Protests should be a last resort. A river of anger flows through the veins. Emotions bubble through to the surface. You’re left with no alternative but to stomp your feet and bust the odd blood vessel – in the hope someone of importance will take note.
I’m old enough to recall the ‘Chase out’ demonstrations, and this current situation is so far removed from that one that it makes me wince to hear people even contemplate similar action be taken.
This planned protest is not a ‘last resort’ and, for the record, I do not agree with it.
It is borne out of a frustration with modern football. Ultimately, the nitty gritty of it is that Delia isn’t rich enough – nobody at the club is – and the protesters want someone who is able to afford it. This isn’t about what’s happening on the pitch. It’s about money, and she and her colleagues don’t have enough of the stuff.
Financially, football has moved into another stratosphere since Smith ‘n’ Jones stormed in to save the club from extinction, 20 years ago.
I’ve delved a little deeper to find out just how far our owners are lagging behind their Championship peers. Details of wealth within football can be somewhat sketchy, but for context, our investors’ wealth is estimated between £40m and £60m combined.
Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers, Bristol City, Cardiff City, Derby County, Fulham, Ipswich Town, Leeds United, Newcastle United, Nottingham Forest, Preston North End, Queen’s Park Rangers, Reading, Sheffield Wednesday & Wolverhampton Wanderers all have owners with estimated worth between £500million and (unbelievably, in the case of QPR) £16.5billion!
Brighton & Hove Albion, Huddersfield Town, Rotherham United and Wigan Athletic are closer in comparison, but also have owners worth more than Delia and the two Michaels combined, estimated anywhere between £60million and £190million.
Amazingly, only Barnsley – of the current Championship teams – have investors with lower personal wealth than Norwich City. I’ve had to miss Brentford and Burton Albion out, as I couldn’t find any information on their owners’ personal fortunes.
And yet, ignoring the money for a moment, how many, if any, of those mega-wealthy clubs in the Championship are ahead of us in terms of facilities, playing staff and ability to pay wages?
To my mind, only the two who came down from the Premier League alongside us, offer a serious threat on at least one front – and they are bigger clubs than us anyway.
Is it grossly unfair to criticise our owners just because they aren’t super rich? Or is it ‘that’ unreasonable to suggest that a club of the stature of ours – with a recent history of top flight football – should be able to find investors able to plough more money into the club than the current regime?
Without larger investment, the club has little chance of growing; such is the current state of play in English football. FFP ‘should’ be our safety blanket, but is largely ignored.
So why are other clubs fancied before us?
I don’t know the ins and outs, the reasoning, the back-stories, behind owner’s decisions. Some may be fans – like Steve Lansdown, the Bristol City head honcho (estimated at £2bn, if you’re interested), which is fair enough.
But what of the others? Thai-owned Reading, for example – are they a more appealing purchase than us, and if so, why?
Does our location play a part? We all know what a wonderful place it is, but we are still perceived by the outside world as a ‘backwater’. If it’s an investor’s choice between Norwich and London, we’ll lose every single time. But Norwich and Reading?
Is the club more saleable in the Championship or the Premier League? Perhaps we would be seen as more of a bargain in the top flight?
Maybe it’s a simple case of our owners refusing to relinquish power. Perhaps they only want part-investment. Could they be asking for too much?
Or, do we take their word for it – that there really is nobody capable of putting their money where their mouth is?
In their defence, they have used companies to search for investment before, in 2011, and again more recently, which is why I was surprised to hear Jez Moxey say the club is not for sale. But does that mean any search for investment has been dropped, or is it just an outright sale they’ve given up on?
“We have approached 52 potential investors around the world – in Europe, Russia, the Middle East, the Far East, the United States and, of course, the UK,” said ex-Chairman Alan Bowkett, speaking in 2011.
He continued, “We have had some expressions of interest. But every time when I asked the question ‘Could you please verify you have funding?’ no one passed the test.”
Surely if there is any doubt about a potential investor/owners intentions, that deal should be scuppered.
“Money is no guarantee of success” was the line from Moxey the other day – and he is of course correct. QPR are the perfect example at the moment but there are countless others.
As Rick Waghorn alluded to in his article, for every successful takeover story, there are opposite scenarios ranging from ‘no discernible change’ to ‘complete catastrophe’.
I’ll take your Leicester and raise you a Portsmouth. Lob me a Bournemouth and I’ll kick an Ipswich back. Chuck in a Manchester City and I’ll hurl back a Coventry, Charlton, Leeds, Cardiff, Villa, Blackburn…
Football’s only true mainstay is the fans. Everyone involved takes the glory when it arrives, but only the true supporters live with the pain when it goes belly-up. Any takeover is a gamble – but so is keeping the status quo is.
With the latter, at least we know what we’re getting – even if it isn’t perfect.
The irony is, our club has never been in ruder financial health, and that is why protests look more than a little silly. But football is evolving and whether we like it or not, money has become the overriding power.
I think we should be rather proud of our club that we are one of the few that has managed to get up – and stay up, albeit it was short-lived – when we are at such a gargantuan disadvantage to those we are competing with.
So I share the frustrations of the small few ready to protest. But that’s all it is. Frustration.
Frustration that clubs viewed as ‘lesser lights’, such as Bournemouth, Swansea and Watford, can spend a few squillion quid more than we can.
Frustration, that we cannot fund stadium expansion. Frustration that nobody has said “d’ya know what, Norwich City – that’s a great club – I want to buy them and spend loads of my dosh on them – and I want nothing back in return.”
Life is not always fair and football definitely isn’t. We are not desperate for investment. We should not feel exasperated by our current standing in the game. We are not in a ‘bad way’, wondering where our next dime will come from.
It’ll happen when it happens and in the meantime, continuity isn’t the worst thing.
Despite being torn on the matter, in a way, I like the fact we are doing things differently. We are the underdogs – the ones without the need for Billy Deep-Pockets – yet still able to gain a modicum of success, often more so than our peers who have a Billy sitting in the directors box, looking confused.
But football continues to blow up at an alarming rate and our little foot pump is beginning to look a bit knackered, so its unsurprising that some fans feel a wind of change through the corridors of power at Carrow Road may prove essential.
Follow James on Twitter @JamesFinbow