Wanted – one CEO, one strategic vision and a selection of players “fit for purpose” for the Championship season 2017-18.
While the statisticians may tell you that there’s still a mathematical chance that City can still make the play-offs, there’s been a nasty whiff of inevitability about City’s Championship season, since shipping five goals at Brighton at the back end of last October.
Russell Martin’s Brighton post match interview is now complimented by Cameron Jerome’s, just 126 days later – both as refreshingly honest as there were brutal.
Those within football’s inner circles may tell you that there are certain lines which should never be crossed – a manager, or player, “calling out” fellow professionals, with such affairs confined to the dressing room.
City are an absolute mess; both on and off the field and the evidence is pretty damning. From a financial perspective, this season City will have had the third highest turnover, the third biggest football budget and the third biggest wage bill (behind Newcastle and Aston Villa) in the Championship – their best ever position, from a monetary viewpoint, at second tier level.
Yet, in footballing terms, to be 19 points off automatic promotion, or, if you’re being more charitable, 12 points off third, and still having just under a quarter of the season left, is nothing short of shambolic.
And, while there’s never a good time to lose a CEO; to lose two in under a year, smacks of corporate carelessness.
Last summer we were told that players had to be sold before we could buy – something that was repeated, to be fair, in January. In one sense, that isn’t altogether surprising, given TV monies have reduced by £25m following demotion – something that relegation clauses in contracts won’t cover.
But, to subsequently hear that certain players can’t be moved on because their salaries are “out of kilter” with the Championship implies someone took their eye off the financial ball, probably during a well-intentioned desire to retain Premier League status.
Yet the rules of engagement for the Premier League are simple – the three teams with the fewest points after 38 games are relegated. To splash out £20m plus, in January 2016, was always going to be a huge risk, even with City sitting 14th at the turn of the year, bearing in mind most of transfer installments would be paid in 2016-17 and beyond.
Recruitment – already widely acknowledged to be the root cause of a huge proportion of City’s current problems – only covers part of the issue. Getting players sold on is just as important and City have failed spectacularly to move on those deemed “surplus to requirements”.
Football is a brutal business. Financial Fair Play is supposed to create a level playing field. It does nothing of the sort – it merely enables Clubs to accumulate substantial losses (usually at the owner’s expense) and spending beyond their means.
Trying to compete in this environment, with a self-funding model, commendable as that may be from a business perspective, puts City at a huge financial disadvantage.
Professional football may be unique, but I’m struggling to think of another environment where it would be considered acceptable to run a business, turning over a million pounds a week, with, effectively, six non-executive directors, plus just one executive director, running the whole show?
The Board have recently said that they’re undertaking their own strategic review – the evidence suggests it’s desperately required. It needs a huge dollop of realism, accompanied with an open and honest debate on the Club’s vision and identity.
Whether we get that is another matter.
Second tier clubs often complain about the ‘non-level playing field’ of the Championship regarding the ever-increasing amount of parachute payments received by clubs relegated from the Premier League.
As things stand, City are approximately fifteen months away from their last parachute payment.
That’s quite a sobering thought.
If you want a vision, the Club could focus on committing each season to:-
All this sounds simple – but it can only be achieved through focusing upon the combinations of coaching, recruitment and investment in the infrastructure at Colney; complemented with the support of a dynamic and visionary leadership from Board level downwards.
And, if you want further perspective, let’s not forget, just over a week ago, City fans indulged in some banter with “that lot”. The minute applause during the 15th minute, for “15 years in the Championship” was amusing for us – payback, perhaps, for their waving notes in our direction, while singing “we’re fecking (sic) loaded” following Marcus Evans’s takeover, a few years previously.
The irony is, despite having subsequently pumping in tens of millions, they’re no nearer getting promoted (thankfully) nearly ten years later.
But (as Simon Clegg, the then Ipswich CEO, said in 2009) “There’s a small club to the north of us that has just been relegated.”
Get it wrong now and Norwich City may be paddling a similar Championship course to “that lot”. And no one wants that, surely – do they?
If it’s true that Moxey left because his hands were tied by the owners, the only CEO we’re going to get is someone who does what he’s told, which won’t solve the problem.
The owners have either got to step away or hand over, even if it’s to young Tom.
But this is the first season in 9 where we’ve nothing to play for in March. The club have earned and spent a lot of money in that time but we are not yet back to where we were. We are famously debt free, with 20,000 season ticket holders and a healthy academy, with some good assets.
What we need is a CEO, a Chairman, an FD and a Manager and a Coaching team who can actually handle that, and owners who can back off and let them do it. At the moment it seems that all we have is the FD.
The problem with January 2016 was that in spending £20m in the transfer window the club was damned if it did and damned if it didn’t. The £20m spent would now be referred to as good business if PL survival had been secured.
In terms of recruitment the clubs policies appear out of sync with the real world. City often fail to move senior players on because they appear unwilling to take a loss on any player – even those who have failed spectacularly to impress. This ties up the money that could otherwise be spent on new players, if not leading to protracted negotiations during transfer windows.
I wouldn’t agree with the club being an “absolute mess” however. Yes there are key areas that need close scrutiny and improvement, the make-up and expertise of the board would be top of my list.
Despite all this the club is a success commercially. It posts a profit, has a strong balance sheet, and has no outside debt. Its an envious position to be in. It also continues to attract 26-27,000 home supporters at home games, and it has successful youth teams.
I could go on but I’ve just been informed my dinner is ready.
Dave B says
“We are famously debt free”
Only as a selling club. A return to debt was forecast earlier this year. I don’t know where we stand with the Jan sales. That may keep us in the black.
I believe that’s our foreseeable future until contracts run out. Our biggest liability now is large wages for underperforming players that we can’t shift. PL teams won’t want them and Championship teams won’t pay meet player’s demands.
good article as usual Gary, you wrote earlier about finances and that was not picked up at all. Now here we are again only now closer to that piece of canvass falling. People talk of a good academy, please some body show me two lads in recent years who attracted some attention from bigger clubs and thats gone quiet, also who out of our academy is playing at a higher level . Please don’t kid yourselves millions have been thrown into that, and many earlier lads are playing non league football not one higher than the championship
Stewart Lewis says
sgncfc #1: I certainly don’t know everything that happens in the club, but nothing I’ve heard gives any support to the idea that Moxey left because his hands were tied by the owners.
I’ve heard other explanations for his departure which sound much more plausible. I understand the appeal of your rumour to those agitating against Delia & Michael – and they certainly have grounds for unhappiness – but I don’t believe that one’s justified.
For one thing, it would mean Delia & Michael had totally reversed the course they set with McNally’s appointment – ie hiring a real CEO and letting him get on with the job.
Dave B #3: We’re remarkably close to being debt-free. With the collapse of income following relegation, this season’s two transfer windows needed to show surpluses in the playing budget (ie transfer fees + wages). We’ve managed that without a fire sale of players – indeed, without selling a player who didn’t want to go.
As I’ll expand tomorrow, there are big problems. We don’t need to make them worse by denying the virtues we still have.
Mention of spending 20 million pounds in January. Don’t forget the seven million pounds garnered from the sale of grabban.
As Dave says, we are debt free as long as we have assets to sell. Once they have been hawked we will be back in debt.
With moving the unwanted players on is a joke.
Look how many AN extended the contracts of some who were certainly no longer fit for purpose.
Just shows how bad his judgement truly is.
Now he has started to criticise some players in public (his own signings) is the easiest way to lose the dressing room, and that’s what has happened.
After playing the game of his life, Prichard was dropped for the following game. What must’ve Prichard thought. What a way to motivate a young player. Evidence yet again of how bad his judgement has become.
Andy Delf says
Without the parachute money keeping healthy attendances become ever more important. Nothing that is currently going on with the club is likely to attract the big crowds that currently turn up week in week out. How long before people vote with their feet. The board need to start sharing their vision for the future pretty damn soon. If it’s blooding the youngsters then let’s get on with it. We would back that.
Gary Field says
#1 sgnfc – There’s no evidence to suggest that Moxey left because his hands were tied. As for being debt free, that’s likely to change with a prolonged stay in the Championship.
#2 Jonny – The problem with spending £20m in January, it was six months too late. I’d also add that the headline isn’t mine.
#3 Dave B – the debt was repaid from TV monies, rather than transfer fees, but that’s likely to change when the parachute payments cease.
Gary Field says
#5 Stewart – parachute payments, even allowing for relegation clauses in player’s contracts, aren’t sufficient to cover the reductions in TV monies, so transfer fees have to assist. The problem is likely to get worse once they disappear.
#6 Chris – most Championship clubs incur big losses year after year. One thing is for certain, City will have to drastically reduce their playing budget if we don’t get promoted next season.
Meanwhile, the under 23 side have just recorded another good result, a win at Newcastle. Motivated, organised, enthusiastic, good to watch (for free). We could do worse than put richard money in charge for the rest of the season.
Dave "The Optimist" B says
The old debt was repaid by TV monies (although I do believe we came out of a lot of transfer windows doing okay). Correct.
There was however a return to debt forecast for the end of this season of (I think 5-8m, but I can’t find the report now) if we didn’t sell anyone, based on income vs. costs at that time.
This may have been avoided through Brady, Canos, Olsson.
dave c says
Sack Neil now and get someone in to see where things are wrong so he can start rebuilding now for nex season.
#7 Ken – spot on. Whatever worse has happened in the last few months and years, the reward of consistent failure is the one thing that’s put us in this position. There are several failures on the playing staff who should have been fired after the play off win. Those more expensive players must be looking at some of their team mates and wondering why they need to bother. No wonder they aren’t trying.
It’s certainly been suggested on the Pink In website in articles by their reporters that Moxey left because he wanted to bullet Alex Neil and the Board wouldn’t let him.
Plus he was taking a lot of flak for not sacking him at the time.
Our Academy has actually been very successful in recent years – we have lots of players playing at our level for other clubs – much more than other teams and we do have two players (the Murphy twins) who are clearly worth several million between them – more than we have invested certainly. Toffolo, Rudd, Matthews and Morris could still produce fees. And there are several possibles coming through (Crowe, Cantwell, Adams among them)
Like you say – enough is going wrong so let’s not add the stuff that isn’t. Our academy is one of the few very good things; that and the recent policy of buying young potential.
#5 – Stewart…Seriously?! Please wake up. You’re more stubborn than my father. Moxey was a fall guy, that’s obvious to all. He would of been appointed after this clause was put in place for Neil and when he wanted rid Delia turned the gun on him. It’s common sense. Him getting sacked was a huge concern to me based on the mechanics of our club right now and it’s proved right. Funny that.
Gary Field says
#15 sgncfc & #15 Jeff – the Moxey decision wasn’t down to one single issue. If you want to believe otherwise, that’s your prerogative. And, when all said and done, there wasn’t much sympathy for him at his time of departure – perhaps with good reason.
Stewart Lewis says
Jeff #16: “Moxey was a fall guy” may appeal to you, but that doesn’t make it true.
In the footballing pyramid – we are still above: Derby, Cardiff, Villa, Ipswich, QPR, Birmingham, Forest, Blackburn, Wolves, Sheff-Utd, Bolton and a whole load of other similar sized clubs. Let’s put things in perspective the past ten years have been a roller-coaster up and down the divisions. We have had some big disappointments this season and last season but overall our club has been doing fine for the size and financial input we get. Short of praying to get a billionaire owner we are going to continue to go up and down over the next ten years. I don’t believe we are such a mess. Short of confidence in the first team but with 11 games to go this season there is still a small chance to put things right. I’m not writing us off yet.
Gary Field says
#20 Edinburgh Canary. Thanks for the reply and I love your positivity. As much as I agree with your perspective this is really about the here and now. What’s happened in the past won’t assist going forwards and I’m concerned that we’ll have to reinvent ourselves because the financial consequences of dropping out of the Premier League are severe, given our current position. I don’t believe our position is as rosy as some make out.
Mick Dennis says
It is categorically not true that Jez Moxey left ‘because his hands were tied’.