When I first started drafting this piece, the general gist of it was that we had very little to moan about.
Cameron Jerome was in ‘beast mode’, Tony Andreu had begun to prove his doubters (me) wrong and to top it all, The Wolf went and got himself a goal. I half-expected to see Alex Neil taking a morning stroll across the Wensum.
Since then, we’ve lost our unbeaten away record, we still haven’t signed anyone and to top it all we’ve released a third kit that even Ricky would struggle to look good in. Cue the hysteria on social media and online message boards.
To the glass half-empty brigade, I’d like to point out that it was only a friendly and a good work-out for the lads. With regards to not paying inflated prices for Brady, Ed’s recent piece articulated the position far more eloquently than I could hope to.
And as for that kit, well it’s likely to make fewer appearances than Luciano Becchio. Besides if you don’t like it, (as with the others) you really don’t have to buy it.
However, there is one other gripe to which I do have a degree of sympathy – namely that of ticket pricing.
A Crystal Palace fan site recently published a letter it had sent to David McNally. It was an eloquent and impassioned plea for City to make a ‘principled stand’ by reducing away ticket prices for our opening match. The suggestion being that the £45 fee is both ‘unreasonable and ill-judged’.
It’s not the first time our pricing policy has been criticised. Last season the Derby fans were particularly vocal and embittered in the run up to their visit to Carrow Road at being charged a similar amount.
As it turned out, if anyone was robbed that day it was John Ruddy who was fouled when they equalised from a corner. I’d also argue that the move for Jerome’s opening goal was a thing of such beauty that it was worth every penny it cost them.
Not that I’d get any agreement from the Derby fans of course. But the fact that we were voted as the fourth worst away-day experience across all of the Premier League and Championship teams, suggests Derby were not alone in feeling hard done by.
With regards to the Palace letter, it could be argued that once you strip away the sentiment, it basically boils down to a whinge about things being expensive. A bit like me writing to the chief executive of Lamborghini to complain that their valuation of their products is pricing me out of owning a high-performance sports car.
Now I’m not suggesting that we are the footballing equivalent of a luxury supercar but we are a business and basic business principles suggest that it’s a pretty good idea to maximise your revenue. And for all the criticism, the Palace match has sold-out, which suggests that it may not have been such an ill-judged decision after all but a simple case of supply and demand.
However, the question it raises in my mind is what ‘duty of care’ does any club have to away supporters?
I suppose the absolute minimum is to provide a safe and family-friendly environment. Some would say exorbitant ticket prices are not particularly family-friendly but how far should any club go in order to provide customer satisfaction to those who provide their custom (at best) once a year?
Last season Liverpool fans took the moral high ground on high ticket prices at Hull through a boycott of their away match which was arranged by the Spirit of Shankly group.
As an aside, that spirit was obviously in shorter supply when Liverpool fans were prepared to charge ‘their own’ up to £1,200 for their seats at Stevie G’s last game at Anfield. Another example of supply and demand perhaps?
Hull won the boycotted game 1-0. Whether the diminished Liverpool support had any bearing on the result is hard to say. Only professional players will know the real value and psychological advantage of seeing a large travelling fan base.
However if it genuinely helps the away team, then there’s arguably little incentive to any club to encourage away supporters?
Presumably it becomes even less attractive for a club like Norwich where demand amongst City fans already exceeds capacity and any unsold away allocation could mean additional home support.
It’s true that Norwich City is a business and one that came perilously close to imploding before David McNally steadied the ship. I want us to be run sensibly and that means not paying silly money to whoever on Humberside demands it and maximising revenue through all the shirts, DVD’s and tickets they can sell.
However having flip-flopped across both sides of the argument, I can’t help but feel genuine sympathy for those who penned the Palace letter.
The ‘away-day’ remains something special and the atmosphere at games is enhanced by a large travelling support. However with more televised matches and online streams available, there’s an increasingly less compelling case to drag yourself halfway across the country for 90 minutes of football – especially if the whole experience costs you several hundred quid.
Swansea have taken the decision to subsidise their away support which is a positive step and one that I hope Norwich will consider. Living in our fantastic part of the world does come at a price – namely the hours it takes to get just about anywhere else.
As football fans we don’t consider ourselves as mere customers or consumers. We’re supporters with a unique ‘brand loyalty’ to a single product. That loyalty surely should be rewarded and not taken advantage of.