It seems a strange thing to say as we are in the Premier League doldrums, but have we ever felt more appreciated as supporters?
We have a situation in which the Canaries Trust, Proud Canaries, Along Come Norwich, the Barclay End Project and maybe other organised supporters’ groups I’m not aware of are treated with respect by the club. Supporter-led initiatives are listened to by Norwich City and are very often allowed to be put into action.
Think the Yellow Wall, Rainbow Laces Day and the best communications we’ve had from the club in my [long] living memory.
Now you might assume this is all due to the approach of the new broom that is Stuart Webber. And it might well be, but I would proffer that this might not solely be Stuart’s approach alone. Maybe he had a little help along the way from Daniel Farke and his coaching team as I’ll shortly explain.
The several MFW writers [and doubtless readers] who are members of the Canaries Trust might know where I’m going with this.
But will they?
There is a unique concept in Germany in which exists the Works Council, or betriebsrat. It would be too simple to say that they exist as a link between trades unions and top management in Germany but that is the nub of it.
This link explains their exact role in German working life pretty well.
Now I worked for the largest chemical company in the world for over 20 years in a variety of roles, all concentric to public relations and staff communications.
Back in the 1990s I was unofficially invited to a meeting in Ludwigshafen near Mannheim to see what went on when the betriebsrat met with the vorstand, eg the collective gods of BASF including chairman, managing director and several regional directors [in this case heads of business in the UK, France, Spain, South America and Australia].
The power these betriebsrat guys had was incredible. They couldn’t get involved in financial matters but any question of health and safety, manufacturing processes or logistics was taken on board – and acted on – by the suits.
A lovely Czech lady called Karla translated most of it for me – she later became head of our PR operation in Ireland and together with her husband Finn [so ironically an Irish teaching union leader] I made friends for life. Nobody could make a Jameson coffee like Finn.
BASF didn’t muck about with their loyalty bonuses either – do your job even adequately and expect 15 per cent on top of your salary every year in shares. Suit? check. Overalls? check. Whichever country you work in? check.
Karla explained that German football clubs such as Bayern, BvB and Bayer Leverkusen [Bayer were a serious rival to BASF in the chemical industry] adopted exactly the same principles in order to invite and retain loyalty from their supporters.
She named a Bundesliga club that gave its supporters 10 per cent off their next season ticket if they had a stamp for every game of the previous season. I’ll guess at FC Koln but could be wrong.
So I think Norwich City’s new-found dialogue with the fans has a lot of German influence in it. Daniel would be fully aware of these principles and gestures. I’m not saying Stuart wasn’t aware of the importance of solidarity with the fans, but I bet he surely would have found Daniel’s input more than useful.
How we keep it together when it’s all going Pete Tong on the pitch I don’t know. But it’s so far so good with the PR except…
With a betriebsrat in place, the home/away ticket lottery concept would never have left the offices at NR1. They would have been told it was a bummer and the folks wouldn’t fall for it. And the vorstand would have taken their advice.
And with home tickets for Sheffield United going on sale to members early the betriebsrat would have individually thumbed their noses at vorstand members and said the German equivalent of ****ing told you so.
Full credit to Stuart Webber and Daniel Houlker (Head of Comms) but you’ll be working bloody hard between now and May.
But you’ve tried to keep us onside and although some of us might see through a bit of the spin I think that in general Norwich City comms are so vastly improved that most of us supporters are generally grateful to feel an important part of the club.
Well, maybe not when we’re 1-5 down to Villa…