Grant Bage is still, it seems, waiting for his man.
People who regularly visit this website or follow Turnstile Blues on Twitter [@Turnstile_Blue in case you don’t – Ed.] may know that, six weeks ago and on behalf of our collective, I wrote an open letter to Marcus Evans [ In Name Only ] For new readers, Marcus is Ipswich Town’s ‘mystery millionaire owner’. My mates mocked but deep down and secretly, I hoped for a reply: did the owners of the Club care as much about the fans, as the fans care about the Club?
Much has happened since then of course: the chief executive’s post filled by a pair of Chelsea-supporting Tractor Boys, court appearances pencilled in for two of Town’s top players, season tickets held at current prices for anybody who donates all their organs via a ten year debenture to the Club; and by the way, some great results and gritty performances from a squad brimming with loan players. All of which undeservedly still finds Ipswich Town only four points away from ‘local’ derbies next season with Stevenage, Leyton Orient and Colchester United (if they stay up).
Are such events one-off coincidences, or symptoms of a deeper and more dangerous decline? I honestly still feel uncertain but sketched below is an update since that open letter was sent, followed by musings not only about ‘Marcus’, but about modern football.
Being a reasonably polite sort of guy, I e-mailed a link to the original open letter via the public contact for the Marcus Evans Group, as supplied on its website. Their reply is reproduced exactly below, in its full and robotic glory:
On 10 Feb 2013, at 19:46, gleave parsons <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote
Dear Mr Bage
Thank you for contact marcus evans
Our representative will get in touch with you shortly
Marcus’s representative did not ‘get in touch shortly’ so five days later and on Valentine’s Day I sent a reminder. OK, my e-mail wasn’t exactly romantic, but it was heartfelt:
Date: 14 February 2013 21:30:39 GMT
To: gleave parsons <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: marcus evans group enquiry
Hello there, whoever you are.
It is disappointing to have waited five days and not heard anything back yet, so I thought I should get in touch again. The reason I e-mailed in the first place was because Marcus Evans will be interested in an invitation from myself and a group of friends, to talk about Ipswich Town Football Club. Actually we have written that invitation at some length, around 2,000 words, and posted it on a public website. You can read it here http://www.turnstile-blues.co.uk/
If you want to leave a comment there is a section at the end and there are two comments already. But to be honest the invitation is more a personal one to Marcus Evans – to the man who owns the group which owns the football club that we all love. Marcus has put a lot of money and effort into his ownership over the last five years: it would be great to hear more from him directly, about his plans and dreams for the next five years.
We have sent the same invitation to the press office at Portman Road and unfortunately they have not replied yet either. It would be pleasant, and polite, if somebody could get back to us. We will be publishing the invitation in a magazine quite soon, bought by lots of Ipswich fans and therefore customers of The Marcus Evans Group. We were also hoping that in this magazine, Marcus might reply in person. People would be very interested in what he has to say.
We look forward to hearing from you.
I will leave you to guess, over forty days later, whether there has been a reply. Yet oddly and promisingly, the programme notes for Ipswich’s next home game offered the unusual prospect of some thoughts ‘from the owner’.
Although these notes have been hilariously analysed on this website [Not From the Owner] to me at the least they read like they have been genuinely written by ‘Marcus’. In a style I imagine to be authentic amongst international multi-millionaires, paragraph after paragraph on the first page mused mostly about: money, business and financial fair play. Given that ITFC owes the Marcus Evans Group nearly £70 million, it may of course be a good thing that Marcus likes talking mostly about money. But deep amongst the financial foliage at last on page two there peeped out a reference to us: the Club’s customers, its lifeblood, loyal fans, the diehards … or are we just cash cows, and mugs? Marcus wrote:
‘I am … fully committed to … ensuring that we keep an open line of communication with our fans.’
I could not help but think, perhaps churlishly ‘well then it would be nice if you answered the letter we sent’. That is not just because 2,000 words take a long time to write. It is also that in good faith, the next issue of our fanzine (By Mutual Consent on sale at Portman Road before the match on 30th March – see here for details ) reserved two blank pages. These were to set out the reply that we honestly expected from Marcus, or the Marcus Evans Group, or the new managing directors, or the press office or just from anybody at Ipswich Town football club who might have been listening, to the polite and sensible questions we thought we had asked.
I say ‘polite’ because many of us stand in the North Stand, and have done so for years. We could have just chanted, Marcus, in the brusque fashion of us football fans:
‘Who are ya, who are ya, who are ya..?’
We didn’t and instead we thought, we argued, we researched, we wrote, we published and now because we care passionately about the lifelong security and prosperity of Ipswich Town I (at least) am begging. Answer our queries and listen to our fears. Please understand why there is a larger movement coming together to question the way in which Modern Football works. People are joining the Football Supporters Federation [ http://www.fsf.org.uk/ ] Supporters Direct [ http://www.supporters-direct.org/ ] and the Ipswich Town Independent Supporters Trust [ http://ipswichtownfirst.wordpress.com/ ]. They are campaigning for owners to charge lower and fairer prices for tickets [ http://wp.me/p2KvgD-4j ], for clubs to consider letting supporters stand, for fans to have a voice on the Board and shares in their club. Perhaps Marcus, you could actively and personally continue strong Ipswich traditions of encouraging fair play, good citizenship and a social conscience from the players you employ? With rewarding players fairly but sustainably, both to win games with style but also to lose them, with grace? You are the owner Marcus and for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, fans are married to the future of a Club that happens to be in your current care and under your leadership. So please, prioritise the Academy. Encourage stewards to come down hard on violent, racist, homophobic or any other nasty and threatening behaviour. Equally tell them to stop nicking our beach balls, they are only a bit of fun. Above all smile sweetly at Saint Delia, whilst making us better than Norwich.
OR if that sounds too radical Marcus, make just a small change right now. Ask somebody senior from the Club to recognise honest concerns and genuine questions, and to answer them. It really won’t hurt. Just take a deep breath of that bracing Orwell air, look left at the North Stand, stare deep into our eyes and imagine us singing:
‘Marcus, Marcus give us a wave, Marcus, give us a wave;
Marcus, Marcus, give us a wave: Marcus, give us a wave…’