The Canaries tonight brought the shutters down on training sessions at Colney – barring the general public from watching Peter Grant's men go through their pre-match paces.
Announcing the potentially controversial move on the club's own website this evening, the club insisted that it had ended its traditional open door policy with reluctance but the advance of both new media technology and the advent of 'citizen journalism' had forced this move upon them.
“We still very much want Colney to be a friendly and open place where fans can visit and watch training sessions,” Grant told www.canaries.co.uk.
“Unfortunately though there are some days when information from the training ground is more sensitive – like the day or two before a game when we're starting to look at formations, or when a player who is fifty-fifty due to injury may or may not be involved.
“However remote the possibility may seem, I don't want to hand out any advantage whatsoever to our opposition.”
All of which will ensure that on days where there is a mid-week game, every training session will be closed to the public; on weeks with no mid-week fixture, the public will still be welcome on Mondays and Tuesdays.
For a club that has long prided itself on its openness and accessibility, it is a clearly a difficult path that they are seeking to tread.
And nor is it the only door to be now kept closed to supporters. Whereas once, player transfers were publicised to the nearest shilling, come 2007 and the whole process is swathed in cloaks of many colours.
Nine times out of ten, the precise fee is left “undisclosed”; more often than not there are deals within deals; a get-out clause here, a one-year option there.
And – so the the theory goes – if being 'undisclosed' leaves City's Championship rivals not knowing just how much money Norwich have left in the kitty so much the better; ditto a get-out clause. The less people that know about what that figure is, the more chance you have of getting an auction underway.
Provided, of course, the agent plays his part and doesn't blow the whistle to his own favoured buyer.
From the other side of the fence – literally now the gates of Colney are closed – will come the belief that the supporters deserve the right to greater openness; that it remains 'their' club; that, somehow, they have a right to freedom of information; that they are responsible enough to watch a training session and not run off to the nearest messageboard with the prize of a likely starting line-up in tow.
Grant suggested he had evidence to think otherwise – citing Robert Earnshaw's training ground injury last season and City's starting line up for last weekend's Preston match in his defence.
The reality is that on occasions like Earnshaw's ruptured groin, people can't help themselves; they pass the news on. Just as professional journalists love to do. Everyone loves a big story.
“Last season when Earnie was injured on the training pitch before a game it was on a website before I had got back to my desk which isn't acceptable,” said Grant.
Had the person concerned got his mobile phone to hand, Grant could even have sat at his desk and watched a video replay of Earnshaw hobbling off on YouTube such is the pace and the capacity of this new media world.
“This happened yet again before the Preston game last weekend when our exact line-up and personnel leaked out on the day before the match,” Grant told the official site.
“I've had managers say to me post-match: 'We knew we were doing this or that…' and I can't have that.”
As ever, money is somewhere near the bottom line – particularly when you're playing for such high stakes as a ?60 million ticket to the richest professional football league in the world.
In such circumstances – and with their own heads on the block if it all goes Pete Tong – managers will look to pull every last trick in the book against their opposite numbers. Having an open book training ground-wise is not, in Grant's eyes, an option in 2007. Don't give them a clue what you're up to.
The public's cause was not helped by an incident last season when a man in his 20s walked onto one of the training pitches and demanded a trial. In the end, he was removed by the police after becoming angry and abusive.
An isolated incident, undoubtedly. But it may well have lingered in Grant's mind – given that his managerial reign was only two months old when City's unwanted guest wandered unchallenged through the gates.
“We have always tried to maintain open access for the public to Colney in the past, but the security of certain selections and fitness issues is of paramount importance to the club in the build-up to matches,” said Joe Ferrari, the club's head of media.
“Therefore we have taken this step reluctantly,” he added. “It brings our policy more into line with that of most other professional clubs in the country where access to training sessions is either heavily restricted or, in some cases, not allowed at all.”
For all but the real Colney die-hards, today's move will probably go unchallenged.
Just as, for most, the increasing use of 'undisclosed fees' goes largely unchallenged.
Football is big business and you get to a certain level these days and supporters become the very last people to be kept 'in the know' – a commercial reality that comes with a ?60 million game of poker, but one that clearly clashes badly with community-minded clubs of Norwich and Charlton's ilk.
Dig themselves out of this sorry league and win a slice of that Premiership pie this time next year and few will care how much anyone paid for Jamie Cureton or how often people get to stand this side of the hedge at a wind-blown Colney.
Get stuck again in the lower reaches of the second tier and it'll be another small stick to beat the club's administration with. Even then, however, you doubt whether any new regime would return to the days of 'Access all areas…'
Football, and even the most homely football clubs therein, has changed. For the better? Nah. For good? Very probably.
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