It tends to be a feature of football supporters’ groups of any kind that membership swells when there are problems at the club but declines when things are going well.
While membership of the Canaries Trust has steadily increased over the last year I don’t think that has too much to do with City’s relegation or the departure of David McNally. In fact I’d like to think it’s a result of a more business oriented board starting to get its key message across to more City fans.
It saddens me (because we have no one to blame but ourselves) how little many fans know about the Trust, its objectives and what it does. So hopefully I can put that right in this piece.
The primary function of the Trust is simple. We try to raise as much money as we can through competitions and the sterling work of a board of volunteers and what we raise is used to buy shares in Norwich City Football Club, which are held in trust for the fans so that all of us can have a growing stake in the club we love.
While shares have become more expensive as a result of the success on the pitch in the last 6 years or so we now hold over 2,500 and are constantly looking to add more via share purchases or bequests / donations from existing shareholders to the Trust.
Contrary to some of the more outlandish claims that pop up on social media we have no desire nor, realistically, the capability to put a fan on the club board in the way that our counterparts in Swansea did in 2003, when they acquired a significant shareholding to save the club from administration.
However, what we do want is to ensure that the fans can always ensure a dialogue with the club and the way to do that is for them to own a significant stake, which can only happen collectively for most people. The Trust is already one of the top 20 largest individual shareholders in the club.
Also, while we hope it would never happens at Norwich, a strong Trust can be the key to club’s survival if administration beckons as we have seen at Swansea, Portsmouth and numerous other places.
We also have responsibilities to monitor the governance of the club as, to quote a former City director, “This is where an organisation such as yours is so important, ensuring the executive and board is held to scrutiny and account for their stewardship.”
In fact our relationship with the club is very good and, although we don’t always see eye to eye on everything, a good channel of communication and the willingness of the likes of David McNally and Ed Balls to sit down with us and talk means that most issues are resolved quickly and amicably.
That aside, the area of our work that has really expanded in recent times is our link up with the Football Supporters Federation (FSF), which has seen us involved in debates on safe standing, campaigns to cap ticketing prices and to drive discrimination of all kinds from stadia.
The pricing issue in particular has shown us all that working together really can get results if there is co-ordination from a national body such as the FSF, and the £30 cap on away ticket prices in the Premier League is a credit to them and to everyone who took part in the campaign. But it’s only the start.
Anyway, if that’s whetted you appetite there are two simple ways in which you can help:
The first is to become a member, which costs just £12 a year, all of which goes to buy shares in the club
The second is even easier and only costs £3! That’s all you need to enter this year’s Canary Challenge, kindly sponsored by Archant and Haines Watts. You simply pick the top 6 and bottom 3 in the Championship this season and earn points every time one of you selections features in the relevant section.
A league table will be published each week on the website (where details and online entry forms are available on the Canary Challenge tab) so you can check your progress, with cash prizes ranging from £20 to £250 for the top five at the end of the season.
It’s a test of your predicting skills but its also great fun so hopefully you’ll all have a go and see if you can do better than all the MFW columnists who’ll be testing their skills!
Finally, we do from time to time need to replace board members so if you love City and have energy and drive to spare you may be just the person we’re looking for!
More about the Trust can be found at www.canariestrust.org.