Town fans push for greater involvement

IPSWICH Town fans have rallied round to help the club since it went into administration last month, but soon they could have more of a say in how it is run, writes Steve Mellen.

By Steve Mellen

IPSWICH Town fans have rallied round to help the club since it went into administration last month, but soon they could have more of a say in how it is run, writes Steve Mellen.

Two weeks from today a meeting will take place in the town to decide whether a supporters' trust will be set up, as has happened at other clubs struggling as the seemingly bottomless pit of money in football has begun to dry up.

They are, essentially, bodies who provide an official voice for supporters and, with Ipswich hoping to organise a share issue when they come out of administration, a trust here could gain a foothold in the corridors of power as a major shareholder, or even ultimately with a place on the board.

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Leicester City, who were in administration for a time this season, and Watford, who are also short of money since relegation from the Premiership, are two examples of clubs where trusts have been set up. Local rivals Norwich City also have one.

It is an interesting development in the current climate where the board have not yet managed to come out of administration, leaving open the possibility – however unlikely – of wholesale change at the top.

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The meeting, in the Robert Cross Hall at the Ipswich Corn Exchange, has been organised by fanzine Those Were The Days, and editor Phil Ham said he hoped it will be an indication of how many fans would be prepared to get involved.

"The idea of setting up a trust came from people posting on our message board, but we don't yet know how many would be interested in being involved, so the meeting will be a way of testing the water.

"There will be representatives from other clubs where they have worked, and the chance for a question and answer session, so I hope that by the end we'll have some idea of where we are going.

"It's clear that things have gone awry at the club, and whether that's the fault of the board or previous managers or outside circumstances is not an issue now.

"Setting up a trust would give fans more of a coherent voice because supporters could buy their own shares and then give them to the trust and we could vote by proxy at shareholder meetings.

"What it's not about is standing outside Portman Road with buckets collecting cash which then disappears into the pockets of players with already inflated earnings, it's more pragmatic than that."

Supporters Direct – a government initiative set up to help fans get involved at their clubs – will also be represented at the meeting. Based in London, the group helps supporters via legal and financial advice as they try and exert influence.

Speaking earlier this month Town chief executive Derek Bowden said the club would welcome input from a supporters' trust but ruled out a place for a fan representative on the board.

But should Ipswich complete a remarkable turnaround and be promoted via the play-offs – solving most of the money worries at Portman Road – Ham said this would not affect the move towards setting one up.

"Leicester have one of the biggest trusts and they are more than likely to be in the Premiership next season and we would still want to pursue it. It's about giving fans a voice."

The meeting on Thursday, April 3 will start at 7.45pm.

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