Town owner Evans on finishing the season, financial implications, new kits and why he has revealed season ticket renewal prices now
- Credit: Archant
Ipswich Town owner Marcus Evans has written to the club’s fans, discussing the desire to finish the 2019/20 season, financial concerns and season ticket details.
Ipswich Town owner Marcus Evans has written to supporters to outline how the club are working to limit the financial impact of coronavirus and detail what happens next for season ticket holders who would ordinarily renew.
Football’s suspension at the beginning of March means the Blues are missing out on large areas of their regular income, including ticket sales, sponsorships and corporate use of Portman Road.
In his letter, which is published in full below, Evans states he is doing all he can to ensure the club can ‘emerge from lockdown as best we can in the same shape in which we entered’ while remaining in discussions with the EFL regarding how 2019/20 will be completed and how next season could potentially shape-up.
While the Blues have delayed the launch of their season ticket campaign for 2020/21, supporters who would ordinarily renew and pay by interest-free direct debit or pay the full cost up front can have their ticket price frozen if they renew before May 7.
With the real possibility of matches being played behind closed doors at the start of next season, Evans has said season ticket holders will be given access to a live video stream of games, will be given a complimentary ticket to a home cup match and a pair of tickets to the ‘next available’ home league game for friends or family.
The Town owner has also vowed to personally donate the amount matching five per cent of all ticket income before May 7 to the NHS to be used locally.
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“Before I mention any football related matters, first and foremost can I pass on the best wishes of everyone at Ipswich Town in these difficult and unprecedented times and a special thank you to NHS and other key workers putting themselves ahead of others to keep us safe and the country running whilst many of us are in the relative safety of lockdown.
Wherever we can, we will make our facilities available to support local healthcare and we are constantly looking at any other ways we can carry out our role in supporting the community. If anyone has any ideas we are more than open to suggestions.
Football and the passion it brings out in all of us is put into perspective when looking at the massive wider issues we face as a community, however I know that when we and other clubs start opening our doors again it is bound throughout the whole of the country to be an important sign of our returning to some level of normality and we want to do everything we can to ensure that your club is in the best possible shape to return after this crisis.
The financial fallout caused by the pandemic is a very real threat to the entire existence of some football clubs and has been the subject of much discussion at recent EFL meetings. Ipswich and our colleagues at other clubs are in discussion with all stakeholders to look at ways to manage the risks in the uncertain times still ahead of us. The recent joint announcement by the PFA and EFL on player wage deferrals is one such initiative.
Onto football matters closer to home; the EFL recently announced that when football returns it may be necessary to play some matches behind closed doors, though this is not yet certain.
With our new season ticket campaign usually well underway by now I felt it timely to update you on our plans for ticketing for the remainder of this season and next. There will be a new season, though we don’t yet know when it will start, and we as a club will provide total transparency on what it means to be a season ticket holder in these unique circumstances, for season 2020/21.
Now that there is the possibility of games being played behind closed doors from time to time when health measures require, our season ticket strategy needs to address this and these are the same issues now as they will be in three months time and therefore we are working on how to live with this going forwards.
In common with many companies in many fields, ITFC has seen a loss of revenue from the pandemic and like other companies we are consulting with our employees (playing and non playing) to find ways to avoid any restructuring so we emerge as best we can in the same shape when we come out of ‘lockdown’ as when we went in.
There is an incredible togetherness and determination to achieve this goal and the ‘ITFC team’ are playing their part to achieve this aim. As always the fans have a huge part to play and an important part of our planning is understanding our season ticket support for next season.
In terms of some of the matters that impact on supporters; ongoing discussions with the EFL are all based around finishing the current season and it appears that at all levels of the game the focus and belief is that this season will be played out even if it means a delay to the start of next season with a possible 2-3 week gap between the end of this season and the start of 20/21. We will look to communicate fixed plans for the rest of the season as soon as we know more.
We are also discussing at a league and club level the development of a best practice approach to social distancing at the stadium for so long as it may be needed in some form. This is clearly a major challenge however we are looking at a number of options.
By now we would normally have announced and be near to the conclusion of our 20/21 season ticket Early Bird special price promotion. However due to the current situation we will now be delaying this for a few more weeks.
We know that many fans will have their own economic concerns and whilst the Club will be financially at a loss due to the pandemic my priority has been to find a way to ensure that we keep season ticket prices as low as possible. I am therefore giving our existing season ticket holders a chance to renew now, pre Early Bird, at the same price as last season with some special additional benefits and also so that they can continue to use the very popular 12 month interest free Direct Debit scheme.
To allay any concerns you may have if any matches next season are played behind closed doors, please note that we are adding four major benefits for all season ticket holders renewing by May 7. Subject to the technology being in place you will receive free internet viewing of any behind closed doors home match for next season and in addition for any behind closed doors match as additional compensation you will also receive a complimentary ticket to a home cup match, so long as there are still cup matches in the season and also two free tickets for guests to join you at the next available League home game in season 20/21 as an additional make good for the loss of a game behind closed doors.
In addition if we play in League One next season and are promoted to the Championship for season 2021/22, then all those purchases made by May 7 will have a guaranteed price freeze for season 21/22.
As mentioned earlier in this letter the Club is working on many initiatives to support local healthcare services and as part of this commitment, for every season ticket purchased by May 7 I will personally be donating 5% of that revenue received by that date to the NHS to be used locally.
In terms of payment for next year’s season tickets, fans can maintain the usual 12 month interest free payment plan (which is used by 70 per cent of season ticket holders) or make their usual annual payment at this time however, we are fully aware of the economic uncertainties that people are going through at this challenging time and should any supporter not wish to renew, please let us know by April 30 that you wish to opt out of your DD scheme.
I fully understand that some of you may wish to wait until there is greater clarity as to when next season will start and there will be an Early Bird ticket offer announced in due course. This will be at an attractive price but not at the same price, or with the same additional benefits as the above price freeze renewal offer as we will need to take account of the financial implications of the pandemic at that time - unless of course we secure promotion and then all price freeze promises made for 2019/20 will apply. If you use the interest free Direct Debit payment scheme, this will be available but as it will be over less than 12 months, it will obviously be at a higher monthly rate. On retail matters our plans for the release of next season’s kit were well advanced prior to the health crisis and as such our usual launch programme and hopefully showcasing occasions will take place over the summer and at the usual community events post July.
We continue to work on any implications of the pandemic affecting supply and are confident of being able to reveal our new season kits as soon as possible, although maybe a little later than has been possible in the last couple of seasons due to the current circumstances.
Once again my best wishes to everyone in the Ipswich community, football and non football fans alike. Please be sure we will do everything we can to assist our return to whatever levels of normality are open to us.
There is also the small matter of coming back with a fully fit and energised squad to challenge for promotion.
First and foremost though, the health of everyone is of the most importance. I wish you well.
SEASON TICKET Q&A
Why has the Club announced the renewal offer when there is so much uncertainty in football and in people’s lives at the moment?
Over 70 per cent of season ticket holders use the interest free Direct Debit scheme as it spreads the cost over 12 months and the Club have received questions from season ticket holders about next season. We are fully aware that football is not high priority for most at the moment but in order for season ticket holders to have that 12 month option should they choose, we have to open up the renewal option now. The Club is not, as such, selling season tickets for 2020/21. This offer is only to those who are already season ticket holders and are happy to renew now. In recognition of this commitment at this time of uncertainty we have added unique additional benefits to those confirming their ticket now and price certainty.
So if I’m a current season ticket holder and want to renew, how do I go about it?
If you pay via the Club’s Direct Debit scheme, then your season ticket will automatically be renewed for 2020/21. You don’t have to do anything. Your first instalment will be taken on May 11. If you are a season ticket holder but not on the Direct Debit scheme you can renew online at www.itfcdirect.com from Tuesday, April 21.
I’ve paid for a season ticket for 2019/20 so what happens if the season is not completed. Do I get a refund?
The EFL have made it clear they are looking to finish the season but if that doesn’t happen, the Club will obviously recompense season ticket holders in some way. This has yet to be finalised and we would expect to take the lead from the EFL but refunds, complimentary tickets and /or credit towards future tickets for 2020/21 would be the most likely options.
What happens if the current season is completed behind closed doors?
A decision will be taken by the Club as and when the situation is clearer but one option being explored if games are played behind closed doors, is to stream the matches live and free to season ticket holders via the Club’s iFollow service. This possibility has been raised with the EFL and there is a desire from the EFL to provide this service though it will be very much dependent on their technology.
Say the 2020/21 season kicks off behind closed doors?
It’s too early to say exactly how the technology will work but again the free, live streaming option to season ticket holders will be at the forefront of the Club’s plans. There will also be the additional free tickets to other games outlined in Marcus’ letter to those who renew by May 7.
If the 2019/20 season is not completed until much later in the year and impacts on the 2020/21 season with fewer fixtures played, what will the Club do?
There has been no indication from the EFL that next season’s fixture list will be affected. The Club will look at that situation as it develops but would favour a ‘credit note’ towards a season ticket for 2021/22 as we will still have the same costs to run the Club in 20/21.
Please confirm the prices for 2020/21?
Prices have been frozen for next season for those taking up the initial renewal offer.
If I’m a first time or lapsed season ticket holder, can I buy now?
No. Season tickets are not on sale at the moment. This offer is only for 2019/20 season ticket holders .There will be an opportunity to buy season tickets at a later date on favourable terms, though not the same as for current season ticket holders who take advantage of this renewal offer.
If I don’t want to renew my season ticket for 2020/21, how do I go about cancelling my direct debit then?
You can call the Club’s Ticket Enquiries line on 03330 050503 from 9am on Tuesday 21 April or preferably you can email the ticket office at email@example.com. You must use either method by 5pm on 30 April. Please have your customer number to hand if contacting by telephone. If emailing, please include your customer number in your email. The Club shop is not open for the opt-out process.
If I cancel my direct debit but want to start paying again by that method for a season ticket later in the year, do I have to register online again and can I keep the same customer number?
You’ll be able to keep the same customer number and should be able to follow the same process as before. More details on pricing will follow in due course when it becomes clearer regarding the likely dates for conclusion of this season and the start of 2020/21.
If I don’t renew my season ticket now, will I lose my seat?
Not necessarily. The Club will not ‘open up’ seats that have not been renewed until we are actively selling season tickets. Again, more details will follow in due course and a date will be announced in advance of seats being released for general sale. Of course if the seat is still available if you decide to purchase at a later stage we will do our best to meet your specific request but the only way to absolutely guarantee your seat is to renew before May 7.
Anything else we should know?
The Club have teamed up with ‘powered by SeatGeek’ to provide a slick new ticket system which will be in place over the summer, providing supporters with a host of new benefits, including a new mobile phone stadium access function. To fall in line with other Premier League and EFL clubs, a ‘powered by SeatGeek’ booking fee of £2.50 will be added to each season ticket, with the cost spread across 12 months for those renewing using the 12 month interest free Direct Debit scheme.
A full set of terms and conditions relating to the 2021/21 season will be published on the Club website in due course.