What does promotion mean to the Official ITFC Supporters Club?

Posted on May 28, 2024 by Baz Morgan-Smith

So, what does promotion to the Premier League mean to the Official Supporters Club? That’s my challenge and I’m struggling to give a definitive view, largely because the PL promotion is actually a step we all believed was coming. It was always a question of when not if, but the pace has caught everybody out. That’s the astonishing thing!

I think we first need to look in terms of the three-year journey we’ve been on to be honest, because the faith that the fans have in the Football Club now, and I’m talking as much about the off-field development as the actual football and look at not just where we are but how we got here.

The change in ownership in March 2021 was one thing, but the arrival of Mark Ashton that June was the point at which we all started to sit up and think “hang on a minute, this guy is a completely different breed, a level above anything we’ve seen before”. I remember watching his interviews and being hugely impressed about the simplicity of his vision. Stripping the club back to the floorboards at every single level and rebuilding it in his vision seemed brave, but very, very logical to create a club (in his words) that was sustainable at every level. It just made so much sense. You could feel the fans getting the vision, taking an interest in his comments about the pitch, the training ground, even the automation of the turnstiles. Step by step, it’s all gradually improved.

Fast forward two years, a full season under Kieran McKenna and we found ourselves finally out of league one and playing a brand of football we knew equipped us well. But promotion in our first season? Beyond some people’s wildest dreams, mine included, but a few stuck their necks out and said we would go straight through. I thought top half would do, give the club the chance for 2-3 years to complete the journey with the infrastructure and target the PL a little way down the line.

I joined the Supporters Club team around a year ago, and I’ve watched as step by step we’ve followed Mark’s example, quite deliberately, to strip back to basics and start again. I don’t want to bore people with all of that but would point out the appointment of Barry Calver, (UK) and Paul Adams (International) to look after our supporter Groups alongside our decision to encourage informal groups rather than heavily regimented ones. Getting fans together in pubs to watch games together as tickets became harder and harder to get became our priority and with the help of Barry, Paul and the wider team, we’ve gone from 36 to 92 branches and it is showing no signs of slowing, thankfully.

I mention that because all of that happened way before the promotion. It’s very easy to say that fans just jumped on the bandwagon because of the Premier League but that’s simply not true, the ground was full in league one, and all through last season, and that’s why I think personally this is sustainable growth and why we all pray for a bigger ground sooner rather than later. 30k just isn’t enough, and fair play to our fans we would get 35k even in the championship, it’s the belief in what Mark has built rather than just what Kieran has done (and let’s face it he is a God here) that feels so solid. That will come in time.

So, let’s think about what the Premier League means to us all now, it will mean different things to different people. It is said the Town itself will get a big economic boost which is welcome but on the footballing side things are going to be more challenging. Tickets are going to be harder to get for fans, some of whom can’t afford season tickets and were there for the lean years as well. So, we mustn’t just ignore some of the downside too.

But obviously getting back to the top level must be a great thing. The income the Club will get, the improvements on and off the pitch, everything will be that much bigger and the ITFC Brand will continue to grow and grow. On that point, let’s not forget Ed Sheeran on that note either, he has been a great ambassador, especially abroad.

From our point of view, we will continue the path we were on anyway. We will hold events to raise funds, we will continue to work with the club in a way that fits in quietly alongside them, but we will continue to work 100% for the supporters. I get a lot of emails on all sorts of issues, and people raise challenges on things they don’t like. As a team we try to position those with the right people in a way that encourages the club to respond directly and there are some things we can’t move along as quickly as people want. The Club are very, very good at recognizing their responsibility with fans, and fan engagement makes the whole experience more rewarding. I’ve lost count of the times people have said that they feel part of it these days, that’s a huge improvement and I echo those feelings.

So, I think I can honestly say that apart from the wonderful scenes and celebration after the final game of the season, our model will be exactly as it was before. Our fabulous fans had already shown great determination to get behind us as a group irrespective of how things were going on the field. All over the world we saw fans coming together anyway, the biggest complement I could ever pay them is that they recognized a club going in the right direction by filling Portman Road two seasons ago. We have been able to capture the groups and using Facebook we can cluster them together and that’s been rewarding but this isn’t about fickle new people, these people are ITFC at their core. In essence, we will be the same as we were before and try to keep focused on the basics, focusing on a role to work for the supporters, blending quietly in alongside the club and encouraging growth of the Branch base, making sure the ITFC family continues to function as a unit, and hoping above all else that we have another good season next time out and establish ourselves where we feel we belong.

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Who wrote this about Ipswich?

Baz Morgan-Smith

Added: Following a successful financial and banking career, Barry is now proudly involved and the Secretary of the official ITFC Supporters’ Club. Baz has been following the Blues since 1970, when he was only six, as the Blues beat Man Utd 4-0. Favourite ever game was against WBA at Highbury in 1978, John Wark's late header banishing the pain of '75 and semi-final heartbreak against West Ham.

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