City chief executive David McNally – fresh from bagging finance giants Aviva on a new, four-year sponsorship deal – this afternoon happily crunched a few of those Premier League numbers as supporters digested the difference in finishing anywhere from ninth to 14th.
With just four games of the season to play, one point currently separates Sunderland in 9th spot to Stoke in 14th – with Norwich slap bang in the middle of that ‘second tier’ pack.
But given that the Premier League prize pot includes provision for a £750,000 bonus per place, the difference between finishing the season at a canter and sloping off early to the beach can be the thick end of £5 million.
For a club of Norwich’s ‘co-operative’ ilk whose business plan budgeted for a 17th place finish, to end an already remarkable season with such un-planned cash in the bank would be a huge bonus – particularly when McNally confirmed at this afternoon’s kit launch that any spare cash is always destined for the manager’s coffers.
What could Paul Lambert do with £5 million he hadn’t planned for, given his success in the young, hungry and English transfer market?
“I think supporters experiencing the Premier League for the first time may not appreciate that [the bonus payment per place],” said McNally this afternoon.
“But it is why we don’t have meaningless end of season games in this great league of ours,” he added, with points really meaning big prizes – irrespective of whether they yield Europa Cup tickets.
“I grew up watching lots of dull, end of season games when two teams would play out a boring 0-0. And they were meaningless. There’s no such thing in this league.
“There’s that one point between the six teams in mid-table and let’s call it £750,000 after very limited overheads – so that’s huge. That’s £4.5 million.”
The next question was inevitable. More power to the manager’s elbow?
“We’re a co-operative – plain and simple,” said the chief executive.
“This club is a co-operative. By that we mean that any spare cash goes to the football manager and whilst this team of people are here managing the club then that will always be the case. Any spare cash goes to the football manager.”
And spare cash could easily equate to unbudgeted income if Lambert could deliver a top-half finish on his debut season in the top flight – a remarkable achievement on the back of those back-to-back promotion triumphs.
“In the business plan we budgeted to finish 17th,” confirmed McNally. “The financial plan was 20th, but the business plan – which is what drives this business – was 17th.”
Which – on last year’s numbers and Wolves’ final £40.6 million figure for finishing 17th – could equate to a further £7 million being available should Lambert steer his troops to ninth next month.
So, were Norwich out of the woods then? Aviva deal signed, sealed and delivered for the next four years and with a crop of young tyros fast proving their worth in the richest professional football league in the world, what could possibly go wrong?
Time to put the feet up and reach for a big, fat Havana cigar. Job done.
“I don’t think in football you ever sleep easy,” laughed McNally, who in the darkest days of League One football has been obliged to peer over the edge of the financial abyss.
Excellent management – on and off the pitch – has turned the club on its head; it is now a realistic possibility that Norwich could become ‘self-sufficient’ financially and as such act as a role model for a whole clutch of similar sized clubs.
But McNally is far too long in the tooth to count too many chickens. Football remains far too fickle a mistress to rest easy.
“The thing to remember in football is that it’s the thing that happens next that matters – and not what happened today or yesterday. If you look at the great football people like Paul Lambert, that’s their view – that they think about the next game. And then the next game…
“And that’s the great thing about football. It’s a 24/7, dynamic business. Sleep easy? What is that?”