Does it matter if those running the show are genuine supporters? Or is it simply a ‘nice to have’ bonus?Sat 10 Dec 16 by Steve Cook
Prior to Brentford, the news that Jacob Murphy and Martin Olsson had signed contract extensions was perhaps the only good thing to have come out of Carrow Road for what seemed like an eternity.
Jacob’s deal was particularly pleasing.
After all, he is (in the words of the chant) ‘one of our own’.
Now I’m not fussed where are players come from or the route they took to get here. None of my favourite City players were products of our academy system but as fans, we do recognise and appreciate the value of home-grown talent.
Firstly, it means that he was free!
Granted, you have to overlook the significant running costs of the academy but either way, it’s fair to say that buying a 21-year old English prospect like Jacob would command a sizeable fee, running up into the millions.
It’s also reassuring to see some tangible benefits from the academy and the local scouting system – even more so whilst there remain such big question marks over the effectiveness of the recruitment department.
Secondly, you suspect that there is an added sense of loyalty from those players who have come through the ranks. Jacob’s decision to commit to City, and resist the rumoured interest from the Premier League, may have been based on his chances of minutes on the pitch but it’s clear he’s settled at the club.
So we’re all happy that Jacob’s signed and hopeful that Josh will follow suit. But what are the benefits when the ‘one of our own’ is the one who owns?
For a while, we’ve been told of the value of having owners who, like us, are genuine fans. But how does that value manifest itself?
To be clear, this piece is neither an attack on nor a defence of our majority shareholders and their approach to running the club. The debate has (at least to me) grown as tiresome as it has predictable.
For every Leicester, there’s a Portsmouth; for every QPR, there’s a Southampton. We can all wheel out the examples which best serve to support our own views but nobody really knows how the club would fair under new ownership.
So putting all that to one side, is it actually important that those running the show are genuine supporters or is it simply a ‘nice to have’?
I suppose we all have different definitions of the term ‘supporter’ and differences in what supporting Norwich City means to us as individuals.
For me, it’s a lifelong obsession that has led to sleepless nights; either worrying about league positions or through the excitement before a big game. It has led to hours spent on the A47 or A11 heading to or back from all manner of far-flung stadia. I’ve bought god knows how many over-priced shirts that didn’t get worn very much and with designs or colours that on a few occasions I didn’t even like.
Money and time that often I could ill-afford.
In short, being a fan brings out a side to me that is wholly irrational.
But is that a good thing in the board room? Do we want a rational business mind pulling the strings or one that lets emotion overrule common sense?
To a degree, I’d suggest that buying into a football club in the first place defies all common sense and business acumen.
That is unless (like me) you limit it to two shares for £50 quid and a chance to go to the AGM.
But prior to the upturn in television income and the ‘holy grail’ of top flight riches, very few budding football club owners would have expected to make any money from the deal. Certainly not compared to what they could earn from investing their millions elsewhere. So rather than being a genuine investment or business proposition, it was simply the opportunity to own a club.
Or perhaps – and slightly closer to home – an opportunity to save a club?
Either way, it’s a case of the heart ruling the head, which tended to make it the sole reserve of those who had a genuine and heartfelt attachment to a club, such as local business people and wealthy fans.
As an aside, I still remember the speculation that Hugh Jackman may plough his Hollywood dollars into our club when he suggested he was a Norwich fan.
Wolverine in the board room. Imagine that.
Noel Gallagher, the musician and lifelong Manchester City fan was asked whether he would ever consider investing his personal wealth into his team and flatly refused, suggesting that buying into a football club would “be like putting the money into a massive bucket and pouring it down a drain.”
(He also has an unnecessary pop at Norwich for good measure)
However times have changed. The growth in the global appeal of the Premier League has attracted staggering increases in media revenue and foreign investment on a scale not seen before.
In 2009, Sheikh Mansour bought the Manchester City Football Group for a reported figure of £265million. Approximately a year ago, he sold 13 per cent for the same price.
Noel Gallagher is a genuine fan with the memories of watching his team from the Kippax as a kid. Would Man City fans prefer to see ‘one of their own’ at the club rather than foreign investment?
I’m not so sure, but the fact that his estimated net worth of £50million is ‘only’ enough to buy 2.5 per cent makes the question a bit redundant anyway.
The fear for Man City fans is perhaps what happens when or if the current owners decide to take their money elsewhere. Will they do what’s best for the club’s long-term interests or cash in to the first bidder?
Does it even matter?
I’d suggest that what fans really want is for someone to run their club properly.
By that I mean with a level of financial management and strategic planning that brings a level of success on the pitch and a sustainable future off it (easy right?)
But just like the players who pull on the shirt, I don’t really care where they come from or whether they’re a fan like me or not.
Sure it’s nice if they genuinely care for the club as we all do, but I just want them to do a good job – whether that’s out on the pitch or in the board room.
Steve posts on Twitter @StevoCook