'We intend to invest both on and off the pitch' - Town's new owners on their plans
- Credit: Zoom/PA
The new owners of Ipswich Town are committed to investing in the club both on and off the pitch.
The Gamechanger 20 group, comprising of three American businessmen known as the Three Lions, Ed Schwartz from investment firm ORG Portfolio Management and new chairman Mike O’Leary, have bought the club from Marcus Evans in a deal understood to be worth £40million.
Brett Johnson, along with Mark Detmer and Berke Bakay, form the Three Lions group and have worked together to grow US second-tier club Phoenix Rising into one of the division’s strongest clubs over the last five years, with a new stadium on the way.
Winning football matches will be the top priority for Town’s new owners as they bid to get out of League One as soon as possible, but Johnson insisted they intend to invest off the pitch too in order to improve facilities at Portman Road and links to the community.
“I’ve never had the honour or the pleasure but I can’t wait to visit Portman Road,” Johnson said.
“We intend to invest both on and off the pitch, in keeping with what we’ve done in Phoenix but also in some other markets (with clubs in Rhode Island and in Denmark). We’re excited to roll the sleeves up and invest on and off the pitch to make everyone have pride in the club.”
O’Leary, who has been at the club this week and is taking a hands-on role until the appointment of a new chief executive, was asked whether he could reveal the group's initial investment. He replied: "Other than saying it’s substantial I’m not sure we’d want to say much more than that really. We don’t want to hamper our negotiation ability when trying to buy players!
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“There’s a lot of competing priorities, absolutely, so one of our tasks will be to get those in the right order.
“The team is top of that list because nothing else really matters if we’re not winning football matches. The team will come first and that has challenges of differentiation between the first-team and the academy and the facilities we have to keep people fit. All of those things.
“There are lots of items trying to grab our attention as first on the list.”
He continued: "Yeah, there are a few places where it is a little tired. And there are some places where we’d love to have a 500-seater restaurant rather than a 225-seater restaurant etc. But that takes time. We’re not going to do that overnight.
"I remember at my previous club it took a decade for them to really catch up. We did it a bit at a time. We didn’t do stupid things. I think there was one stand we rebuilt in its entirety, but apart from that we did it a piece at a time and it’s now a very pretty stadium that’s fun to go to."
Asked for a timescale for success, both on the pitch and off it, Johnson said: “We’d like it to start immediately.
“We’d hope to get something done between now and the end of the current season because we are eternal optimists on this side. We look forward to working hard between now and the beginning of next season and would like to see immediate results.
“We have a healthy impatience but we don’t come at this lightly. We’ve won trophies the last three years in Phoenix so we recognise it’s not an easy thing to do to win a championship anywhere.
“I’ve been fortunate to be a part of that but have also been involved in a couple of bad seasons which hurt and make me appreciate every single win and every single cup. I don’t want to be shy about the fact we intend to put a winning club on the pitch and we want to see us move into the Championship.”
The first game of Town’s new era comes this weekend against MK Dons.