SIMON CLEGG INTERVIEW: Ipswich Town won’t employ a high-risk strategy
There’s been plenty of controversy surrounding player contracts at Ipswich Town over the past few years. In the second part of the Star’s exclusive interview, STUART WATSON spoke to chief executive Simon Clegg about the policy going forwards
With Grant Leadbitter becoming the latest expensive signing to leave the club for nothing at the end of his contract, Clegg said: “I think football has changed. If you look at the broader picture outside Ipswich Town there were many, many more players running out of contract at the end of last season than perhaps hitherto has been the case.
“Yes, we lost Gareth (McAuley) and yes, we lost David Norris last summer. Chuck (Norris) was offered a new contract; I’ve stayed in regular contact with him since he went to Portsmouth, I’ve been in contact with him as recently as the last couple of weeks.
“He wanted a three-year contract, we were only prepared to offer him a two-year contract. Look at the position he is in now (Portsmouth relegated and in administration). The grass isn’t always greener.
“What is important is that the owner, manager and myself take the right decisions for this football club.”
‘SIGN OR BE SOLD’ POLICY
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With Paul Jewell saying that he will now employ a ‘sign or be sold’ policy for players entering the final year of their contracts, Clegg said: “That’s something that we’ve spoken about. Sometimes though, when you get into the final year of a player’s contract and they’re playing well, then maybe you need them for the rest of the season to achieve the goal that you want to achieve.
“If you get promoted then offering people new contracts obviously isn’t going to be an issue.
“I’m highly conscious that Lee (Martin) has only got another year on his contract. Let’s see what happens there.”
FINANCIAL FAIR PLAY
“I think I’ve made it very clear here that my number one priority is to run this business on sound financial grounds, or as sound a ground as you can get in the world of football.
“We need to recognise that the introduction of Financial Fair Play is going to have an impact, not just on us but on everyone. As I said recently, sanctions won’t kick in for two years so you could chase the dream for two years, run a very high risk strategy of not achieving that dream and then being left with the fall out and the consequences.
“We have made the decision that we will recognise the direction in which we need to move for Financial Fair Play and won’t make any long-term financial commitments to players in terms of three or four-year contracts that can’t be sustained in the context of Financial Fair Play.
“It’s horses for courses. If you bring in younger players they may not always be proven. You may not want to tie yourself into a three or four-year contract. You could have a lot of people running around who haven’t made it and who would be a drain on your resources.
“It’s making sure you do the right deal for the right player.”
“I think there are a number of players struggling with the concept that Financial Fair Play means that, on a like-for-like basis, players are going to be earning less in the future than they are now.
“Players don’t like that. No-one likes taking a pay cut, particularly if they feel they are delivering to the same level. Generally speaking, players want to earn more and more and more.
“I’m not talking about any specific individual here, but across the board there will be a number of players who come out of contract this summer with levels of expectations that can’t be achieved within their existing club. They believe they will find another club where those expectations can be achieved, but there will be many who are surprised that other clubs are tightening their belts in the same way this football club is.
“People have been talking about this culture shift for years, but I think the penny is now finally dropping with many. I’m speaking to a number of my counterparts who say their club will face a number of financial challenges, even over the next couple of months.”
CUTTING THE CLOTH
“I don’t think it means we will lose a competitive advantage.
“I’ve cut out a lot of overheads on the non-playing side because staffing is your biggest drain on resources. Certainly when I arrived we were still structured like a club that had just come out of the Premier League, so we had to look at everything we do and how we do it.
“I wouldn’t say we’re back to the bare bones, but I’ve lost my commercial director, I’ve lost my HR director, I’ve lost my communications director and his secretary.
“Reducing overheads frees up money for the playing side. If I hadn’t done that then the playing budget would have had to have been even further reduced.”