‘There’s no getting away from it, we need the money’ – O’Neill on season ticket compensation options
Ipswich Town have revealed five compensation options for those who had 2019/20 season tickets. STUART WATSON spoke to the club’s general manager of football operations, Lee O’Neill, about the announcement.
Ipswich Town fans not asking for season ticket refunds will enable the club to strengthen the squad over the coming weeks, says general manager of football operations Lee O’Neill.
The Blues have finally revealed the options available to the 12,000 or so people owed remuneration for the five games which were cancelled towards the end of the coronavirus curtailed 2019/20 campaign.
It’s a choice between donating the money to the club, receiving it in vouchers to spend in person at Portman Road, or claiming a cash refund which will be drip-fed back into bank accounts over a period of at least 10 months.
If all 12,000 or so supporters took the full cash refund option it would cost the club in the region of £800k at a time when there has been vastly reduced revenue for four months and counting.
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“We’re well aware that many have taken pay cuts or lost their jobs during this pandemic,” said O’Neill. “We’re an entertainment industry and people are going to have less money to spend on that.
“But season ticket funds are a massive part of what keeps Ipswich Town operational. There’s no getting away from it, we need the money.
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“Look, our supporters have been first class, absolutely unbelievable, for many years – through the highs and lows. The last few years have not been good and they’ve stuck with us. It’s so appreciated and we just hope they stick with us again.
“Their season ticket money will enable us to strengthen the squad and continue investing in the academy.
“We need to strengthen the squad, we need to get players in, we need to do a lot of things to move forwards. In order to do that we need investment and only so much of that can be put in by one person.”
That one person he refers to is, of course, Marcus Evans. The Blues owner has funded annual losses of between £3m and £5m in recent times, that figure much higher in the early years which followed his late 2007 takeover. The club’s £96.3m debt is owed exclusively to him and, in reality, it’s a vast amount of money he will never get back given how far Town are removed from the riches of the Premier League.
“The financial situation at a lot of clubs wasn’t great before all this, so this additional pressure is likely to tip several over the edge,” said O’Neill. “Wigan won’t be the last to go into administration. I hope I’m wrong, but they could be one of a number.
“We are lucky to have Marcus plugging the financial shortfalls. Without him, it would be a very different situation for us.
“As it is, things are still going to be really tight. Potentially we are talking, worst case scenario, about a £10m loss over the next year or so. We’ll be struggling to fill that hole. If this situation were to continue for much longer then there’d be a problem.”
Asked if the club was in any immediate financial danger, O’Neill replied: “No, we’re not, but you don’t know what the future is going to look like if this all continues for another six or 12 months.”
Writing to 2019/20 season ticket holders, Evans said: “Relegation from the Championship was hard to take, and the 2019/20 season ended in disappointment after starting so brightly, but there is no doubt that the year ahead presents the biggest challenge of my time as owner at this fantastic football club.
“We have been hit harder than most in League One but I will continue to provide the financial stability to maintain the club’s competitiveness as much as possible, though as always much will depend on the continuing support of our great fan base.
“Many of you will have seen the figures in the local media of the ‘£10m black hole’ that we face if next season is played behind closed doors. It’s a worst case scenario – and the indications are that fans will be phased back into stadiums at some stage – but that worst case scenario is what we have to be prepared for.”