Blues seek £50m jackpot
IPSWICH Town begin their quest for a money-spinning return to football's Premiership today – and a £50 million pound prize for the region's economy.The Blues kick-off the Division One campaign against Reading at Portman Road this afternoon hoping to put the horrors of last season – when the club's future was plunged into doubt – behind them.
IPSWICH Town begin their quest for a money-spinning return to football's Premiership today – and a £50 million pound prize for the region's economy.
The Blues kick-off the Division One campaign against Reading at Portman Road this afternoon hoping to put the horrors of last season – when the club's future was plunged into doubt – behind them.
If Joe Royle's side can bounce back to the top-flight, it will provide a timely boost for the club's troubled finances and ease the suffering of scores of local businesses hit by Town's fall into administration in February.
Club chairman David Sheepshanks said a return to the Premiership would bag the Blues a jackpot of £15m in television cash alone – and knows it would be worth much more to the club and the region.
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"The best solution to our problems – and to do the best by way of our unfortunate creditors – is to gain promotion, and that is what every single one of us is trying to do," he said.
During Town's two-season stint in the Premiership at the start of the decade, commerce chiefs estimated the wider economy benefited by as much as £1m a week.
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That could see the region's coffers boosted by more than £50m a year if the Blues can secure promotion by next April.
Bob Feltwell, chief executive of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, said it would take many years for soured relations between the club and many of its creditors – who will receive just 5p in every £1 they are owed – to recover.
But he added the future success of the club – the "football feelgood factor" –remained vital to businesses across the county.
"Football is always worth big money and, if you put to one side the losses that local companies had to suffer because of administration, we hope over the years the local economy will benefit from a good run by Ipswich Town," he said.
"We really want them to make good progress and the more people who know about Ipswich and Suffolk, the better for business. If the club was to get promoted, we are talking about it being worth millions of pounds a month, as it was a couple of seasons ago."
He added: "There are 650,000 people in Suffolk and if they all feel a bit better because the football is going well and spend an extra pound a week, that's millions of extra pounds every month."
On the eve of the new season, Mr Sheepshanks said he was "optimistic" about the club's chances of promotion to the Premiership.
"We have made tremendous progress off the field and everybody is looking forward to getting back to football again. There is a real belief and hunger about the squad to do very well," he said.
"This is not a moment for complacency or taking our foot off the gas. It is very important we hold on to our finances and have a successful share issue in the autumn.
"Providing that goes well, the club is in a much better position and this season we can really concentrate on football."
But the Blues chief warned it would get harder to get back amongst the elite of English football if they failed to go up this term.
"This season is our second year of parachute payments from the Premiership, so it presents us with a better chance of promotion than next season may do by virtue of the fact we are able to retain some of our ex-Premier League players."
Mr Sheepshanks admitted the club was "seriously in crisis" in the spring and its future was under threat.
But he said: "The club retained an awful lot of strength throughout and we have come out the other side.
"We had a strong rescue plan which we have already made work, to a large extent, through perseverance, and we have been pretty successful in shifting every single one of our highest-paid players.
"It is very disappointing to see favourites leave but I am afraid hard choices have had to be made – we wouldn't do it if we didn't have to. I would urge supporters to understand those decisions are part of a plan we have worked out with Joe Royle."
He paid tribute to the club's followers for their ongoing support – 18,000 have bought season tickets – and added: "For everybody connected with Ipswich Town, it is time to put the past and the problems behind us and concentrate on the future and the solutions."