How many times have we seen it on TV? A vox pop in the street where Agnes from Scunthorpe is asked her opinion on the latest situation.
“It’s disgraceful. Something needs to be done about it”
Needless to say that, if the reporter or journalist responsible for the original question were to press dear Agnes on what that ‘something’ was, dear Agnes (or George, let’s not let accusations of sexism intrude) would be unlikely to extol the virtues of the Gold Standard as a model for fiscal policy.
No, Agnes simply believes that if there is a problem, then change is necessary to make it right.
Let’s not confine this to innocent members of the public. So-called professional politicians1 are just as bad, no matter which side of the house they sit on.
“What is the minister going to do about it?”
Straying into politics is always going to be divisive, so in for a penny and all that. The B-word. Brexit. The great British public was asked to vote on a question that neither side knew the answer to.
‘Remainers’ had no more clue about the future shape of the EU than ‘Brexiteers’ had over any post-Brexit existence. Imagine a Scottish referendum where the separation negotiations took place before the vote? Where the voters knew the share of oil revenue, whether they could use the pound or would be able to join the EU as an independent nation?
So what, I hear you ask, does this have to do with our beloved Norwich City?
Actually, I’m sure that most of you will have caught on by now. To say the season has not gone to plan is something of an understatement, and whilst we don’t have Agnes from Scunthorpe demanding that something must be done, we do of course have her country cousins all demanding something similar.
“Delia must sell the club”
Yet when asked, the majority will have ideas barely more formed than dear Agnes and her “something must be done”. It is human nature it seems to want to change when all is not well. So let’s deal with the first proposition – Webber out.
Depending on your opinion, our Stuart is probably either a genius director of football or a guy who got lucky on a Celtic reject and a lad from Argentina. Suffice it to say the truth probably lies somewhere between the two.
However, can anyone say with any certainty that a successor to Webber would do any better given the financial constraints under which he has operated? Consider that two or three years ago, the average transfer fee paid in the Premier League was £15m. Or put another way, for £15m you get an average Premier League player.
This season it is more like £20m to £25m.
Webber has always said we have to be creative with transfers. By that, he means we cannot afford established players so we have to take a bit of a gamble. Pay £8.5m for Christos Tzolis for example. We were told at the time that he was more ‘one for the future’. That’s the creative gamble.
In two seasons’ time, he could be the next Emi Buendia and his sale could finance three or four other signings. But the fact remains that we either cannot afford or could not attract the players with a pedigree at this level.
Which brings us nicely to ownership.
“Delia must sell the club”
Ask three City fans about Delia and you will most likely get four opinions. Ranging from ‘she saved the club’ to ‘she only wants to get promoted to steal the TV money in her handbag’. However, one thing is clear – Norwich City is the only club in the top two divisions that is debt-free.
That is due to the strategy that she and the board have pursued.
Some may claim that the Club got lucky, some would counter that they were equally unlucky – losing so much money following Covid for example. However, there is one thing everybody should consider.
Before you advocate ‘Delia out’, think about what you are actually voting for.
Some ‘Delexiteers’ will want a rich Billionaire to come in. They won’t care if he is Russian, Saudi or even Satan himself as long as he brings a stack of cash. Some will want a more equitable ownership where fans have the power. But my point remains.
Before you demand “something needs to be done”, know what the something is, otherwise likely you will be just as disenfranchised when the alternative is put in place.
Club ownership is always a gamble. The odds are stacked heavily in favour of the house. If you increase your stake and put more money on the table, it only alters your chance of winning by a small amount yet you stand to lose so much more.
The fact that Delia is the least wealthy owner in the top two (possibly three) divisions of English football only serves to illustrate the fact that for the majority of clubs, money has not enabled them to be any more successful than Norwich.
Can ‘little old Norwich’ ever aspire to the heights it hit during the early years of the Premier League?
In the current financial context, not a hope. But the world, and particularly the financial world, has a tendency to be cyclical. When the economy contracts, investors dispose of high-risk assets and move their money somewhere safe.
Being the only debt-free club in the top two divisions could be huge when the football financial bubble bursts and maybe, just maybe (if you will pardon the metaphor), the mountain may come to Delia instead of Mohammed2.
1 This use of footnotes, whilst not best suited to a web-based article, is a nod to my favourite fiction writer Terry Pratchett. He frequently used them and this note is to espouse his viewpoint that the mere act of wanting to be a politician should immediately disqualify anyone from taking up such a position. I might go further still and suggest that being a politician should be like jury service so we could forever rid the country of the tribal nonsense of Westminster.
2 The author reserves the right in any future articles or match reports to demand that ‘something needs to be done about it’. In return, you may call me Agnes!