Ipswich Town have achieved two promotions in three years under American ownership group Gamechanger 20 Ltd. In part one of this interview, Stuart Watson spoke to majority shareholder Ed Schwartz about the club's rapid rise to the Premier League. 


Ed Schwartz smiles and shakes his head when reminded that it was little more than three years ago that Gamechanger 20 Ltd completed their takeover of Ipswich Town.

Eyebrows were raised when a multi billion dollar pension fund for the police officers and firefighters working in the arid southwestern US state of Arizona invested in a provincial English third-tier football club.

And yet here we are, two promotions later, the Blues preparing for life back in the globally-famous Premier League following a 22-year absence. It's proved a match made in heaven. But were there any sliding doors moments along the way?

“We had looked at other clubs, but that didn't get nearly as far," says Schwartz, the CEO of ORG, the US investment firm which manages the aforementioned Arizona Public Safety Personnel Retirement System (PSPRS).

Ipswich Town players celebrate after promotion to the Premier League was secured. Ipswich Town players celebrate after promotion to the Premier League was secured. (Image: PA)

"Even up until the last moment it (the takeover) was very much in the balance. There was a lot of back and forth. That’s understandable because anyone who owns a football club will find it hard to let go.

"The previous owner (Marcus Evans) had a nice run, a long run, and it was time for him to move on. But even knowing that, I'm sure it was emotional and difficult to let go. We finally got it done and you kind of forget now about the difficulty we had in putting it together. 

“We had a great team led by Mike O’Leary, our chairman, who led the transaction and worked very closely with me. We were able to get it across the finish line. I can’t believe that’s only a little over three years ago."

Looking back, what was it in Ipswich Town Football Club, languishing in League One at the time, that this American ownership group were attracted to?

Marcus Evans owned Ipswich Town from 2007 to 2021.Marcus Evans owned Ipswich Town from 2007 to 2021. (Image: Archant)

“In all of our investing we look for value," explained Schwartz. "A lot of times it’s unrecognised value.

"Ipswich Town had been stripped so badly over so many years that I think a lot of people really didn't recognise what I would call hidden value, or what a sleeping giant it was. It just needed to be reawoken.  

“We had to rely on the people in the UK to explain the potential. And frankly I don’t think even they knew the actual potential that has been realised. As high as our expectations have been for this fanbase, they have always exceeded it. Whether it’s season ticket sales, merchandise sales - it’s been incredible. That does give us additional fuel to continue to strive and move forwards."

Schwartz is quick to tell people that Ipswich Town is his favourite topic of conversation. He and his fellow investors speaks about the club with an enthusiasm that can't be faked.

“When we first embarked on this endeavour the advice I was given was ‘try not to be emotional’," he says.

Ipswich Town majority shareholder Ed Schwartz has described 2023/24 as a 'magical season'.Ipswich Town majority shareholder Ed Schwartz has described 2023/24 as a 'magical season'. (Image: YouTube)

“I can tell you though that there were many times this season when that was difficult! There was a stretch of game towards the end that had so many late goals that I have to admit I didn’t really enjoy. I was so nervous! 

“It was just a magical season. Incredible. So many great moments. I got to see a lot of them in person and if I wasn’t at Portman Road I was watching every single game at home. 

"The games that are during the week are in the middle of a work day here, so we set up a TV in the conference room and a number of us come in, bring food, and have a mini watch party. We’re screaming and yelling and people are wondering what’s going on! We really have a great time watching it together. 

“When the games are on Saturday I've had people over to my house. I have a nice set-up with an outside television on the patio. We’ve got a lot of new Ipswich fans in my hometown of Cleveland, so that’s been a lot of fun to watch. 

“The young ones in the family have all the new gear. I’ve had people contact me who I haven’t spoken to since my university days since promotion was sealed. I often like to say that sports brings people together. This great season, this great journey, has certainly brought a lot of people in Ipswich together and that’s also been the case here in the US."

The joyous scenes which greeted Ipswich Town securing their long-awaited return to the Premier League.The joyous scenes which greeted Ipswich Town securing their long-awaited return to the Premier League. (Image: PA)

Like all those who were at Portman Road on May 4, Schwartz gets goose bumps when thinking about the moment when Championship promotion was secured. 

“It really was something," he says. "Never in my wildest dreams did I think it would look like that. It must have been an hour that the supporters were on the pitch singing, chanting. It was the most incredibly magical moment.

"I didn’t believe last year (when League One promotion was secured) could be topped, but it really was. It was an incredible experience that I know has been long in the making. You could see that these fans, these long-suffering fans, had really got what they deserved and that is Ipswich Town back in the Premier League."

Ipswich Town's rapid rise has certainly captured hearts and minds. The people of Suffolk and beyond are proud of their football club once more. A new generation of supporters, which were in danger of being lost, have been locked in.

"A lot of people want to focus on the winning and getting into the Premier League, but we got into this not just with the idea of winning," says Schwartz.

"Of course we wanted to be successful, but Mark Ashton and his entire team, one of their big selling points to the ownership was that ‘we’re going to do this in a very measured, logical way, we’re going to try and be successful on the pitch, but we’re also going to focus on the community, it’s such an important part of what we do’. 

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“There are many things that are not in the press, that are not known. There are so many great things you can do as a football club if you care. The one thing I’m most proud of is that this management team, this ownership group, we really do care about the community.  

“It’s not just about winning, it’s not just about making money, it’s about the fans and the community. The reality is that if you do win more, you do make more money. But that comes from focusing first on the community, on the fanbase, and just building it from the ground up and doing it right. 

“It never gets old when two or three generations of supporters come up to me and say ‘thank you’. It really is gratifying seeing the community brought together."

He adds:  “I often like to say that while we are the owners of this club, it really is not the case. This is a point in time where we look at ourselves as caretakers. This club existed many, many years before we all existed and it’s going to exist for many, many years after us.

"This club belongs to the community, it belongs to the supporters. It’s the most incredible fanbase I could ever have imagined and we take our responsibility as caretakers of this great club very, very seriously."