Tis the age-old question; one right up there with ‘To be or not to be…’, ‘why are there so many empty blue seats at Portman Road?’ and ‘what is the point of X Factor?’
What the hell do I write about during an international break?
Perhaps I’ll muse on the enigma that is Kyle Lafferty?
A delve into the Canary annals maybe?
How about a piece that looks at why we support the Canaries?
Or a look at the alleged conspiracy theories designed specifically to halt the progress of Norwich City?
Alas, all of the above have been covered by colleagues, and in far more able and eloquent ways than I could hope to achieve.
But there is one thing that’s been gnawing away. A theory that has been discussed and dissected a million times by others but which, until recently, I’ve largely dismissed as plain daft and beyond the realms.
Namely… is now the time to ignore sentiment, bite the bullet, and consider relocating from Carrow Road?
Logistically of course it would be a veritable nightmare and the heartache involved for many would be almost too much to bear but for me my love of Norwich City FC even outweighs my love of Carrow Road.
And I do love the old place. I’ve written about it (and declared “I hope Mr Chase’s dream of relocating never comes to fruition”).
I love that it’s lop-sided and is blighted by an unsightly hotel in one corner. I love that it’s a stone’s throw from the city centre. And, as one who crosses the border for every home game, I love that it’s located in the southern part of the city.
But, in the cold, unemotional light of day, if the long-term future of Norwich City would be better served by attracting 30,000+ supporters through the door every week, should we not consider every option of achieving it? Even if it causes some pain?
Clearly the the club’s (and just about everybody’s) preference is to expand Carrow Road, and Messrs Bowkett and McNally have both spoken of the board’s desire to expand the Geoffrey Watling stand and bring it in line, both in terms of stature and facilities, with the rest of the stadium.
Yet, with said plan would come some significant debt on a balance sheet that is currently free of it and an amalgam of logistical issues over how to manage any rebuild; not least what to do with four thousand-ish season ticket holders who currently inhabit the stand – including those who frequent the directors’ box.
If those good souls were to be relocated in other parts of the stadium while said redevelopment tales place then it would do two things: reduce to zero the number of casual tickets available, and/or render the away allocation below the Premier League’s de-minimis level (a minimum of 5 per cent of the stadium’s capacity).
Both wholly unsatisfactory.
One possible alternative would be to build over the exiting structure, as Liverpool did when building their Centenary Stand back in 1992 – thus enabling it to remain in use – but again it’s one riddled with risk and cost. Logistically the nightmares would come thick and fast.
All of the above make for problems aplenty for those tasked with overseeing any project but the real headaches would begin long before bricks and and steel girders even enter the equation. Most notably, how to finance the rebuild without compromising Alex Neil’s playing budget.
After all, Bowkett has long declared any ground changes only feasible if City are considered Premier League regulars. And we all know what it takes to make that happen.
Sadly, minus a tree that grows money or, in Premier League terms, significant external investment we are always going to be walking a financial tightrope and subsequently teetering on the brink of the league’s nether regions. It is hard to imagine us ever being sufficiently secure as to take on a new, substantial mortgage.
Therefore is a more viable option the one we all dread?
The NR1 location of Carrow Road certainly makes it prime building land and given the negotiating skills of those in our board room it’s conceivable we could walk away with a deal that could finance a sizeable chunk of a new stadium.
I have been advised by those with far more knowledge of such projects than I that any sale of land would not be sufficient to cover the cost of a new build but key will be the level of residual debt.
If, all things considered, to relocate were a goer the obvious location would be somewhere near where the A11 meets the A47, thereby partly mitigating the tiresome ‘middle of nowhere’ accusations. The downside would of course be that those travelling from far afield would not be afforded a first-hand experience of our fine city but few appear to appreciate it in the first place.
The design of any new stadium would be key to its success and none of us would wish to frequent another Ricoh, Riverside, King Power or St Mary’s, which in the words of fellow columnist Steve Cook come under the collective heading ‘soul-less’, but something unique and innovative that sets us apart from the masses would be a great start.
Of course, the whole caboodle would hinge on the numbers and other such hurdles – such as the almost mandatory public enquiry, especially given that any site would likely be either green belt or brownfield – but I do wonder if, in order to progress, the difficult question now needs to be on the agenda.
We expect Alex Neil to take the dispassionate view when it comes to team selection. Perhaps we need to do the same with regard to the future of our football club.
Naturally, armed with UEA findings of 2012, David McNally and Alan Bowkett will be acutely aware of the pros and cons of such a decision and, in terms of the club’s finances and infrastructure, they’ve done little wrong since their arrival.
Maybe I just need to shut up and trust them to make the right call……
Yep, that’s what I’ll do.