Town to restructure debt

IPSWICH Town are looking to restructure £29m of their current debt so they don't have to sell a player in the forthcoming January transfer window or next summer.

By Derek Davis

IPSWICH Town are looking to restructure £29m of their current debt so they don't have to sell a player in the forthcoming January transfer window or next summer.

Blues' chairman David Sheepshanks last night revealed to around 240 shareholders at the club's agm that talks with the three major lenders, Norwich Union, Barclays and Bank of Scotland were at an advanced stage to cut interest repayments in the short term.

Speaking at the meeting held at Suffolk College, Sheepshanks said: “Our objective for such an arrangement is to be able to tell you that, all things being equal, we will have no financial pressure to sell players, now, next summer or hopefully beyond that.

“This is a very important development and would mean that we can build a three-year strategy on maximizing the fantastic talent emerging from the Academy.

“Nothing is concluded but we are far enough advanced for me to tell you about it and I hope that it will be concluded by the beginning of January.

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“The most dispiriting thing for us, as directors, as much as for you the shareholders and the fans, has been the prospect of selling our best players and, in so doing, shooting ourselves in the foot and diminishing our chances of promotion and full recovery.

“We had to do something about it and we are. Our three lenders have reaffirmed their support for your board and management.”

Sheepshanks confirmed that there was still a facility for a further £800,000 in loan notes to reach the maximum of £3m.

Another share issue was ruled out as the timing was wrong but he admitted a future issue would be considered and was regularly under review.

Further cash injection was still being sought in the form of new shares from a significant investor but a stringent criteria was in place.

Sheepshanks said: “We can be selective about any significant new investors, but while there is interest, there is not exactly a queue at the door. As well as proof of the ability to fund this club properly and substantially, ideally we want people who will love this club, nurture this club and commit to this club in a way that is consistent with our heritage, and our community, family values.

“I said last year that your directors - and I personally - had taken responsibility for what went wrong in 2002/3.

“There were strong mitigating circumstances but I don't want to revisit history. However, taking responsibility also means taking responsibility for effecting the recovery and we have.

“Financial stability has been regained, we have had two near misses at promotion, and maintained the investment in the Academy and the overall standards which you expect from the club.

“Unfortunately on the field, the script does not always go to plan. Last April, I thought, no doubt like many of you, that we had nearly done it.

“Certainly your board did all in their power to support the manager and certainly Joe Royle did all in his power to win promotion. It is what he came for. We missed out, by a whisker, but miss out we did - and there were financial consequences.”

Another source of revenue would be from an FA Cup run and a good season ticket uptake and Sheepshanks called for supporters to continue backing the team, starting on Saturday against Wolves.

He added: “Talk of mass exodus by season ticket-holders would be self-fulfilling. It would be a sure-fire way of severely damaging the club we love.

“So when you hear people talking that way, encourage them to stay. As I have explained tonight, we have a strategy and there are promising signs. The combination of new equity and successful discussions with lenders is designed to enable us to invest in new players and, coupled with emerging young talent, it will all add up to a bright future.”

Questions from the floor included asking if the club could now get an overdraft and Derek Bowden said although talks were ongoing with Barclays no facility would be forthcoming for a while.

Carl Day asked if Sheepshanks thought the club could reach a break-even figure but the chairman would not give a definitive figure, citing commercial sensitivity.

He also asked if the club would consider a share-save scheme and Bowden said it was something that would be looked at.

One fan questioned why the club was seeking more board members and suggested there were more people on the stage (12) than Joe Royle has fit players in his squad.

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