Fans invited to provide fighting fund

BLUES fans are about to be asked to answer a May Day call from the club to support a new share issue and give manager Joe Royle a fighting fund to win promotion to the Premiership.

By Derek Davis

BLUES fans are about to be asked to answer a May Day call from the club to support a new share issue and give manager Joe Royle a fighting fund to win promotion to the Premiership.

The formal launch for a second share issue is expected to be ratified by the board within the next few days, before being put to the shareholders at an extraordinary general meeting, which would be held in May.

But whereas last time the club raised more than £2m to help them following administration, any money raised this time would be handed straight to Royle to pump into his squad.

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Ipswich Town have manoeuvred themselves a two-year window to win promotion to the lucrative Premier League by rescheduling their debt to their major lenders and are close to reaching the required number of season ticket sales, which makes a second share issue feasible.

Ipswich Town chairman David Sheepshanks is confident that the new money would give Royle the necessary weapons to achieve automatic promotion next season.

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Sheepshanks said: “The premise of this share issue is utterly different to the last time. This time it is from a position of comparative strength. Whatever funds are raised will go straight into the team.

“If it is £100,000, if it is £1m or £32m - whatever, it will go into the team in the form of new players, possible transfer fees and wages.

“We have a two-year window negotiated with our lenders and that provides us with a real opportunity to mount a concerted promotion drive.

“We will do our best to be promoted next season and if that doesn't happen then our plan is to be in the same position next summer where there will be no pressure to sell and be in a position to be even stronger the year after.”

Blues boss Joe Royle has made no secret that he wants to sign Ricardo Fuller from Southampton, secure the services of Jimmy Juan from Monaco and bring in an experienced centre half.

By making extra funds available to him, Sheepshanks believes Royle, coupled with the players he has already secured on contract, will have a strong squad.

Sheepshanks said: “This is not about saving the club; it is about moving the club forward.

“The financial conditions are right given the new arrangement with our lenders so that means the new investment is in the team and not to service debt for at least two years.

“We believe that when all the injured players are recovered the existing squad is already competitive. If we can add to it then we should be a serious promotion contender

“The way some of our young players have performed this season is already really exciting and we believe there are real grounds for optimism.

“When you look at Danny Haynes, Billy Clarke, Nicky Forster, Sam Parkin and Alan Lee then we have five strikers.

“Gavin Williams is a proven attacking midfielder and there are so many areas which already look stronger than, candidly, we looked against Stoke City last week.

“So for those three reasons the board believe this is the right time to invest in the team.”

If agreement is given by the board and then the shareholders, the launch will be in time for Royle to have the funds available to him during the summer transfer window in July and August, which should enable him to secure targets.

Sheepshanks said: “If we have a successful share issue and can add some financial muscle then we will be fighting fit. That will make us financially proactive on the transfer front. We will be prudent but it will enable us to act decisively on a player we want instead of scratching around for a compromise.

“This is something to really look forward to. We have suffered much pain and many supporters have been long-suffering and I can only empathise.

“I'm not here to make excuses but we have been very unfortunate on the injury front and I would suggest that if we had not had the injury crisis we have had then we would have been pushing for the play-off places.

“We have had to sit through some mediocre fare, especially against Luton and Stoke, and that has not been acceptable.”

Although the Town directors discussed a share issue last summer it was rejected but Sheepshanks believes this is now the right time to accept the proposal.

He said: “The board has to decide if we believe in our heart of hearts that the climate and conditions are right to raise more money in the club. We did not think they were last summer.

“Everyone was terribly disappointed at not being promoted. We were all suffering from the shock of the end of the season, which felt almost like a relegation and we knew then that there were going to be player sales.

“We never hid that fact although we did say there was no need for a fire sale.

“Having missed out and having rowed the boat out with the cost of loans for James Scowcroft and David Unsworth, it meant it was tight financially last summer and so not the right time to go to the supporters for a share issue. Also, importantly, at that time we did not have a new arrangement with our lenders and it took us the best part of six months to be able to negotiate this new position.”

The club is expected to formally announce their decision early next week before calling an EGM.

For more on Joe Royle being promised an extra year in charge of Ipswich if he gets Town promoted next season and the latest news on season ticket applications, see today's EADT.

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