I only came across the offending News Of The World article in the Chinese on Monday night.
I had, however, seen the web version on the Sunday; the one that prompted LeathesPrior solicitors to get out of bed early as the nation’s biggest selling tabloid newspaper asserted that the Canaries were all-but four days away from going into administration.
As far as I can now tell, said web report has now disappeared off the NotW website – in accordance with City’s wishes.
It was – indeed, remains – a fascinating little episode; one that may yet run and run – particularly if both sides stick to their guns.
Certainly the publication of the official letter from LeathesPrior gave little suggestion that Norwich were about to back down; the fact that the club opted to publish said letter at all merely underlined the depth of feeling the paper had aroused deep within the boardroom of Carrow Road.
There is, of course, every reason to tread very warily around this subject; given the niceties of the English legal system.
There was, on the day, much mention made of the fact that the other NCFC had a few big dates in their diary this week; the onus put on the specific names of the advisors called in to, allegedly, oversee events is equally telling.
The devil, as ever, is in the detail. Or rather the specifics.
But what is clear is just how sensitive the club remain to the use of the ‘A’ word.
And that, I suspect, comes right from the very top.
Because nine times out of ten the biggest victims of any business going into administration are those who can least afford to see £600’s worth of unpaid flower bills or £500 worth of medical aid cover go AWOL. The little people, in short.
Or rather the little, local people. Which is even more important to where Norwich City Football Club still comes from.
Cos you don’t crap on your own. Sometimes – with every best will in the world – circumstance can go against you. Out there trading conditions are as tough as they have been for the better part of 90-odd years. And I can find precious little evidence that conditions have in any way improved with the start of the new year.
People are very, very vulnerable. To those for whom cash-flow is always king, the loss of £500 here or £600 there can make the world of difference – particularly when the banks are in less than an accommodating mood.
Given the volume of small, Norfolk businesses whose livelihood is in some way, shape or form entwined to the continuing fortunes of their local football club, taking them to the cleaners to the tune of two pence in the pound whilst the players’ wages are ring-fenced by Football League law would destroy any sense of Norwich City being a ‘community’ club.
It is, after all, one of the very cornerstones upon which the club’s owners – Delia Smith and Michael Wynn Jones – have built the club upon over the last 14-odd years. Fellow long-serving director Michael Foulger would be of a similar mind; as, indeed, would be the new-bes.
All are ‘local’ and would have to face the music on a Monday morning. Or at the next Chamber of Commerce breakfast do.
Knock that pillar out of local responsibility and community regard and the temple would, indeed, come crashing down.
That others in the big, brutal world of pro football have little such reticence is not in doubt.
Ipswich, Leicester, Southampton, etc, etc have all been through the administration mill; the swathes of empty seats at St Mary’s these days may have many an explanation, but you don’t treat your locals with contempt; you don’t take those all-important pennies out of their pockets.
Not easily; not comfortably. And if you do, then sure enough you will reap what you sow.
But – and this is a big but – when you look at how the likes of Southampton, Ipswich, etc have ‘suffered’ as a result of their trip to the administrators, then it appears all-too often that the biggest ‘penalty’ is the ten-point one.
Certainly as far as absentee owners are concerned. They don’t give a monkeys about the corner shop florists or the local St John’s Ambulance branch.
And the fact that X number of small, local businesses – not to mention dozens of long-serving staff – end up in a heap somewhere gets wholly overlooked. That’s business.
And for those not directly at the receiving end, all that really matters is the points penalty.
And when it comes.
Do you start a new season ten points adrift of the pack? Or do you try and get your points penalty in early – take the hit whilst the wind is still in your sails and a play-off finish still a real possibility even if you have just kissed good-bye to ten, hard-earned points in the process….?
All of which made the NotW claim that less likely; as much as people decry the club’s current ownership structure, one of its enduring strengths has been a very strong moral compass.
That same compass may – on occasion – lead them in some difficult directions; it might even be weakening when you look at events surrounding Bryan Gunn’s exit and Paul Lambert’s arrival.
There is a harder, calculating edge at work therein; but then the results are – in fairness – already justifying the means.
But when it comes to the ‘A’ word that’s a whole new ball-game; that’s a line in the sand that whilst the current owners and board remain in place will not be crossed. Not until every last avenue has been exhausted.
Because the biggest victims of any football club going into administration is the local community.
And that’s the very rock upon which Norwich City is built. Take that away and the club is just another Southampton.