Football to Amsterdam, Simon Milton and Ipswich Town

Simon Milton has been associated with Ipswich Town FC as a player and now as the club's Academy Sponsorship Director for over 30 years.

In 2014 he entered an #ITFC team into our Football to Amsterdam cycling event, and since then he's gone on to raise over £150,000 to help stop prostate cancer being a killer, as well delivering on a range of commercial goals for the club's Academy too.

On Sunday 26 February 2017 Simon will our Guest of Honour at the EFL Cup Final and will walk out on the Wembley turf before kick off to meet the players in recognition of his achievements for both Prostate Cancer UK and Ipswich Town football club.

Here Simon explains why he and his Ipswich Town cycling team have joined the biggest ride (and party) in football.

Why Football to Amsterdam makes sense for me, by Simon Milton

My name is Simon Milton. I’m a former Ipswich Town player and these days I’m the club’s Academy Sponsorship Director. I’m responsible for raising money to support our next generation of first team players, and I work with a range of local and national businesses to make this happen. 

Simon Milton F2A

I also work with Prostate Cancer UK, the Official Charity Partner of The EFL. When they approached the club to enter a team on their Football to Amsterdam Challenge fundraiser, I spotted an opportunity to support the charity and significantly benefit the club I’ve played and worked for nearly 30 years.

In 2014,  I recruited a team to join me on the cycle ride from Leyton Orient’s stadium in east London to the Ajax ArenA in Amsterdam, via a ferry ride from Harwich to the hook of Holland. It’s about 145 miles over two days. And each rider in my team raises money for the charity and money to support the Ipswich Town Academy.

I was so impressed with the whole event and the way it was organised and delivered I have now attended every ride since. In 2015 I led a team of 67 TEAMITFC cyclists to Amsterdam. 

In 2016 we had 40 riders taking part as the expanded Football to Amsterdam ride started from three venues, London, Barnsley and Portman Road.

In the last three years we’ve raised over £150,000 for Prostate Cancer UK and you will see below I've saved our chairman money which he can invest in the first team or other areas of the football club.

How I do it...

I spoke to some of my long-standing business partners, who are now long-standing friends and asked them to get behind the initiative – I look after the people who join me on the ride.

Everyone gets Ipswich Town branded jackets and cycling shirts, looked after on the event (we have our own support van on top of the excellent set up Prostate Cancer UK provide), invited to a thank you event and we make use of the match day facilities at Portman Road when we’ve not sold every seat or box.

One of my clients donated £5,000 to sponsor #TeamITFC and in return has his logo on all the cycling shirts and wind-tops, on top of his existing investment in the Academy. After 2014’s ride, the same person met another of my contacts on the ride and decided to share a £30,000 hospitality suite at the club for the 2014/15 season. Now that makes sense to me.

Ipswich Town F2A

And that’s not the half of it. A number of people on the ride now do business with each other, and continue to renew their investment in the Academy but more importantly for me continue to meet up as a group of cyclists and get together regularly whereas previously they didn’t know each other.

This has multiple benefits for me in terms of maintaining relationships with my stakeholders, both new and old. But also, the friendships developed and the weight lost (!) by the group is also the essence of what my #TeamITFC and Men United is all about.

To make it work does require a bit of graft and organisation on our part, and Prostate Cancer UK organise all the tour logistics. But it makes sense for us commercially so why wouldn’t we get involved? And we have a great time doing it.  

Making it happen...

If you start early, get a well known ex-player or two involved, and organise ways to make it really easy for your team members to get a bike (for instance we’ve got a deal with a local cycle club), and fundraise.

Get them together as a group for training (this  will look after itself after the first couple of meets) and get them to bring a mate a long. Before you know it you’ve got 10-15 people flying the flag for your club.

People who may buy season tickets, corporate boxes or take up a sponsorship opportunity in the future. Or people who you want to continue to support you.

It’s also great to network and get to know other clubs on the ride (well over 50 Football League clubs and ex-pros including Terry Butcher, Luther Blissett, Matt Holland, Simon Grayson and Viv Anderson have taken part. In 2017 Les Ferdinand joins the peleton too). It’s a great event and that’s before the night out on the tiles in Dam Square!

Unforgettable moments for us all...

Seeing the #TeamITFC team come over the finish line together outside the Ajax ArenA is an emotional moment for us every year. Unforgettable. What we as a club are achieving both to meet our objectives, to show the rest of the football family what this club is about and to raise money for a great cause is something I am very proud of.

I visited the University Hospital in Norwich with John Reader and Ady Smith from the cycling team and saw first hand how the revenue we have raised is being used in the fight against prostate cancer and it has made us more determined to carry on supporting the excellent work they are doing.

I have been to the new Wembley on a few occasions but never in the Royal Box or anywhere near the pitch so Sunday (at the EFL Cup Final) will be a truly memorable day for me and my family.

We hope there are clubs out there who are up for joining us and bringing their team to join the biggest ride in football.

If you’d like to know more about what we do and how we work with Prostate Cancer UK to deliver a fantastic event, speak to the charity and we can arrange a time to talk.

Simon Milton
Ipswich Town FC

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