Town's financial future looks brighter

IPSWICH Town's financial recovery is ahead of schedule.The news comes as the club prepares for tomorrow's crucial clash with Cardiff, when the Blues will be looking to make further strides both on and off the park.

IPSWICH Town's financial recovery is ahead of schedule.

The news comes as the club prepares for tomorrow's crucial clash with Cardiff, when the Blues will be looking to make further strides both on and off the park.

Town know that victory will secure their place in the play-offs and take them a giant step closer to regaining the Premiership status they surrendered two years ago.

If Ipswich made it back to the big-time it would mean a cash boost worth millions – but the good news is that their rehabilitation is already going according to plan.


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Chairman David Sheepshanks and chief executive Derek Bowden delivered a progress report to two separate groups of shareholders.

Sheepshanks said: "Our immediate prospects are incredibly exciting and in our own hands, while the future is much brighter than a year ago."

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Twelve months ago Ipswich were still in administration, which they eventually exited in June after 16 weeks of financial uncertainty.

Now the picture is far rosier, with Sheepshanks reporting that "immense progress" was being made in trying to balance the books.

But if the club does not win promotion and misses out on the TV parachute payment of £4 million, he warned that 90 per cent of income would have to be self-generated.

Bowden reported that the club's key performance indicators were performing better than hoped for.

While Town budgeted for a mid-table position and an average gate of 22,500, they are on course for a top six finish and a figure of 24,500.

Season tickets sales of 18,204 were 500 ahead of budget, with both ticket sales and media income bringing in £15.4 million, compared to an anticipated figure of £14.6m.

Commercial income was also up – £7.5m compared to a projected £7.4m – and the number of employees on the Portman Road payroll was as expected, 169.

Costs were marginally higher at £22.8m (£22.7m) but this was due to the fact that other areas were performing better than expected, which meant funds were allocated to allow manager Joe Royle to bring in loan players.

In terms of costs as a percentage of income, the actual figure was 87.7 per cent, as opposed to a projected figure of 89.3 per cent, while anticipated profitability of minus £650,000 was, in fact, plus £200,000.

Without promotion, which would entitle Ipswich to a chunk of the television millions distributed among Premiership clubs, income would be minimal by comparison.

Significant savings, therefore, would be required if Town remained in the First Division.

Sheepshanks reported on the success of the academy, whose annual costs swallow up £922,000, and said 30 per cent of first team appearances in the current campaign were by home-grown players.

Shareholders were invited to ask questions, with one relating to the possibility of a guarantee to prospective season ticket holders that no young players would be sold.

It was explained that it impossible to make such a promise and that while it was not the intention to cash in on young players, the club was not in a position to totally rule out sales.

One shareholder asked why Thomas Gaardsoe had been sold to West Bromwich Albion on the eve of the season.

He was told that manager Royle wanted to give Georges Santos a permanent deal, and that the board told him he would need to sell someone to make this happen.

The only bid on the table was for Gaardsøe, and Royle decided that it was worth selling him to secure the services of Santos.

Another question centred on the cut-price sale of Darren Ambrose to Newcastle during the club's period in administration.

It was explained that Deloitte and Touche, the administrators, accepted a low bid against the wishes of the board.

It was also revealed that Town might consider a further shares issue to boost income, while Charlton have coughed up "small" bonus payments relating to the purchase of Hermann Hreidarsson and Matt Holland and the fact that their new club remained in the Premiership.

Newly-promoted West Brom have been invoiced along similar lines regarding the Gaardsoe sale.

Town are also willing to release Marcus Bent, who cost £3 million, on a free transfer if Leicester, with whom he has spent the entire 2003-2004 season on loan, decide to take over the last year of his contract.

The club said that reaching the play-offs would be worth £250,000, with a further £1 million to come if they made it to the final.

Success at that stage, of course, would pave the way for Ipswich to cash in to the tune of £25m-plus in the Premiership.

N What do you think? Write in to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or email eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk or visit the forum at www.eveningstar.co.uk

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