It’s guest blog time again and not for the first time, the MFW floor is handed over to ‘youth’. Today it’s the turn of George Devo, who says out loud what many City fans are thinking. All yours George…
Twelve matches. 1,080 minutes of football. 64,800 seconds. Take your pick. That’s how long the Yellows have to maintain the most prized position in the English football pyramid outside of the Premier League.
The optimistic among the Canaries’ faithful will begin (and may already have begun) to dream of seeing Daniel Farke lifting the Championship trophy above his head as the victory bus glides through ‘the fine city’.
The pessimists’ anxiety levels will continue to rise as the club’s success prolongs, with their fear of City’s failure directly proportional to City’s probability of promotion; an irrational yet understandable fear. To them, the twelve remaining games seem like nothing more than twelve separate opportunities to self-destruct.
The pragmatists meanwhile, who I always try to emulate despite naturally being more optimistic (probably part of a subconscious effort to preserve my sanity), are slowly beginning to accept the mantle of promotion favorites, whilst simultaneously staring daggers at any fan brave enough to speak of the PL (‘Promised Land’ in Sky Sports speak).
There are two uniting beliefs for City fans that smooth over the aforementioned groups’ psychological borders: firstly, that our club’s state of affairs were never meant to be this good – this period of footballing brilliance was not expected by anyone – and secondly, promotion to the Premier League is a good thing.
The second of those viewpoints may seem too obvious to require mentioning in this article but in fact, it is that very statement that I’m going to discuss.
It allows me to ask my core question: do we, as Norwich City supporters, really want to get promoted this season?
That may seem like trying to hide simple provocation under the guise of intellectual debate but bear with me because you will, without a doubt, agree with, at least one of my following points.
The Premier League is the wealthiest division in the world and arguably the best in terms of depth of quality when taking account of all the 20 clubs. Guardiola, Pochettino and Klopp all manage within it. De Bruyne, Kante and Hazard all play in it.
Unfortunately, all this quality comes at a cost, because alongside this rising quality of football comes the growth of the organisation as a world-dominating brand. Subsequently, and similarly to other huge products, it has lost its way morally.
As Apple, Nike or even Sports Direct have demonstrated, there comes a point in the progression of a big organisation where profit starts to outweigh people, and a corporation grows too large to be contained – or even bothered – by naïve and non-literal notions such as decency or fairness.
An example of this is Amazon’s purchasing of the rights to stream 20 Premier League matches a season, starting from 2019-20 and continuing for the subsequent two years. The League allowed this transaction to be made with the age-old money-making defence that ‘competition is good for consumers’, when really we all know, in this case at least, it isn’t.
Tickets, club food and merchandise are more extortionate than ever, so pretending that by separating televised matches into three separate fee-paying subscription sites it benefits the average football fan is frankly offensive to our collective intellect. The only clear beneficiaries are the owners of Premier League clubs and the TV executives.
Alongside this, regardless of how hard campaigners have worked (such as supporters of the aptly-named ‘twenty’s plenty’ campaign to cap all tickets at £20), the only concession that the league has made towards fans so far, is to introduce a league-wide price cap of £30 covering solely away tickets. £10 above the affordable £20 asked for once more patronises football fans and takes for granted and exploits their powerful support for the team they love.
Moreover, the level of genuine competition within the division is diminishing rapidly. This is largely due to the broken distribution system of the TV revenue; money is not shared equally between the clubs.
A team will earn more money the more frequently they are chosen to be beamed into living rooms by Sky and BT executives. This results in previously richer clubs just becoming ever wealthier – as they are seen as more watchable than the poorer teams – and the inequality gap simply grows.
The net effect is that the Premier League becomes nothing more than the boring nine-month-long tussle between ‘the big six’ that we have seen this season (the ten-point gap between sixth and seventh shows that the disparity has never been worse).
Would we want Norwich to be subjected to a bottom fourteen dogfight for as long as they can survive, with no real prospect of achieving any lingering success? Wouldn’t it just be better to win the league and refuse promotion?
Nevertheless, despite all of this raging against the powers-that-be I’d love to see our club’s name up in the bright lights of the Premier League, our matches being picked apart on BBC One every Saturday night by Team Lineker and Daniel Farke’s men, in general, receiving a hell of a lot more national coverage than we would if our promotion project were to fail.
That’s the scary thing.
The fact I know, despite the increasing boredom of the league and indifference to supporter’s well-being it displays, I desperately want my beloved Norwich City to get promoted – thus answering the question I posed earlier in the article.
It’s the exact same feeling that any follower of an EFL club experiences every season.
So maybe scary isn’t the best word for our situation – maybe the word is terrifying.
It is as if football fans are stuck in an unhealthy relationship with the Premier League that they cannot get out of. In other words, the bond between division and fan is toxic because, as the dominant and overbearing other-half, the league knows how to manipulate supporters to make them feel a deep need to remain in the competition for as long as possible.
The Premier League is not a force for good in this world – but Norwich are increasingly becoming one.
We have owners who are genuine fans of the club and feel the exact same emotions as any other supporter. The Community Sports Foundation does incredible work across Norfolk, and the Barclay End Project and Along Come Norwich initiatives have received the backing of Stuart Webber, showing how intertwined our fans are with the board for a club of our size.
The scheme where £1 of every East-Anglian derby program sold went to the Along Come Norwich coffers – along with all the money made from the £5 “All Together Now” scarves sold by Norwich – was particularly brilliant.
At the risk of sounding self-righteous (although that ship might have long since sailed) we need to hold onto that moral compass that has become so integral to our identity. Unsurprisingly, I trust Delia Smith and Michael Wynn-Jones to not disappoint me on that front.
To end on a burst of optimism – in a time where Norwich needs to be more united than ever, it is important to remember that the aforementioned twelve matches have a number of divergent meanings.
Twelve more “On the Ball City’s” to be bellowed from the stands of Carrow Road and elsewhere when the referee whistles. 1,080 more minutes of football for Teemu Pukki to score in. And, most importantly, twelve more separate periods of 64,800 seconds where the county of Norfolk stops and unites around one shared love.
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