It’s Guest Blog Friday (I just made that up) and with the stripes today is a friend of MyFootballWriter, Shan Henderson, who looks back over the last few, traumatic days in the increasingly wacky world of #NCFC and what was at the root of it. You can probably guess.
All yours, Shan…
It’s been quite a week in CanaryLand (like Disneyland, but with more ups and downs).
First, we had to say a strangely inevitable, drawn-out, in absentia adios to Messi’s new bestie, Emi Buendia, while smarting from the knowledge that City did not represent the height of his vaulting ambition, and that he has chosen to join football’s other most fouled player and become a peaky Buendia.
If that wasn’t enough, while most of us were on the metaphorical canvas, wailing ‘Why, Emi? Why?!’, the cack-handed commercial crew at Carrow Road asked us to hold their beer, as they hoofed our current anonymous far-eastern gambling sponsorship non-entity over the City Stand and into the wilderness of Morrison’s car park, and replaced it with a completely new anonymous far-eastern gambling sponsorship megacorp.
This did not go down well with Keith and Karen Canary when they loyally looked them up at their local internet club and were faced with images that did not serve the community, but should instead result in some community service.
Having read at least one article and half-listened to a podcast while picking my daughter up from ballet, I consider my self-informed enough to grasp that the question in most people’s minds this week has been, ‘how could this have happened?’.
Well, I’ll tell you, and the one-word answer is depressingly obvious: money, money, money.
If you have ever listened to the English Manager’s Club on the Athletico Mince podcast, you will know this is the chanted mantra of the ‘Destroy and Exit’ gang of EPL Mafiosi, comprising Allardyce, Pulis, McLaren et al. When one of them gets a big payoff for botching another managerial appointment, they get together at lunch, lick their badges and sing ‘money, money, money.’
This is always grimly funny as it contains more than a kernel of truth. As with so much in football and elsewhere, the irrational, inexplicable and unpalatable can generally be understood through the lens of hard cash, or the promise of such.
From the stilted, quickly jilted Super League to the upcoming geographically diffuse, corporate sponsorship-driven Euro 202
0-1 tournament – via any number of transfers, sackings, changes of ownership and official club network switching relay partners, the genesis, development, and hastily displayed finished product – is invariably based on a cold, hard financial calculation.
Take our diminutive Argentinian. He’s had three years with us, on modest Championship wages, following a relatively low-budget move from Spain. After a redemptive season, blitzing the second tier with arrogant flicks, petulant tics, and plenty of goals and assists, he and his assiduous agent will have faced a choice: stay at Norwich, take a modest salary increase, hope the club gets its transfer dealings right and builds a team around their star man, or make it known that there was a deal to be done, at the right price, for Emi and the club.
The transfer will have moved quickly to completion because the signing-on fee alone represents a life-changing amount of money and the likely doubling or tripling of wages means that Emi’s young family, Norfolk born and bred bless ‘em, will be secure for life.
His representatives, taking a healthy 10-15 per cent cut of everything, will have encouraged him to take the first serious offer on the table, in this case, to join, or possibly replace, the pantomime Villan, and give himself a more prominent place in the international boutique shop window: a trendier Buendia.
Likewise, BK8, which if you speak Gaelic, is pronounced ‘botched’. Probably.
This was a (now defunct) partnership forged in the modern game, where the biggest dollars live overseas, offshore, and don’t brook much investigation. The team responsible will simply have been following orders, and worked to a ‘true north’ of a financial target that determines their income and lifestyle.
Commercial teams are not briefed to go and find the most wholesome, family-friendly partners, and hang the revenue, otherwise we would be sponsored by Wagamama, or Sprowston soft-play shriek zone.
The opposite is the reality – the brief was to find the largest sum, over the longest term, and these days, outside of the global top six, that generally means gambling. And if one gambling partner looks very like another, especially if you are squinting across 10,000 miles, and lots of languages, then why not swap one out for a bigger fee, a sales target hit, and some new shirts on the racks?
There will have been no intention to cause upset, to disrespect fan groups, or to besmirch our reputation as a community club. The assumption will have been that foreign gambling money is now so pervasive in the English game, that the new kid on the block must be broadly the same as all the others, so let’s just get it signed. Then we can throw Darren Eadie into Jonathan Trumbull’s by way of Avis car hire, then borrow a drone and shoot a video using the lighting left over from Take That and stick it on Twitter.
At all stages: money.
The link between the two stories is us, the fans: a goodly proportion of the comments relating to the departure of Emi have exhorted the club’s owners and leaders to ensure that 100% of the fee received goes back into the player transfer kitty, and not to refurbish Delia’s mega-yacht, anchored off Waxham.
’Twas ever thus, and this explains why the commercial unit has to work to always up the financial ante, to find the money to pay wages, to develop Colney, to reinforce my seat in the Barclay after 18 months lockdown.
We can’t have it all.
If our income is focused on recruiting and retaining players, this self-funding club has to work harder to fund itself. While these home truths don’t excuse this week’s clumsy back-pedalling and potential unravelling, they go some way to explaining it.
There. I’ve got that, and thankfully, the BK8 logo, off my chest.