Ian Milne hopes Ipswich Town fans appreciate the club’s new-found transparency
- Credit: Sarah Lucy brown
Stability, sustainability and transparency. They may not be the sexiest of words when it comes to football, but right now Ipswich Town have qualities that plenty of their rivals’ owners and fans would love.
The Blues have just announced their first annual pre-tax profit in the eight years Marcus Evans has been owner.
The debt continues to rise (£87.2m) and the operating loss was still £6.1m. However, when put in context, both in terms of the current Championship picture and Town’s recent past, these figures paint a good picture.
“There are a few troubling signs out there in the football world at the minute,” said managing director Ian Milne.
“Look at Bolton at the minute, unable to pay their players. They are up for sale, West Brom are up for sale, Aston Villa, Wolves, I think Millwall is up for sale. I’m sure there are others too.
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“There are a lot of clubs up for sale but there doesn’t seem to be anybody in a rush to buy them. That’s the worrying thing.
“Some clubs are still spending 16, 17 million in salaries every year and how sustainable that is, how long they will keep that up, remains to be seen.
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“By contrast, financially we are looking good and Marcus is very happy where he is.
“In 2012 the annual losses peaked at £16m and we started to go down a slightly different route.
“Marcus has gone for sustainability and both Mick (McCarthy, manager) and Dave Bowman (director of football) understand that.”
But, three years into the new prudent philosophy, do Ipswich Town supporters understand it?
“Good question,” said Milne. “I think they are finally getting it now.
“It always used to be ‘why aren’t you spending money?’ whenever we saw fans, but at the two recent AGMs – the fans’ one and the shareholders’ one – I don’t think we got any of that.
“Hopefully our message that you can’t keep expecting the owner to keep throwing money at things has got through.
“We are trying to get people on board with this idea that you can achieve good things through getting the right people in your club and then working as a team from top to bottom.
“I think our fans are respecting that and I hope that part of it has been that we’ve been a lot more transparent with these issues and a lot more honest with them.
“Now when people say to me ‘why don’t we spend more?’ I say to them ‘you do realise that the average Championship footballer’s salary is about seven, eight thousand pounds a week?’
“They can then do the math, multiple that by 25/30, and think ‘actually, yes, that’s a lot of money that Marcus is putting in’.”
Staying sustainable for the Championship, but not over-stretching for the Premier League. The fear, among many, is that formula ultimately equals a continuation of the 14-year groundhog day existence that Ipswich Town has had in English football’s second tier.
“People say ‘it’s the same old, same old’ and in some ways it is,” admitted Milne.
“We’ve already proven that this way can bring success though. I know people always want instant success in football, but look at how far we’ve come in three years.
“It is upsetting when people say ‘we just want to be in the Championship’. No way! Everyone at this club remains as ambitious as ever.”
Ipswich Town managing director Ian Milne says the club has finally learned to pay market value when it comes to players’ wages.
The Blues’ accounts for 2014/15 were announced last week, with the club making a pre-tax profit for the first time since Marcus Evans’ takeover back in December 2007.
And one interesting figure that leapt off the page was that the wage bill has risen from £13.9m to £15.97m.
“The wage bill has gone up this season quite appreciably,” said Milne. “People say ‘where has the Tyrone Mings and Aaron Cresswell money gone?’ Well that’s where it is being ploughed into.
“We do have a very good scouting network and that enables us to get players at the minimum transfer fee or allows us to deal with the player direct.
“Nevertheless we’ve got to pay market value when it comes to wages.
“We’re not paying under the market value, but the important thing is that we’re not paying over the market value either – which is something we have done in the past.
“Back in 2012 (when the club made a loss of £16m) we were paying some very high salaries.”
He continued: “We certainly aren’t the highest spenders in terms of wages.
“Blackburn and Nottingham Forest make no secret of the fact that their wage bill is around the £16million mark and that they want to get that down.
“We are paying more than we were, but I suspect it is still quite a bit less than some of the clubs that surround us.”
Milne added: “You and I wouldn’t want our salaries broadcast and I certainly won’t do that when it comes to our manager and players, nor will I have a go at how much we have to pay them because that is the market rate.
“I remember Gary Neville discussing Wayne Rooney’s salary and saying ‘yes, the man on the street may see it as ridiculous, and they may be right, but if Manchester United don’t pay it, someone else will’.
“We’ve been honest with our mistakes. We have overpaid in the past. Now we think we are getting that balance right.”