There’s no doubt that this season’s revelations on the state of Norwich City’s finances are worrying – and fans of the club are right to be concerned.
But if there’s one thing I don’t believe will provide a quick fix, it’s a return to the Premier League. Far from it.
In fact, I for one believe last season’s relegation to League One couldn’t have been better timed. For now, the Premier League is a place City are best out of – for it is there where debt levels could run into club-threatening proportions.
This year, more than most, England’s top division seems an unstable and almost unsavoury place. When the country’s most successful team turn out to have debts of £716.5 million, it suggests something’s not right behind the scenes.
Manchester United, of course, can claim mitigating circumstances, with the much of the money owed a result of the controversial Glazer takeover. But I’m sure every club in the Premier League has their excuse for the level of debt they’re harbouring.
And what is becoming increasingly clear, is that existing in the top division whilst maintaining a firm financial footing is a difficult business.
The £23 million City owe is partly a legacy of their season in the sun, while the Canaries don’t have to look far from their perch at the top of League One to find further evidence in the form of Leeds, Charlton and Southampton.
A look at the recent winners of the Championship play-off final paints a similar picture. While Burnley’s fate remains to be seen, the five previous victors – West Ham, Crystal Palace, Watford, Derby and Hull – have all been dogged by similar financial problems.
And all that despite winning the so-called richest game in football. The price of a shot at the big time – a price City can’t afford to pay right now.
If you’re a member of this country’s football elite – a Manchester United or Chelsea for example – you can cope with huge debts.
Creditors are prepared to give you leeway and there will always be another investor around the corner. For the rest, things aren’t so easy.
Players and their agents become demanding creatures once the Premier League is reached, and fans often only take a short term view when demanding success.
It means the wage bill goes through the roof and big spending in the transfer market becomes hard to resist. Staying in the division is difficult enough – staying in the black even harder.
But what City now have on their side now is big crowds and a healthy income in a division that is relatively cheap to exist in. The wage bill can be lowered and transfer fees are generally significantly smaller.
It’s still not easy to make money, but it might just give the club the breathing space it needs to sort out the bank balance – and successfully attract the right kind of investors.
No doubt the lucrative financial packages that come with Premier League status would provide a much needed boost. But I’d wager that debt figure of £23 million would soon be significantly higher if the demands of Premier League football were suddenly placed upon it.
It’s big business and you have to be on stable ground to compete. For most clubs the current environment at the top level is just not sustainable – and one or two of the country’s biggest are in danger of being sucked under.
So while plying your trade away from the so-called Promised Land doesn’t appeal to many, it could be a safe haven from which Norwich City can secure its long term future.
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