North Stander: How Town should tackle the season ticket refund issue

Ipswich Town owner Marcus Evans, left, and general manager Lee O'Neill face a lot of big questions i

Ipswich Town owner Marcus Evans, left, and general manager Lee O'Neill face a lot of big questions in the coming weels and months - and they must get the season ticket refund issue right, says Terry Hunt Picture: STEVE WALLER - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

In his final column of the season, North Stander Terry Hunt looks at some of the myriad of questions surrounding Ipswich Town after their underwhelming 11th-place finish in League One.

Boss Paul Lambert will be staying at Portman Road, but has a lot of work to do Picture: PAGEPIX LTD

Boss Paul Lambert will be staying at Portman Road, but has a lot of work to do Picture: PAGEPIX LTD

So many questions, and not many answers. That’s the tough situation facing the Ipswich Town hierarchy and football in general.

At least one issue had been resolved, with the League One season being put to bed with Town in their worst position since 1953. We still had rationing way back then!

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But now Marcus Evans and Lee O’Neill face a whole raft of other dilemmas. One that’s completely within their control is how to deal with the money currently owed to season ticket holders.

According to my rudimentary maths, Town’s most loyal supporters are owed several hundred thousand pounds because we missed five home games when the season was ended prematurely. Throw in the Bury game, which also didn’t happen, and we’ve missed a quarter of the home fixtures.

Given the tough financial situation, with normal revenues coming to a shuddering halt, I’m sure the club is anxious to hang on to that money. That’s understandable. Equally, I’m certain many supporters would be prepared to let the club keep their money, as a gesture of goodwill.

Speaking personally, I would be happy to forsake the £125 or so I am owed. Many fans will feel the same. But goodwill is a two-way thing, and the club also needs to show how much it values us.

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It is so important that Evans, O’Neill and co. get this absolutely right. Of course, I expect there to be offers and incentives instead of a straightforward refund. But a no-strings money back offer MUST be included as one of the options. If it simply doesn’t exist then I can see quite a few people being upset. As I said, it’s all about goodwill.

I hope Evans has learned from the misjudgement a few years ago, when season ticket prices were increased despite supporters enduring a dull-as-ditchwater Mick McCarthy season. There was an understandable outcry. Ipswich fans are a pretty patient lot, but everyone has their limit.

Other crucial issues are outside the club’s control. When can next season start, and on what basis? When will supporters be allowed into the ground to watch games?

If games are played behind closed doors - as seems highly likely - how will the club give fans the opportunity to watch the action, and at the same time generate some revenue for themselves?

One obvious way is live streaming. How much would be a reasonable charge for that? Something like a tenner? How many fans would take up that offer? Or would most simply settle for the dulcet tones of Brenner Woolley and Mick Mills on BBC Radio Suffolk? As I said earlier, so many questions, and not many answers at the moment.

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All of which makes it pretty difficult to run a football club at the moment. It’s a tricky business at the best of times, with all of its unpredictabilities. But at the moment, owning a football club must feel almost impossible.

Then there are yet more questions about the playing side of the game. With revenue so unpredictable, it would be understandable for owners to be very risk-averse when it comes to spending money.

I can see Ipswich going into next season with much the same squad, minus the loanees, and with the welcome return of Jack Lankester and Kane Vincent-Young.

I still believe we have a very strong League One squad, and our 11th place finish was an appalling underachievement. There’s been a lot said and written about who wad to blame - manager, players, owner? More questions!

Paul Lambert must surely take the lion’s share of the responsibility. I see he has admitted he would do some things differently given the opportunity. Well, he will have that chance, because he will be here next season. Those calling for his head will be disappointed. Evans won’t sack him at this stage.

I would be happy if he changed just one thing: Find a successful line-up and formation, and stick to it. Don’t tinker, except in the real Mickey Mouse cup games. I really do hope he’s learned his lesson.

Finally, I was interested to read sports editor Mark Heath’s piece in which he suggested there is something almost undefinable wrong “in the bones” of the club.

He’s right. It’s been a cumulative thing, with nearly two decades of dull football and underachievement. Fans have become disillusioned, starved of entertainment and success. A distance has developed between club and supporters. The lack of direct contact with the owner certainly hasn’t helped the situation.

There have been a couple of moments when the club had a chance to feel like “ours” again, but they weren’t built on.

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I recall the 2014-15 season, and Tommy Smith running 100 yards to celebrate his play-off goal at Norwich with the Town fans. Then there was the beginning of last season, when Lambert was being hailed like a god by supporters. But on both occasions it just slipped away...

It can all be put right by success on the pitch. That’s all we ask for. It masks a thousand other problems.

Maybe it will come next season. There’s always hope!

Enjoy the summer and stay safe and well.