A true tragedy in the NCFC “family” has surely reminded us all that football is just a sport.
This might not be the place to talk about such things, but I can’t consider much else at the moment; the death of Simon Thomas’s wife, Gemma, at 40, just three days after her Leukaemia was diagnosed, was too utterly wretched for words. The thought of the Sky Sports presenter and staunch City fan having to tell his eight-year-old son, Ethan is searingly sad.
I know our club will reach out to Simon and Ethan. But nothing can make the world right again for them.
So, no strident commentary from me about anything as relatively unimportant as the club’s agm.
I hope, though, that this short, factual piece will help provide some context for that meeting.
1) In the 2015-16 season in the Premier League, Norwich City’s turnover (income) was £97.8 million. Operating costs were £107.5m. So, even in the top division, the club was spending more than it was earning.
2) Easily the biggest expenditure was on wages and related payments: £67m.
3) Last season, (2016-17) in the Championship, turnover was down by £22.5 million to £75.3m. That huge reduction was almost entirely because in the Prem we were paid £70.9m as our share of broadcasting fees; in the Championship we were paid £50.2m (made up of a parachute payment of about £43m and Football League broadcasting money of roughly £7m).
Gate receipts in the Prem were £11.5m. In the Championship they were down to £9.2m. Commercial income (sponsorship, sales in the shops and so on) fell by £1.2m. Delia’s Canary catering held up well, dropping just £107,000 to £4.2m.
But focus your mind on the big number: the income being hacked down by £22.5m.
4) The board slashed operating costs last season, by £17.5m to £90m. But you can see that the cut was smaller than the drop in income. So the gap between what the club earned and what it paid out grew from £9.7m to £14.3.
5) There was a £12m reduction in wages last season, but they still stood at £55m. I haven’t been able to verify the claim by Kieran Maguire of Liverpool University, reported in the EDP, that it was the second highest ever wage bill in the Championship, but it was clearly a huge amount to pay players.
That suggests that some players did not have “relegation clauses”, and/or that relegation clauses only brought about a small wages reduction. My guess is that players who joined us in the January window in the Premier League, when we were battling to stay up, would not have come if their wages were going to be heavily reduced if (when!) we went down.
6) This season’s accounts will not be out until next October, but we know the parachute payment has been reduced by about £11m to about £32m — another savage blow.
7) If Norwich are not promoted this summer — and even my relentless belief is being strained — there will be no parachute payment at all for 2018-19. If we are to have a club to care about, there will have to be a slash-and-burn approach to our operating costs. Good people will lose their jobs.
Focus on the big numbers again: Income went down £22m when we were relegated. It’s gone down another £11m this season. It will drop again by about £25m if we’re still in this division next season. Any non-football business of a similar size to our club could not survive such a precipitous decline.
8) Anyone asking, “Where’s the money gone?” has the clear and incontrovertible answer in the accounts. Delia hasn’t been salting it away in some secret off-shore fund. It’s gone to the players.
9) A total of 49 clubs have played in the Premier League — so there are 29 relegated clubs currently in the Football League.
Relegation from the Prem is always a devastating financial blow. Cardiff, who came down with us in 2014, got rid of 44 players that summer. Sunderland, relegated last summer, are having to use their entire parachute payment for debt repayments. Ipswich Town’s relegation in 2002 led to them going into administration nine months later.
What is happening to Norwich this time is the norm. What was achieved in 2014-15 — keeping a good squad together and winning an immediate return to the Premier League — was the anomaly.
10) Nobody can claim the board put prudence before ambition. We now know that they took a punt on staying up — which is what lots of fans demanded.
11) The club must bring in money by selling players. They can only sell players other clubs want to buy. Those two sentences are simple statements of facts.
12) An “investor” would have to stump up £25m next season just for us to stand still. If he (or she?) believed we needed to be as financially strong as we were when we fell out of the Premier League, it would require an injection of £48m this summer. Then at least the same sum the following season. And the one after. And so on, until and unless Norwich win promotion. That’s without spending anything on strengthening the squad. That’s not an “investment”. That’s throwing money away. There really isn’t a queue of people begging for the chance to do that.