Marcus Evans big interview: There have been offers to buy Town, but I’m glad I didn’t sell
PUBLISHED: 19:00 30 January 2019
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Ipswich Town owner Marcus Evans says he has only ever received two ‘credible’ offers to buy the club – and he’s glad he turned them both down.
Evans firmly refutes claims that his levels of investment – around £6m a year on average – have led to a gradual erosion of quality and the club sitting seven points adrift of safety at the foot of the Championship.
He insists the club is ‘definitely not for sale’ and that he ‘definitely still wants to be here and get us to where I planned right from the beginning’.
Asked if there had ever been interest in buying the club from him, Evans revealed: “There’s always interest, all the time. You get people calling up and most of those people are not credible.
“The one or two that were credible, that I decided not to proceed with, bought other clubs. I won’t mention which two particular owners they are, but they no longer own the football clubs they said they were going to do amazing things with.
“They chucked some money at it for two years, it all went wrong and one got relegated to League One. So it’s probably a good thing we didn’t get involved with those people.
“Not that they are bad people, by the way, but that strategy doesn’t work.”
Confirming that the club’s £95m debts to him are effectively a personal loss, it was put to Evans that he could easily have taken the first offer that came along in order to cut those losses.
“I could have done. If I just wanted to walk away from it I could have done that,” he admitted.
“But you can’t help becoming very emotionally tied to a club that you’ve put so much effort into. You’ve put so much emotional energy into trying to make the thing work.
“The managers find it incredibly hard emotionally when it doesn’t work out. But they can leave. Not the owner. The owner is still here and has to pick up the pieces.
“You’re the guy who has been knocked out by Muhammad Ali and you’ve got to find a way of picking yourself up for the next fight.
“When you put that kind of emotional energy into it, yeah, of course you’re incredibly attached to it. You’re attached to everything Ipswich and trying to make the thing work. You want to be proud of the club and you want to be proud of the way they play on the pitch.”
Asked if he there was potential for him to bring in investors to help him fund the club, Evans explained: “It’s quite difficult with a football club. It’s not like a normal business because a football club tends to incur losses every year.
“If you have partners each person has got to be prepared to put a certain amount of money in every year and therefore there are complexities if, after a period of time, one of those partners decides they don’t want to put the money in and the other one does want to put the money in. “What agreements have you got if one puts in more than the other? How does that affect the ownership structure? It’s not that easy to have shared investment in a continual loss-making business.
“If you own a club like Arsenal where you’ve got regular profits coming in then it’s just like running a normal business where you have different shareholders.
“But even at those levels football clubs are quite proprietorial.
“Managers have told me about clubs who couldn’t get a decision made because there was a committee or a board. They say ‘we couldn’t get anything done’. They say ‘the great thing about working with yourself Marcus is that it’s – yes or no? - we have a conversation, we’re finished 10 minutes later and we move on’.
“So I think it would be hard (to bring in investors).”
He added: “To be clear, no – definitely not for sale, I definitely want to still be here and get us to where I planned right from the beginning.
“But as I said on the club website the other day, if somebody had a sustainable plan of high-risk, long-term investment I couldn’t not listen to that.
“The point is there are so many owners who come in, chuck 20 million at it one year, 20 million at it the next year and they’re gone within three years or they cut the tap off completely.
“There’s only probably one or two clubs – I won’t mention who they are, but you can probably work it out – where the owners have consistently thrown money at it for the last seven or eight years.
“The one I’m thinking about is still sitting just around the play-offs and still hasn’t been promoted.
“If you had somebody who came along and was going to put in a sustainable long-term commitment, rather than ‘look I’m going to chuck a load of money at it for the next two or three years and see what’s going to happen’, you’d have to consider that. It would be unreasonable of me not to do so.”
Having spoken of other owners ‘tiring’ and ‘turning the tap off’, Evans was asked what keeps him driving to be owner of Ipswich Town.
“I’m a very determined person,” he replied. “I’m very frustrated about the fact we find themselves where we are and I would like to do everything I can within my plan to try and make it succeed.”