Chairman's plea for continued support

IPSWICH Town chairman David Sheepshanks has made an emotive appeal to the current 19,000 season-ticket holders to continue their support, writes Tony Garnett.

IPSWICH Town chairman David Sheepshanks has made an emotive appeal to the current 19,000 season-ticket holders to continue their support, writes Tony Garnett.

Manager Joe Royle will only be restored the right to operate in the transfer market if the club can convince the Football League that they have a "robust and sound business policy" once they come out of administration.

The club needs to demonstrate to the bank and the football authorities the depth of support that will be forthcoming next season. Royle's renewed right to trade is not automatic.

"I appeal to supporters to back the club and renew. It is vital to have a vote of confidence from fans so that Joe can trade once again as a football club manager. The more leeway we can give Joe to prepare for next season the better," said Sheepshanks.

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Ipswich Town are banking on the fact that the frozen prices of season-tickets will mean that fans will renew on or before the deadline of May 30. A three per cent increase has been added to the price of season-tickets for 2003-04 for those who purchased last season's ticket after the deadline, which was then June 28 or for new applicants. All who renew or purchase before May 30 will have the price frozen for the 2004-05 season.

"We need to generate revenue to execute our plans. We hope to achieve that by offering value for money to fans," said Town chief executive Derek Bowden.

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It is up to the immediate response of fans as to whether Royle will be able to build a team capable of challenging for promotion or whether his hands are tied.

Ipswich Town could falter like Barnsley or Sheffield Wednesday or they could start to go from strength to strength.

"We need to let Joe do his job," said Sheepshanks. "The sooner we generate some cash the sooner Joe can start to do his job. It will give us hugely improved chances of promotion or reaching the play-offs.

"It is a leap of faith in the club and in Joe's ability to build the team we want. Although he has to cut costs further, he plans no wholesale changes. He has the skill to build a successful team on limited resources that we can all be proud to support."

Ipswich Town are aware that some fans will be considering supporting the club on a match to match basis next season. "I can understand that reaction," said Sheepshanks, "but we desperately need a signal of early support."

Ipswich Town are introducing a Debenture scheme which might be better described as a flexible multi-season-ticket over either a 10-year or 20-year period.

The club need to know by May 16 from all those interested in purchasing a Debenture that offers a seat for every league match, full membership benefits and attendance at an annual lunch with playing staff, directors and senior management of the club. Debentures are tradeable and transferable but there are no concession prices.

The cheapest 10-year Debenture in the lower Greene King and North Stands is £2,900 for 10 years and £5,500 for 20 years. The most expensive is a seat in the directors' box at £22,500 for 10 years and £40,000 for 20 years. There are obvious savings at all levels to be made for such a long-term commitment.

Those buying a season-ticket before May 30 will be entered into a free draw with a first prize of a 20-year Debenture seat, second prize a 10-year Debenture seat and third prize a one-year season ticket.

The club is also working on Loan Stock Issue which is available to supporters who are prepared to invest significant five or six figure sums. "At the moment I am seeking an indication of interest and have spoken to possible investors including members of the Board. There are very strong controls," added Sheepshanks.

"I welcome discussions with anyone who thinks they can help and would be delighted to speak to Peter Morris, who expressed his interest this week.

"The club is more important than any individual and will benefit from all interested parties pulling together.

"In due course the shareholders will be able to elect a new Board, including the chairman. At present I am only looking as far as refinancing the club."

The club is committed to the idea of a general public share issue but it may take some months. The delay, beyond the control of the club, is a cause of frustration.

The strength of support during the next few weeks is crucial to the future of Ipswich Town Football Club. What has happened in the past, and why things went wrong, have been well documented.

Bitter lessons have been learned but one bright fact that emerged from yesterday's press conference is that the cut-price sale of Darren Ambrose to Newcastle United includes a sell-on clause.

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