Our club’s desire to do things differently knows no bounds.
In many ways, of course, it’s good to be different; to be non-conformist, to be brave and bold enough, to stick two fingers up to the establishment and challenge its desire to retain the status quo.
That’s good different. Brave different.
Alas, Norwich City’s version of different has very different roots.
We’re not doing it differently because we’re sick of the footballing elite and want to bloody their noses. We’re not doing it because we want to lead from the front in trying to take football in a more progressive, fairer, and more sustainable direction.
We do it because we’re skint.
In fact, we’re happy to follow the crowd, we want to be part of the crowd, we fear rocking the boat and we cozy up to the elite that we’d love to be a part of.
We only do different because different is the only way we can survive. And also because we find ourselves in this weird place where our current owners’ desperation for Norwich City to remain a community/family club comes at the expense of doing things efficiently and professionally.
Over the last year, in particular, they have also taken the term ‘family club’ far too literally.
But it was a line from Zoe Webber in Monday night’s event at The Forum that highlighted once again this club’s desire to continue to plough its own lone furrow:
“Delia, Michael and Mark are very committed to making this club as sustainable as possible. They won’t take any risk, in terms of investment. Sometimes you see clubs where money flows in and then it gets cut off and that leaves a really difficult situation.”
Sustainable. Which presumably is a rebranding of ‘self-funding’?
She added, “Mark was never brought in with an open chequebook. And we wouldn’t expect him to be stumping up the cash, but what he’s giving us is amazing support and a lot of fresh ideas.”
None of which was new, I guess. It’s been made clear all along that his raison d’être for being here is not to inject massive sums into the football club but instead to bring a fresh pair of eyes and some new ideas.
It also requires only minimum online research to gauge that for all the good Attanasio has bestowed upon the Milwaukee Brewers, it’s not been achieved by, as Mrs Webber describes it, ‘an open chequebook’.
As a result, he’s not universally adored by the fans of the Brewers.
Quote from June 12, 2023: “Vitriol from Brewers fans has been there for Attanasio for the past couple of years, that he doesn’t want to win, he’s too cheap, he doesn’t care about baseball in Milwaukee etc”.
All of which is pretty much par for the course for any owner whose team is not meeting the expectations of its fans, but, equally, there is a certain irony in Norwich City – or, in fact Delia and Michael – happening upon the only investor who appears reluctant to invest.
Not strictly true, of course. He has already loaned the club £10 million and will be spending a not-inconsiderable sum in purchasing the new share issue… but you get my gist.
The desire for sustainability is, as we have discussed many many times, the most laudable and noble of ideals, and there won’t be a Norwich City fan out there who doesn’t support the principle, but our version of it doesn’t work.
It’s simply impossible to achieve if you’re a Championship club with a stadium capacity of 27,000 and you don’t have regular sojourns to the Premier League. So it’s actually not self-funding.
Perhaps the Attanasio version will be different. We’ll soon see.
But, as pointed out to me on Twitter, as a businessman with access to significant funds, unlike the current owners, he may be more interested in investing in projects that will have tangible long-term benefits – like redeveloping the City Stand.
Providing funds that are used to buy players comes with no guaranteed return. It’s a gamble, the like of which successful businessmen are wary, and if he’s using our recent transfer success rate as his guide he’ll be doubly wary.
But for a new stand, there will be a business case. So, back of a fag packet… £9,000 per new seat, so 5000 seats = £45 million; then, £1000 per season ticket x 5000 = £5 million, so a repayment period of 9 seasons.
Something of that ilk would, I assume, be far more palatable to Mr Attanasio than a £12 million punt on a Brazilian striker who may, or may not, score us 10-15 goals a season.
But, again, we’ll see.
Another slightly troubling line to emerge from the mouth of Mrs Webber (and as pointed out to me by our Martin) was this gem:
“He [Attanasio] is very key to learn, in particular from Delia and Michael as long-standing custodians of the club, about the nuances of football.”
With the best will in the world, if he’s wanting to learn the nuances of English football, Delia and Michael cannot be your go-to guys. And it seems he’s already well-versed in the lessons of thrift.
So, that one left my flabber a tiny bit gasted but then, I suppose, I would say that.
Ultimately, I’m tired of our club constantly being in the grip of self-imposed austerity. It would be nice, just for once, if we were in a position to compete financially with clubs we perceive as our peers.
No one is asking for a spending spree. Just parity.
Too much to ask?