Mega rich rivals put squeeze on Blues

FOOTBALL in the 21st century is awash with the mega bucks of multi-millionaire investors. The beautiful game is once again the playground of the rich and richer, the haves and the have-mores.

Josh Warwick

FOOTBALL in the 21st century is awash with the mega bucks of multi-millionaire investors.

The beautiful game is once again the playground of the rich and richer, the haves and the have-mores.

While Ipswich Town have already felt the warmth of a wealthy backer, the scramble for success is becoming harder, as sugar daddies invest lower down the pyramid. JOSH WARWICK reports.

THERE was a time when the £12 million Ipswich boss Jim Magilton has had stuffed in his back pocket would have been enough to make the football world sit up and take notice.

Little more than a decade ago, the purists were chastising Blackburn Rovers - financed by the ankle-deep pockets of Jack Walker - for splashing a similar amount of lolly in pursuit of glory.

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The Lancashire club spent a frivolous £3.3m on Alan Shearer (what did he ever do?), another £5m on Chris Sutton plus a few quid on David Batty, and were labelled as the team who bought the title.

But today, no Premier League club is seen without a rich owner armed with a chunky chequebook.

Mohammed Al Fayed, Roman Abramovich, the Glazers…loaded investors are as common as WAGS, Baby Bentleys and sordid tabloid sex tales.

But over the last few seasons, clubs outside of the top flight have become increasingly attractive investments.

Hull City, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Leicester City are all under new management.

And then there is the richest club in the world…Queens Park Rangers.

Yes, you read that correctly. The west London outfit, dubbed the Chelsea of the Championship, were recently bought out by a consortium made up of billionaires Flavio Briatore, Bernie Ecclestone and the Mittal family.

The Hoops' boss Luigi De Canio has already spent around £5million on eight players this month.

“This is serious project in business and in sport,” an ambitious Briatore admitted.

“We want to become a great club in England and Europe.”

While sports writers will be excitedly speculating over how QPR's millions will be spent, the impact on the likes of Ipswich Town could be significant.

Town may be back in the black, but the battle for promotion is far from won.

Add to the nouveau rich those clubs dropping out of the Premier League - with the comfort and protection of the parachute payments - and the competition gets even tougher.

Chairman David Sheepshanks and Magilton may deny it, but the pressure to succeed in Town's bid for promotion this season has been cranked up a notch or two.

With Derby County already accepting the inevitable and planning for life in the Championship and the equally-doomed Fulham installing an experienced manager to resurrect the faltering club, Marcus' millions suddenly don't seem so generous.

And remember, Town's £12m transfer kitty has to be used to cover wages, too.

Should the Blues hammer out a deal for want-away David Norris, a four-year contract plus the fee could eat up almost half of the budget in one go.

The increased competition makes prudent spending and infrastructure building more important than ever.

Town's lauded youth system must be properly maintained and improved, while clever manipulation of the transfer market can bring the milk and honey of the promised land.

ANY Town fans despairing at the influx of cash at their rivals shouldn't be too downbeat, though.

A quick glance at the perilous state of finances at Norwich City is enough to bring a smile to Blues followers.

Such is the predicament in which the cash-strapped Norfolk club finds itself, that directors have endorsed a scheme which could provide the manager with a little extra money.

Canaries fan Iain Walpole has devised the “Norwich City Kitty”.

The basic premise is that a £5 a month contribution from just 25 per cent of City's average home gate would, with interest, create a healthy six-figure lump sum exclusively for the use of buying players.

Mr Walpole, 43, believes there is scope for getting past the £1m barrier.

He expects the scheme to be up and running within two months, with a substantial amount available for the window in 12 months' time.

“If you take £5 as a minimum figure and then add on the fact that many will contribute more, that we might get more than that number of people involved, plus overseas fans, it could well top £1m,” he said.

Mr Walpole's plan was hatched after enviously watching Marcus Evans' investment in Ipswich.

Instead of fund-raising activities, which Walpole fears fans would lose interest in, fans would be asked to open a direct debit arrangement.

“Having spoken to people we found it was quite normal for direct debits that are amounts of £20 or less to be pretty much ignored even if people have forgotten what they are for.

“So with this thought in mind it seemed a logical way to get fans to give money to a players' transfer fund over an indefinite period is via the direct debit method. This could be done starting at a minimum of £5 per month to keep it within the financial viability of everyone.

“In the past many clubs have raised funds to save their club, buy a player, or build a stand, but this has always been done by collections at matches, auctions and events. All of these money raising methods are all well and good, apart from one major flaw: people get bored with them and become apathetic to the whole fundraising scheme.

“It then became very clear that what was needed was sustained and committed ongoing funding.”

Mr Walpole added: “This club will be here long after the directors have gone and we need to look after it.”

What does the future hold for Ipswich Town? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail

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