Where are Ipswich Town going?
Or some random thoughts on the further transition of Ipswich Town Football Club from 'gentlemanly capitalism' to military-industrial complex by someone who has long had a soft spot for the club
[Quick warning to those Histomat readers who are not bothered about a Marxist's take on a small English provincial football club in East Anglia - look away now (perhaps go and read Lenin's Tomb or something]
Ipswich Town Football Club rarely makes the news outside of Suffolk, but over the last few days there has been a kind of 'utopian revolution' at the Club which has attracted national attention. A new Chief executive, Simon Clegg, was suddenly appointed by the owner of the club, Marcus Evans, and the next day Jim Magilton, the likeable but ineffectual manager was out and replaced by the 'no-nonsense hard man' Roy Keane. Many Ipswich fans are still in a state of bewilderment - this was definitely a 'revolution from above' - and 'Tractor Roy' may take some getting used to.
When Ipswich was bought by the mysterious Marcus Evans a couple of years ago, I wondered at what might the future hold, given Evans's day job involves presiding over a company which in part organises conferences on 'Delivering Critical and Actionable Information to Assess, Prevent and Respond to Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive Events' and 'ELECTRONIC WARFARE: Enhancing Warfighter Capabilities Through Technology'.
We now also learn that Evans is a supporter of the Liberal Democrats - so a classic modern 'liberal imperialist' then, and the new chief executive Clegg has no previous connection to the game of football - though he was a former major in the parachute regiment. As the BBC note of Evans,
'He has so far done his talking through statements like the one on the club website which is littered with jargon such as "business portfolio" and presenting the club to an "international audience". All that is a far cry from the days when the blue-blooded Cobbold family ruled Portman Road before former Etonian David Sheepshanks took the reins.'
There is something to be said for Keane - my favorite moment in his career was back in 2000 when he lashed out at the way working class Manchester United fans had been priced out of home games to make way for corporate hospitality:
'Some people come to Old Trafford and I don't think they can spell football let alone understand it. As I've said, away from home our fans are what I would call the hardcore fans - but at home they have a few drinks and a prawn sandwich and don't realise what's going on out on the pitch and that's a worry.'
The potential dangers of what the further corporate takeover of Ipswich Town under Evans means are obvious, but the logic of competition in such a highly competitative capitalist industry like modern football means that a smallish club like Ipswich has to either strive to become a club like Manchester United by whatever means necessary or else slowly fade away into obscurity. The fans need to be prepared to fight the prawn sandwich/parachute regiment/electronic warfare brigade as and when. In the meantime we can perhaps savour Ipswich winning matches 3-0 again...