It’s guest blog time again and today is the turn of Joseph Smyth, who questions the validity and worthiness of ‘self-financing’.
All yours, Joseph…
It’s the big question…
Can Norwich’s self-funding work model work in the Premier League?
At time of writing (pre-Everton), since promotion in the 2018-19 season, City’s Premier League stats are as follows:
- Played 58
- Won 7
- Drawn 10
- Lost 41
- Goals for 34
- Goals against 119
- Goal difference -85
So, safe to say in answer to that question, it doesn’t.
Since Delia Smith and Michael Wynn-Jones took over as the majority shareholders, Norwich have been in the Premier League seven times and are now well on the way to a fifth relegation.
Despite being told that investment would be welcome, it’s clear that is all they want: investment. Like it or not, they don’t want a takeover. But no one will invest in a football club without some form of control.
That interview with Henry Winter in The Times in 2016 included the telling line:
“The supporters will be very disappointed to hear that. But no way will we sell. We don’t even listen to any enquires”.
At the time, it smacked of arrogance.
Over the last few years, we’ve been told nobody is interested, and then nobody suitable and now that we have received offers but not the right ones. However, I find it almost impossible to believe that Norwich City is not an attractive club to any would-be investors.
It’s in a massive catchment area, has a great stadium and facilities, and is in a wonderful part of the world.
It now feels as if they are now trying to desperately cling to the hope self-funding can work in the Premier League, but that hope is over. Dean Smith badly needs help in this transfer window but we would have to sell one of our better players to do this.
Surely that just doesn’t feel right?
Emi Buendia was sold in the summer and he wanted to go, which is fair enough, and the club got the deal done early but what I’ve asked numerous fans is, if we never had Buendia, where would the money for this summer’s purchases have come from?
I’m still awaiting an answer.
Norwich fans are arguably the most patient fan base in the country. They were told that, in effect, we got promoted too early but with a promise we would make a better go of it this season.
That promise is now in tatters. Imagine Leeds fans being told that and accepting it.
Josh King (who I understand wanted to join), Kristoffer Ajer and Philip Billing were all top targets in the summer but Norwich didn’t have, once again, the funds required to sign them. As one reliable Twitter account stated in the summer, we were working on options C and D lists for these positions.
The recent sarcastic chanting has been in the news and whilst I understand it can be seen as not helpful, fans pay hard earned money to follow the team home (£48!) and away. The club are the current laughing stock of the league, and so all you can really do is laugh along.
The picture of the fans with the banners at Charlton was greeted over the weekend with a mix of “good on them” to “they aren’t old enough to remember the Chase era”, but why does it matter that they were not even born in the dark Robert Chase era?
Some fans reckon because they were not, they have no right to an opinion on the football club today. It’s bizarre.
When fans say look at Portsmouth, Charlton etc, you can balance that out with Leicester, Wolves etc. I’m not saying I would expect us to win the Premier League if we did get a takeover but I would expect us to be more competitive on and off the pitch.
Surely it’s better to roll the dice than consistently fold when playing with the big hitters?
Carrow Road hasn’t been full in a while. Yes, that is mostly down to COVID but there are many cases where fans simply feel they can do something better with their weekend than watch a club that is not currently competitive. The upcoming season ticket renewals might be interesting……
The fans that get constantly annoyed at TalkSPORT’s clickbait (because that’s all it is), fall in the same trap of biting but it must be said, they do make some valid points about Norwich’s recent attempts in the Premier League.
17 April 2021: Norwich had been promoted without kicking a ball after both Swansea and Brentford failed to win.
I was in a beer garden at Redwell Brewery and then invited to a BBQ on a gorgeous day. At said barbeque, I was told that I was negative as I said to everyone there that Norwich would go straight back down as I simply couldn’t see anything changing.
I was so confident that I promised I’d get a Delia Smith tattoo if Norwich did survive this season.
Right now, that’s looking a very long way off.
I admire optimism (even blind optimism) and being positive but realism is also much needed.
I’m grateful they saved the club but times have moved on and Delia and Michael need to accept this.
Great article Joseph. Everything I’ve thought over the past week, and then some!! It appears that the apologists for D&M can’t see past the fact they saved NCFC (BTW no-one disputes this, we just like living in the present not the past like some football clubs I could mention). Those in favour of no change point to the fact that “football is broken” and “money shouldn’t be the reason for success”, well here’s a message to you – Football is not going to change just to suit NCFC and D&M. We HAVE to look for outside investment just to compete, which is something we haven’t done on the pitch all season. Sticking as we are is not an option, The Championship is beckoning and from there who knows?
Excellent read, precisely summing up our situation and the desperate need for new owners.
How many of the very young fans are going to hook up to this nonsense in the future when they could so easily look to one of the many successful teams they see nightly on tv.
All nephew Tom is going to inherit is a mess of a club and an empty stand.
Very true they are slowly choking the life out of the club , they must realise it.
One question – who is the richest people in Norfolk?
Chris S says
Good work, Joseph. Like you, I didn’t find the prospect of promotion to the Premier League remotely attractive – and would have far preferred to to do it again in the Championship (to my mind, the most exciting division in the world. The Premier League may be the ‘best’ but it’s dull as dishwater predictable 90% of the time).
I agree there must have been many potential buyers over the years, just because so many other clubs lower down the football pyramid who have far less current and potential earning capability have been bought. Oftentime by billionaires. That means there have been approaches but they’ve been rebuffed.
The only likely route to change would be a catastrophic reduction in income which would put pressure on the current owners. That would be successive relegations, for example, or a significant show of apathy by season-ticket holders. Your quote: ‘The upcoming season ticket renewals might be interesting…’ could have the most weight in the short to medium term.
John Holland says
Just staying in the Championship for a few seasons would lead to the catastrophic reduction in income. There is a frightening gap between English football’s 20th highest earners and the 28th highest earners. I’m not a fan of the Championship, too many matches, too many midweek matches, inconsistent teams and too many memories of turgid draws at Doncaster as we struggle at the bottom. Change at the club will happen, it is inevitable, it is possibly an alien concept to fans in their 30s or those who dropped out of following football in the 70s and 80s but at some point we will have different ownership. The questions will be who, when and how. I can’t say I want to see the change happen at a low point for the club but it looks likely
martin penney says
Hi Joseph – a fine MFW debut.
The comment about your tattoo statement to your friends resonated with me.
I’ve got three NCFC tatts, at least 10 that relate to my love for heavy metal music and a couple of others relating to more philosophical issues.
There ain’t no way I would ever have an inking of Delia.
I’ve got the Club badge tattooed on the left of my chest and I’ve no wish to devalue it.
Alex B says
A good read
I will start by saying sad news today hearing that city legend Lol Morgan has died so commiserations to all his extended family.
City is a big toy and the owners will not let anyone else play maybe they are scared that someone could make a real success out of this club with investment and ambition.
I hope that they can see the errors of their ways and sell but Dinosaurs eggs are more common on Hopton Beach so I am told
David Bowers says
Great article Joseph and I think you’ve hit on something important.
There are (and I’m going to risk putting this in quotes) “fans of the club”, who have over time become more interested in a social occasion, than with the sport. Good results are a bonus, but they won’t let it spoil drinks and a natter with friends.
I feel bad for the youth who never saw top tier stability, a cup win, a PL title challenge, and European football. They’re rightly asking, “what needs to happen for that even to be a possibility”? “You saw it, why can’t we?”. Surely it’s not too much to ask.
Yet they’re being told to “sit down, shut up, be grateful for an owner who is a fan. This way is ‘better’ for the club”.
John Holland says
I think the social aspect is a major reason why the season ticket renewal rate is so high. I know many people in their 50s or 60s who moved to the area 10 to 20 years ago and got into the habit of watching the football with mates or their kids. They didn’t see the top 5 finishes nor the Wembley Finals that we saw and maybe they are happy to see what they see. I do get an element of the social occasion as I have gone with friends and family over the years but I mainly go to watch the football. I’m also happy to pop down the road to watch my local club battle for promotion from Division 2 of the Anglian Combination. The excitement is what draws me along
Tim Ball says
Excellent comments Joseph.
I just checked this before I replied to your piece. To make sure I hadn’t dreamt it.
And that was at this year’s AGM it was stated by the finance officer that any “serious” offers for the club go to the major shareholder’s for their consideration.
Now I know that is tantamount to turkeys voting to keep Christmas.
But the real story was that there have been offers. Both serious and not so serious.
That took me by surprise as the last I heard no one was interested in buying Norwich City. That was some years ago and it seems things have changed.
I loved the 2018/19 season so much, I got to see a few games and the football was fantastic and was fully signed up for this brave self funding model.
But that was until I like all of us found that the EPL had changed,
Stronger, more athletic, quicker and we struggled to compete. Especially in Project Restart.
After this season though I have reluctantly come to the view that it is time to move on from this model, it won’t work in the land of the billionaires.
There are risks Joseph, and I don’t mean this as patronising to the younger fans but after nearly 60 years supporting our wonderful club I also worry about its very existence.
However a devoted City supporter you are, young or old none of us have a TARDIS so the future is a blank page.
No one can guarantee us a return to those wonderful days of Brown, Stringer and Walker.
Look at Bury, I saw them beating Brighton 3-0 on The Big Match Revisited last year, now confined to history.
A wrong step and things could be a lot worse. And that’s why I feel both ways carry a big risk.
But this embarrassment, this mind numbing realisation that we are just not good enough. The fact we have become a laughing stock all this proves to me that this risk needs taking.
If you don’t move forward then you are at a standstill that will soon become moving backwards towards at some point a return to League One ?
8 goals. In 20 games. That is unacceptable.
We are only still in with a chance of surviving because this season there are 3-4 clubs nearly as bad as us.
Delia and Michael please look at this with an open mind, and do what is in the best interests for Norwich City Football Club even if that means selling, you are only the custodians for a generation of supporters who will be here long after us.
Great read and sums up perfectly except one part. The Stowmarket duo, didn’t save the club, as many of us keep saying it was Sir Geoffrey Watling, who bought Chase out. He made mistakes, although being termed by many as Mr Norwich City. The biggest mistake was selling to those two from Suffolk. 25 years ago .
Now all these years later (under half of my time supporting City). We are still in the same boat going nowhere, despite seeing uncounted millions passing through the books. Delia isn’t out of pocket, she claimed her LOANS to the club back in shares.
Igave my season ticket up during Hughton,s reign, could not face another season of his football, I was close to getting one during Farkes reign, but stopped myself, because still steering the rudder was the Husband &Wife team of the good ship imcompetent
Ennis Pipe says
Good article and comments. To add a thought… “I find it almost impossible to believe that Norwich City is not an attractive club to any would-be investors. It’s in a massive catchment area, has a great stadium and facilities, and is in a wonderful part of the world.” This is the disconnect with the valuation of the club. I won’t dispute NCFC has the stadium, facilities, and it’s a wonderful part of the world, but it doesn’t have the demographics to inject the kind of money now needed to operate and successfully compete in the Premiership. Norfolk is large (expensive and time-consuming to get to a match), doesn’t have a large enough population (900,000) and is frankly, is a largely unknown area outside of England (even within England), If I’m Mr. Businessman who is going to plonk down a large chunk of money, I’m not sure NCFC is where I would be looking. That said, my guess is there is a rather unrealistic valuation in the minds of ownership and as a result, there is no movement. There is an interesting article today on the Athletic discussing valuations and the example used is the difference between West Ham and Southampton. Unsurprisingly, WH is worth 3-4x So’ton and I would expect NC to be lower than So’ton.
Lastly, please all weigh-in. My sense is that relegation is a forgone conclusion and I’m also sensing getting back to the Prem isn’t going to be easy. Charlton gave us all we could handle last weekend and there will be a number of key players leaving as loan deals expire, players are sold, etc. Potentially a very different looking group of players next year in an increasingly competitive Championship.
Herr Cutz says
I love competitive football, end to end with either team in with a chance to win. In the Prem the big six have it sown up, everyone else is an also ran, regardless of investment Norwich will never be part of that group. The occasional cup game with a potential against the odds win, great. So if the Canaries remain outside the Prem but play competitive football and win the majority of their games that will do me. But then again that means promotion, my brain hurts.
John Holland says
We only have to go back a decade or so to know that the Canaries remaining outside of the Prem and winning the majority of their games is by no means a given. If we fail to get back up within 2 years we face a massive drop in income, we would need to sell players to fund an average squad or reduce the squad quality down to bottom 6 Championship. I have bad memories of going to places like Reading and being so far behind them in terms of ability it hurt. I’d guess that as long as we continued to sell 20,000 season ticket holders at £500 a throw plus the hospitality continued to sell we would generate enough income to run the academy and field a League 1 play off chasing squad. That’s how much it costs to operate the club. Bouncing between the middle 2 divisions is probably what faces us
Jason M says
As someone who can remember the Robert Chase era (plus was involved in protests and boycotts at the end) I can genuinely say that at the time, Delia and Michael were a breath of fresh air when they came to the club. It was what Norwich needed at that stage, and there were a lot of good things which eventually led to the play-offs and promotion in the early 2000s. We were nowhere near that in 1996 and for all that people defend Chase, the club was very close to administration.
What rankles with me is how the narrative has changed. Delia and Michael were crucial to help turn the club around and rebuild its image, but the mantra of this has for some time been solely attributed to themselves whilst other figures have virtually been airbrushed out of history (to name a few, Gordon Bennett, Martin Armstrong, Andrew Cullen, Roger Munby, and so forth). Even Geoffrey Watling’s role, while acknowledged, has been downgraded to a bit part. Our major shareholders have become sacred and untouchable, while any criticism, however small or constructive, is met by many with a “HOW DARE YOU SAY THAT – THEY SAVED THE CLUB!!!”. I expect to hear this repeated ad nauseam by rabid journalists in the near future who are probably terrified at the prospect of seeing their free lunches disappear over the horizon.
Despite all of this, I don’t think the entire blame of this shocking season can be laid at their door. Webber’s is a huge part of this season’s mess too and (not with a trace of hindsight) I thought it was scandalous he was given a new contract when it’s been clear for a while (yes, even last season) that his magic touch with transfer dealings had long since passed.
Great article Joseph by the way.
Ken P says
Well said JS. Sad but true. Unfortunately, the asset stripping, chicanery and economic mismanagement that led to the current NCFC ownership still carries on throughout football, with a number of clubs that ought to be successful in serious trouble.
If the billionaire option is not acceptable, would a partnership be possible? Possibly a sale with the NCFC Deeds ring fenced , locked in place to prevent what may be a consideration preventing a sale?
Clearly investment is necessary, for a self funding option the club is punching well above it’s weight, but that will find it’s correct level sooner rather than later. Quite how it would be done whilst maintaining guaranteed interests of the club is an interesting, possibly insoluble, puzzle.
Also a thumbs up for DS. Some interesting ” out of the box” thinking going on. I hope it works.