for 98.9% of the stock.»
Klubben lå dengang trygt plassert i Championship og hadde klare ambisjoner om opprykk til det forjettede land, Premier League, og med det en helt annen økonomisk verden. Og optimismen var stor. Samtidig var flere skeptiske til at klubben fikk en eier som ikke hadde fotballfaglig bakgrunn, og som samtidig «la ned» styrerommet. Han overlot «roret» til sin egen utpekte direktør, Ian Milne.
Skal ikke dvele ved den sportslige nedturen som har skjedd i etterkant annet enn å konkludere med at manglende investeringer i spillertroppen over flere år, med påfølgende dårlige sportslige resultater, har ført klubben ned ett hakk, til nivå 3, League One. For første gang siden 1957…
Den etablerte journalisten, Andy Warren i EADT uttalte følgende etter nedrykket ifjor våres:
«Relegation to League One could cost Ipswich Town as much as £9million in income.»

Les forøvrig Andy Warren sin artikkel i sin helhet her:
https://www.eadt.co.uk/sport/financial-impact-of-ipswich-town-relegation-to-league-one-1-5995563

Den gir oss et innblikk i hva det faktisk koster å rykke ned. Ikke bare inntektssvikt, men helt andre økonomiske rammer for klubben, og ikke minst krav til reduserte lønnkostnader.
Men det som fattet min interesse var informasjonen som kom frem i vinterens avholdte AGM – (generalforsamling) som viste at klubben nå hadde en gjeld på astronomiske £95,5M !!

(her er forøvrig informasjon fra AGM som ble avholdt i desember med tillatelse fra Phil Ham):
https://www.twtd.co.uk/ipswich-town-news/37443/town-announce-%EF%BF%BD3.2m-loss

Kunne dette true klubbens eksistens på lang sikt ?! Enkelte mener at gjelden ikke er «verdt papiret den er skrevet på» siden all gjeld er «kjøpt opp» av Marcus Evans sine selskaper og egentlig ikke «eksisterer» men er det så enkelt? Det vi vet er at klubben ikke skylder noen banker eller finansinstitusjoner penger. De lånene løste Evans inn ved overtagelsen.
Men Ipswich som klubb går ett sted mellom £5-10M i minus stort sett hvert regnskapsår (litt avhengig av publikumsinntekter og spillersalg), og det har bidratt til at gjelden har økt kraftig gjennom de siste 5-10 år. Det som imidlertid skjer i praksis er at Evans låner klubben penger fra ett av sine selskaper som så skal dekke årlige driftskostnader, og dette bokføres da selvfølgelig som tap i selskapets regnskap. Så at «gjelden ikke er verdt papiret den er skrevet på» er kanskje ikke så langt unna sannheten ?! Men det er et forbehold, og det er hva som kan skje ved et eventuelt eierskifte. Der er meningene mange i sosiale medier, og blant såkalte «eksperter».
Og dette bekrefter vel bare det at det ikke er Evans «in person» som spytter inn disse millionene årlig, men ME Group sine selskaper. Og det er liten tvil om at denne «låneavtalen» klubben har med ME Group gir selskapet skattefordeler. For Evans personlig lider ingen nød selv om Ipswich går i minus år etter år. Siste status fra Forbes viser at mannen er god for $937.5 Million. Altså mer enn nok til «salt på maten».
For å få svar på noe av dette så inviterte jeg TWTDs Phil Ham og ITFC Official Supporters Clubs, Stephen Doe til en liten QA-session med diverse utvalgte spørsmål. Fikk sannsynligvis ikke med alt av interesse så noe vil dere sikkert savne, men det får så være. Jeg skal her gjengi det de svarte på de spørsmålene jeg stilte. Og så tar vi alt på engelsk, språkmektige som Itscons medlemmer er.
Først ut er Phil Ham
After last years relegation to League One, Andy Warren wrote this in East Anglian Daily Times:
«Drop in TV cash, sponsorship pay and gate receipts – relegation to League One could cost Ipswich as much as £9m» – as we all know now the attendance have increased from last season with almost 19000-20000 spectators at every home game. 

However, how does this less income affect the football club ? Mostly from the sponsorship an TV-rights.

A drop in income means the club has less cash to spend in the season going forward. The club therefore needed to make cuts, including around 12 redundancies which were made in the summer.

Player wages are the biggest outgoing a football club has – last year the wage bill was £18,95 million – and Town’s will have had to drop significantly for this season.

Much of this came via clauses in players’ contracts which have meant their wages dropped by, in some cases, 60 per cent this season. That will have mitigated the reduction in income to some degree.

However, the club is still likely to run at a significant loss this season, as is the case every season. Last year Town made an operating loss of £10.41 million with wages 106.97 per cent of turnover.

A lot of supporters are concerned when they read that the total debt of the club has reached «unbelievable» £95M. But as all debt is owed by the ME Group, who does really know what the real debt is ?

Do the supporters have anything to fear ? Is it just accounting terms which have no real meaning ?

Former MD Ian Milne has said: “This is no third party debt. The money that an owner has put into a club, he’s never going to see that back, unless maybe it goes up [to the Premier League]. But even then I doubt he’ll see that return.” What does he mean ? 

Especially if Evans should leave the club ? Could a new owner «inherit» the debt ?
I understand that the daily financial operations is taken care of Evans company, and not by him «in personal», so Ipswich’ yearly loss goes straight into the companys account. 

The debt has essentially been built up in three ways. There’s the historical £32 million debt which Marcus Evans bought when he took over the club, the Barclays overdraft and the bond with Norwich Union which paid for the new stands at the start of the century. This Evans bought for £6 million but appears on the balance sheet as the original £32 million.

Then there are the loans that Evans has made to the club in the years since to cover the annual shortfall. As above, the club runs at an operating loss each season with the difference between incomings and outgoings covered by either loans by Evans or cash from player sales. And thirdly there is interest which has accrued on the historical debt and some of the loans.

Regarding Ian Milne’s quote, the loans have been made by other Marcus Evans Group companies, so effectively Marcus Evans owes the money to himself; there’s no outside bank or financial institution which can ever call in the debt.

The loans were made without the expectation they would be paid back other than if Town made the Premier League when the size of the debt would be dwarfed by the income.

The expectation is that the debt will be written off – wholly or at least in greater part – in order to facilitate a sale if and when Evans looks to sell the club. Otherwise the club is effectively unsaleable.

The relegation led to budget cuts in many areas of the club. The wage bill, by far the club’s biggest outlay, will probably be affected mostly by the relegation.

How do you think it has affected the managers chance to build a group of players he really want, and the policy of selling players before someone can come in ? 

The club has inevitably had to cut its cloth accordingly. Paul Lambert, I’m sure, would have liked to have been in a position to make further additions to his squad but with money tight he was only able pay a fee for Kane Vincent-Young in the summer.

League One is governed by the Salary Cost Management Protocol (SCMP) which state clubs can’t spend more than 60% of their turnover on player wages.

What impact will it have ? Will it be more difficult for the club to bring in quality players ?

SCMP shouldn’t have too much of an impact on the club this season as there are provisions made to help clubs coming down from the Championship. Rather than the 60 per cent of turnover, the limit is 75 per cent in the first year down from the Championship.

In addition, three-year player contracts signed before September of the relegation year and those of young pros aged under 21 don’t count towards the cap. If Town stay in League One for a longer spell then it may have some effect, although given that the Blues are still likely to have a larger turnover than most clubs in League One they will remains big players in this division.

Evans and O’Neill has reiterated that they will invest further in the Academy, and that they want it to be at Category One level in the future. That will mean that administrative expenses will be higher, and the club need to get more coaches in. 

Is that realistic as it means more investment from an already limited budget ? Or is it only possible if the club get promoted ?

The current category two set-up costs around £2 million a year to run, most from owner Marcus Evans plus a grant from the Premier League, while a move to category one is likely to add a further £1 million to that annual figure.
It’s certainly more likely that Town would look to upgrade to category one if they are back in the Championship.

The PLC owns 12.5 per cent of Ipswich Town Football Club Co Limited and consists of the club’s shareholding prior to the takeover 12 years ago with Marcus Evans owning the other 87.5 per cent. What influence do they really have at a AGM, and who are the shareholders in PLC ?

None, other than asking questions of the manager and those running the club at the AGMs. The 12.5 per cent are the shareholders from before the takeover. At the EGM which sealed Marcus Evans’s ownership they voted to dilute their 100 per cent stake to the 12.5 per cent. At around the time of the takeover they numbered 3,792.

Portman Road is not the clubs property, but the stadium is owed by the football club. 
How much do the club pay the Ipswich Council every year to rent the ground ? And could the worst thing happen that the club has to leave the ground for some economic reasons ?

In 2012 the rent on the land on which the stadium stands was increased to £111,500 a year. It may well have increased a little since then. It’s unlikely that the club would be forced to leave the ground for any economic reason.

After the last AGM; What is your sincerely opinion on the total economic situation of the club ? 

The club has one of the bigger budgets in League One but is less of a force when in the Championship than it previously has been. The wage bill in the Championship was around £18.95 million, high for the club in historical terms, but only the 18th highest in the division. Therefore, even if they get back into the Championship Town are going to have to overachieve significantly in terms of budget to league position in order to return to the Premier League.

In terms of the stability of the club, Marcus Evans has covered the shortfall in income throughout his time here, a sum which has been around £6 million for many of those seasons, although less in years when players have been sold for big fees, such as last year when only £751,000 was loaned to the club.

The debt, given that it is intra-group rather than owed to an external institution, is not considered a concern and is likely to be wiped out in the event of the club’s sale, as was the case with Bolton Wanderers ahead of their sale in 2015.

And at last, in this moment we are just outside the playoffs. If we don’t get promoted this season. 
What do you think will happen in the summer ? And how long can Ipswich afford to stay in League One, in terms of economy ?

If we don’t get promoted this summer then I would expect to lose some of the players who have impressed this season, the likes of Luke Woolfenden and Flynn Downes. The fees received would help to balance the books for the season ahead.
Town would remain one of the bigger clubs in the division in terms of budget and, as this year, ought to be one of the favourites for promotion.

Så tar jeg noen av de samme spørsmålene med Stephen Doe som er Supporterklubbens økonomiske talsmann:
After last years relegation to League One, Andy Warren wrote this in East Anglian Daily Times:
«Drop in TV cash, sponsorship pay and gate receipts – relegation to League One could cost Ipswich as much as £9m» – as we all know now the attendance have increased from last season with almost 19000-20000 spectators at every home game.
However, how does this less income affect the football club ? Mostly from the sponsorship an TV-rights.
Supporters Club Chairman Mark Ramsay and I did a quick calculation and though the impact would be minimal. Yes, TV money is £7m lower but this will be offset by the higher gate revenue and lower wages. With sell-on fees from Webster, Clarke, Mings etc. the Club may even be profitable this season!
A lot of supporters are concerned when they read that the total debt of the club has reached «unbeliveable» £95M. But as all debt is owed by the ME International Group, who does really know what the real debt is ?
Exactly. It’s all owed to him so if decides to call it in, the club goes into administration and he gets next to nothing and loses the Club too. Far better to be able to sell and get something … so the level of debt doesn’t really matter, it’s what ME is willing to invest that is key.
Do the supporters have anything to fear ? Is it just accounting terms which have no real meaning ?
I think that’s true. Only ME can force the Club to repay the debt. Maybe if his other businesses got into trouble would there be an issue but given that there is nothing of value in the Club it would be a pointless exercise!
Former MD Ian Milne has said: “This is no third party debt. The money that an owner has put into a club, he’s never going to see that back, unless maybe it goes up [to the Premier League]. But even then I doubt he’ll see that return.” What does he mean ?
As above. He surely wouldn’t get anywhere near £95m back if he did decide to walk away.
Especially if Evans should leave the club ? Could a new owner «inherit» the debt ?
It would have to be agreed with ME as part of the deal. Unless the new owners were totally daft or rich beyond belief, why would they other than it suits their business for tax reasons? I would have thought a figure like £30m buys the Club and the debt. Then it is up to the new owner if he keeps the debt in the books at it;s full value or writes it off.
ME bought some debt from Aviva – £32m worth for which he paid £8m I think. So the real money owed to him should be £8m but he has – legally – decided to show it as £32m in the accounts, charge interest on the full amount (which is rolling up) thus creating accounting losses (a big part of the famous «£6m a year» that he invests) which he can use to offset profits elsewhere in the group.
I understand that the daily financial operations is taken care of Evans company, and not by him «in personal», so Ipswich’ yearly loss goes straight into the companys account.
Could you confirm that ?
Yes. As it is a PLC the Club has separate accounts and these are published annually but as far as ME is concerned they are consolidated within the larger ME Group so it is a business deal for him rather than anything personal.
The relegation led to budget cuts in many areas of the club. The wage bill, by far the club’s biggest outlay, will probably be affected mostly by the releagation.
How do you think it has affected the managers chance to build a group of players he really want, and the policy of selling players before someone can come in ?
I think it’s very clear – even to the point that when money has come in, the manager still hasn’t been able to spend it! There’s nothing wrong with this, it’s the way most clubs below the top 6 in the Premier League operate and how George Burley got us promoted, but the short-term strategy in recent years (every manager since Magilton basically ..) and poor return from the Academy and poor selling prices for players are grounds for criticism in my view.
League One is governed by the Salary Cost Management Protocol (SCMP) which state clubs can’t spend more than 60% of their turnover on player wages.
What impact will it have ? Will it be more difficult for the club to bring in quality players ?
It will have an effect from next season. There will need to be a greater reliance on player sales, young players (Under-21s are exempt) and equity contributions – but not loans – from the owner i.e. he can put in money but as risk capital, not something that is expected to be paid back. Will he though?
Evans and O’Neill has reiterated that they will invest further in the Academy, and that they want it to be at Category One level in the future. That will mean that administrative expenses will be higher, and the club need to get more coaches in.
Is that realistic as it means more investment from an already limited budget ? Or is it only possible if the club get promoted ?
If they start raising good money from player sales then maybe Cat 1 can happen soon, but the Academy output in recent years has either been average quality (Smith, Hyam …) or players have gone for little amounts (Ben Knight, Charlie Brown …). Only Conor Wickham went for the right amount. Lets see if Downes and Woolfenden move on for decent fees.
The PLC owns 12.5 per cent of Ipswich Town Football Club Co Limited and consists of the club’s shareholding prior to the takeover 12 years ago with Marcus Evans owning the other 87.5 per cent.
What influence do they really have at a AGM, and who are the shareholders in PLC ?
No influence at all! ME never turns up to face the meeting. There are hundreds of very small shareholders like me!
Portman Road is not the clubs property, but the stadium is owed by the football club.
How much do the club pay the Ipswich Council every year to rent the ground ? And could the worst thing happen that the club has to leave the ground for some economic reasons ?
I forget the exact figure but the rent is peppercorn, maybe £120k a year and the lease is long – another 50 years or so. It does stop an owner selling the ground, which is good, nor can the council do anthing with the site without offering the Club an alternative e.g. a new site and/or lots of money. Also, the site was designated an ACV – Asset of Community Value – so fan groups and/or other community bodies have first shout if a sale is mooted.
After the last AGM; What is your sincerly opinion on the total economic situation of the club ?
It’s stable – it’s whatever ME wants it to be. He can’t easily pull the plug but nor is he investing enough to make our «right» level anything other than low Championship/high League One, unless we get a manager who can build something unique over the long-term like Chris Wilder has at Sheffield United and Mark Robins seems to be doing at Coventry.
And at last, in this moment we are just outside the playoffs. If we don’t get promoted this season.
What do you think will happen in the summer ? And how long can Ipswich afford to stay in League One, in terms of economy ?
Player sales where we can, contracts not renewed where we can’t. A smaller, less experienced squad next season with the youth playing a greater role. Maybe even a new manager. This all may not be a bad thing although we might need to get used to League One for another season or two while it build with the youth.

Vel, litt forskjellige synspunkter har de to nevnte herrer, men vi kan vel konkludere med at vi kanskje ikke har så mye å frykte vedr. den økonomiske situasjonen, og at klubben ei heller har noe å frykte fra Ipswich Council så lenge de betaler den årlige leien for grunnen som stadion står på. Men hvor lenge klubben kan bli værende i de lavere divisjoner med tanke på økonomi er langt mer usikkert. For hvert år som går i f.eks League One så vil inntektene minske og lønnskostnadene vil måtte reduseres. Det igjen vil gjøre klubben mindre attraktiv for både spillere og sponsorer. Og så kan vi jo egentlig bare spekulere i om ME Group nyter godt av skattefordelene all gjeld og årlige tap gir, og hva som eventuelt kan skje ved et eierskifte. Virker som om ingen helt vet «sannheten» her.
Tar også med en lenke til som jeg synes er veldig interresant, og som flere bør logge inn på og lese. Har selv i lang tid lurt på hvorfor Marcus Evans i det hele tatt kjøpte klubben siden hans ambisjoner ikke står i stil med investeringene de siste årene. Fotball er en kostbar hobby, og særlig når du ikke har så mye greie på fotball fra før. Det burde han kanskje tenkt på litt før…
https://www.eadt.co.uk/sport/former-palace-chairman-jordan-slams-ipswich-owner-evans-on-talksport-1-5986797

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