The Ipswich Town independent supporters’ trust, Ipswich Town 1st would like to express its unequivocal support for the fans of Hull City AFC who are campaigning to prevent their club’s owner from changing its name to Hull Tigers.
We urge the FA to recognise the history and traditions of Hull City AFC as well as to ensure that the consultation process on this issue is meaningful, democratic and respects the wishes of the club’s supporters.
Following lots of discussion and controversy throughout the 2013/14 season over ticket pricing, ticket sales and other aspects of the club’s relationship with its supporters, Ipswich Town 1st has launched a survey of Town supporters to find out more about fans’ concerns.
The survey, which can be found here, covers a variety of issues, including the range and prices of tickets available, the quality of catering and other elements of the matchday experience, and ITFC’s attempts to raise attendances. The survey is open to all Ipswich Town fans, whether or not they are members of Ipswich Town 1st.
Alasdair Ross, chair of Ipswich Town 1st, said “Several of our members have raised concerns with us this season about how easy – or not – it is to buy tickets at Portman Road, and how expensive those tickets appear to be. We wanted to get supporters’ views on these and other issues, so that we can raise them with the club in our role as a Supporters’ Trust”.
“We’ve had several hundred responses within the first few hours of the survey being open. We hope to get a lot more so that we can build a really useful picture of how Town fans are feeling at the moment”.
The survey is open until 31st January, and all respondents will be entered into a draw to win a free copy of Ipswich ‘Til I Die, a book by and about Ipswich Town supporters.
Ipswich Town 1st, the independent Supporters’ Trust, was concerned to read press reports about the nature of the club’s debts, and today calls on ITFC to make a public statement on the amount of money overdue to local businesses and service providers.
Trust Chair Alasdair Ross said ‘Many local people have bitter memories about the amount of money owed to local businesses such as florists and caterers, and organisations including the St. John’s Ambulance, when the club went into administration in 2003. For an organisation already carrying over £80m worth of debt, relatively small amounts owed to local businesses may seem inconsequential, but for many of these local businesses it could mean the difference between survival or collapse. The local community, including those who lost money, stood by the club during the administration period, and we want to know that this faith is being rewarded by the club honouring its debts to local businesses now’.
21/11/2013: We have received a reply from the club, but not an answer to our questions (see below). The club has agreed to add them to the agenda for the Fans’ Forum on Saturday, which will be attended by a representative of the Supporters’ Trust.
The Supporters’ Trust was not satisfied with the explanation the club has given supporters over the split with the Charitable Trust (now Suffolk Inspire), so we asked the club for further clarification. This morning we sent the Club’s Supporter Liaison Officer, Sally Webb, the following questions:
As you may have seen, the Independent Supporters’ Trust posed a couple of questions in our earlier press release, which don’t appear to be answered by your article. We would be grateful if you or a colleague could respond to the specific questions that we raised, namely:
1. What are the Football Club’s future plans for community activities and community engagement?
2. What are the Football Club’s plans for the premises on the practice pitch that have been vacated by the Charitable Trust?
To clarify the first of these questions: by ‘community activities’ we are referring to a wider range of activities than those described in today’s statement from the Club. The “invitation-only Advanced Coaching Programme” will not encompass the range of coaching programmes previously run by the Charitable Trust under the ITFC banner, which included multi-sports sessions and activities for disabled youngsters.
The Community Trust’s work also encompassed a wide range of activities for both girls and boys, and we would be grateful if you could further clarify whether the Football Club’s “invitation-only Advanced Coaching Programme” will include opportunities for girls as well as boys.
We look forward to hearing the Club’s answers to these important questions.
Ipswich Town’s Independent Supporters’ Trust was saddened and concerned to learn that the ITFC Charitable Trust has left its premises at Portman Road and no longer has a connection with the football club, having been renamed Inspire Suffolk.
The Charitable Trust plays a valued role in the local community, raising money for projects and encouraging participation in sport, winning several awards. Its association with Ipswich Town and its location at Portman Road were highly valued aspects of the Charitable Trust’s work and the severing of this connection will come as a blow to its future plans and activities.
The Supporters’ Trust is concerned that the Football Club appears to be distancing itself from community activities and from the use of the Portman Road facilities for encouraging active participation in sport.
Alasdair Ross, chair of the Ipswich Town Independent Supporters’ Trust, said “Ipswich Town has a proud history of association with its local community, and the Ipswich Town Charitable Trust had been doing great things to keep this going over recent years. We’re disappointed that the connection between the football club and the Charitable Trust has been broken, and would like the Football Club to tell supporters what its plans are for community activities in the future, and what plans there are for the site on the Portman Road practice pitch that the Charitable Trust previously occupied”.
Trust Chair Alasdair Ross and Board member Carl Day represented the Independent Supporters’ Trust at a meeting at Portman Road with Ian Milne (Joint Managing Director, ITFC) and Sally Webb, the club secretary, on Wednesday, 16th October 2013.
The meeting lasted for over an hour with the majority of the time spent discussing ticket prices
We started by explaining a little about the history and background of the Trust and the discussion moved quite quickly on to the subject of ticketing. We praised the club for some of the ticket deals that they have – in particular the cheap tickets offered to younger supporters. But we did emphasise the point that many supporters thought the matchday price was far too expensive, especially for Category A matches, for example the game against Leeds United.
We informed the club that many supporters were against categorising games. Ian and Sally gave reasons why they have continued with the scheme and pointed out that they had reduced the number of Category A games this season. We then passed on an idea that had been suggested by a Trust member, that even if the club were to continue categorising games it would be a good idea to keep the concession prices on the low scale. The club seemed interested in this idea but then informed us that once ticket prices are set they have to be given to the Football League (the club just made the deadline for this in the summer) and after that prices could not be changed. Though it did seem they were not 100% sure about this. [Note: see the Football League regulations, particularly point 34.2.5 onwards]. They also informed us that they were only allowed to have 4 games a season where they could run special match day deals and that the ticket deals they ran last year did not bring in as many extra supporters as they had hoped for.
We said that many supporters thought the extra £2.50 cost of buying a match ticket on the day was putting many fans off watching games at Portman Road. They informed us that when they looked at ticketing at the Club, the ticket office was costing the equivalent of a player’s wage and that only 10% of sales were being made via the internet. This had now improved and season ticket sales in particular had gone very well. We told them that, although we understood this, we believe the club should bear in mind that there are still those who can’t – or choose not to – use the internet. In addition, we highlighted the point that many supporters still wanted to have the option of turning up on the day and paying at the gate. Getting rid of the extra match day price would be a PR success and should be easy to facilitate.
Ian and Sally pointed out that advance knowledge of the attendance helped them organise stewarding, policing costs and catering. It seemed to us that the Club is happy to continue having crowds of only 15,000 to 17,000 and that the certainty of knowing the costs of staging a match in advance outweighs the idea of getting more people into the ground.
The discussion then moved onto the Academy. The Trust were thanked for their petition and the detailed work that we did on that issue, and we in turn congratulated the club for changing their original decision and going for the top status of academy, Category 1.
We asked Ian about the link between the Club and the Community Trust as it seemed that the Community Trust were not as integrated into the club as they had been under the previous regime. We were informed that discussions were ongoing between the Community Trust and the Club and that a joint statement would be made in the near future. Both sides had agreed to keep current talks confidential. We thanked them for that answer but informed them that many Ipswich supporters were keen that the Club continued with its work with the community, through the Community Trust, an organisation that has deservedly won many accolades.
The next question we raised was about the Club’s response to Portman Road being made an Asset of Community Value (ACV) recently. They said that, as the ground was owned by the Council and they were just the tenants, it was of no real concern to them. They added that it was no secret that they would have liked to buy the ground and that the previous regime had been lobbied by developers looking at moving the club to an out-of-town site, but they were happy with a town centre location and there seemed to be signs of a better relationship now between the Club and Ipswich Borough Council (the landlords).
The meeting finished with us asking for more meetings in the future and in particular we said that we would like to meet the ticketing manager. We were not offered that but have now been invited to attend the next Fans’ Forum.
We left the meeting thinking that it had been both informative and positive. It seems that the club are happy to enter into dialogue with the Trust and that they also seemed to take some of our ideas about ticketing on board.
They informed us that just before the meeting they had given an interview to Phil Ham of TWTD, and from the reports on TWTD many of the same topics had been discussed. In the TWTD articles, it seemed that the joint MD’s were implying that they had got the prices of tickets just about right whereas in our meeting the Club seemed to be saying that they had just made the deadline for handing over their pricing schedule to the Football League and that they were constantly reviewing the prices.
To sum up:
The meeting was positive and has enabled us to get the views of our members over to those running the club.
We have now been invited onto the Fans’ Forum and will also be looking at other opportunities to open avenues of discussion with the club.
Ticketing – we suggested two ideas that we think will bring in more supporters and would also show fans that the club both listened and understood that, for many, football has become too expensive to go and watch every week.
We would like to hear what members and supporters think. We will be carrying out a survey to get more detailed views on ticketing and then we will present the results to the club.
We would call on the club to look into the possibility of implementing two specific things:
- Concession tickets to be set at lowest price for all games
- Remove the extra charge currently imposed on buying a ticket on match day.
We are very keen to hear what our members think on all aspects of football and Ipswich Town, but in particular the current ticketing set-up.
Alasdair Ross, Chair
Two members of the Ipswich Town 1st committee will be meeting the ITFC Managing Directors, Ian Milne and Jonathan Symonds, on Wednesday, 16th October 2013. If any Trust member has a question or issue they would like them to raise at the meeting, please let us know by 5pm on Tuesday, 15th October. It may not be possible to raise every point or hold detailed discussions but we are interested in hearing from any Trust member in advance of the meeting.
Portman Road has joined Old Trafford and Anfield in being officially recognised as an asset to its local community.
Ipswich Town First, the independent Ipswich Town Supporters’ Trust, has announced that – following representations it has made to Ipswich Borough Council (IBC) – Portman Road has become an Asset of Community Value (ACV), recognising its importance to the town and its people. The ground is owned by Ipswich Borough Council and leased to the football club.
Colin Kreidewolf, the Secretary of Ipswich Town First, said “Supporters’ Trusts at Liverpool, Manchester United and Oxford United have recently been successful in having their club’s stadia recognised as ACVs, reflecting the value of those grounds to their respective local communities. Our view is that Portman Road is just as important to the people of Ipswich, and to Ipswich Town supporters generally, as Anfield is to the people of Liverpool. We’re delighted that the Borough Council agree – this is a fitting way to mark the 125th anniversary of Ipswich Town’s move to Portman Road on 1st October 1888”.
What does becoming an ACV mean for Ipswich Town?
ACV status means that the ground cannot be sold without the local community being told about it, and that they will be given the opportunity to bid for it themselves. Today’s announcement means that any future IBC administration would be required to consult the local community before selling Portman Road, and allow six months for the community to raise the money to buy it themselves.
Mr Kreidewolf added: “We appreciate that the current IBC administration have no desire to sell Portman Road, and are pleased to see it remaining in public ownership. Having ACV status means that any future administration at the council wouldn’t be able to change that situation without involving supporters and local people. It helps to safeguard the future of Portman Road as a part of the Ipswich community. We hope that the current owner of Ipswich Town will also recognise this as a positive move for the football club”.
Councillor David Ellesmere, Leader of Ipswich Borough Council, said: “The current council administration has no intention of selling Portman Road. We are very happy to support listing Portman Road as an Asset of Community Value to give supporters the reassurance they need that ITFC will remain in the heart of Ipswich.”
Tom Hall, Head of England & Wales at Supporters Direct, the governing body for supporters’ trusts, said: “Ipswich Town First should be congratulated in their work to make sure that Portman Road takes its place alongside Old Trafford and Anfield, and the first two, Oxford United and Nuneaton Town, in having stadia successfully listed.
“We are seeing this trend escalate, and many more applications are being lodged from across the pyramid. This and all other successful listings are demonstrating that our view that clubs and their stadiums should be seen as community assets and not simply as part of an investment portfolio is being widely accepted.”
Part 5 Chapter 3 of the Localism Act 2011 and the Assets of Community Value (England) Regulations 2012, were approved by resolution of both Houses and came into force in England on 21 September 2012. Since the scheme came into force over 360 Assets of Community Value have been listed, of which five – the Kassam Stadium (Oxford), Liberty Way (Nuneaton Town), Anfield (Liverpool), Old Trafford (Manchester United) and now Portman Road – apply to football grounds.
Assets of Community Value are designed to apply a ‘pause’ to any plans to sell land which is important to local communities, and to give those communities time to compile a bid to buy it themselves. More information can be found at the Locality website.
The bid to make Portman Road an Asset of Community Value was submitted by Ipswich Town 1st, the Ipswich Town Independent Supporters Trust. Ipswich Town 1st is affiliated to Supporters Direct, an organization which promotes the value of supporter and community engagement in football.