Norwich City: The Price of Progress
It`s been 3.5 years since the current regime took the reigns at Norwich City and became part of the group of 'guardians` of our great football club.
Although many of the existing personnel (Delia and co) remained during that turbulent summer in 2009, the trio of Alan Bowkett, Stephan Phillips and David McNally have without doubt made a huge impact on the strategy and stability of the club since their appointments. "Without struggle, there can be no progress", so the saying goes, which I think is very apt.
Progress has undeniably been rapid. Rapid on the pitch and rapid off it. Whilst this approach has obvious benefits, the club is not as 'friendly` as they once were. There is evidently a more corporate feel to the club. The club takes longer to pay its bills, ticket prices are up and it`ll cost you both arms and both legs if you happen to misplace your season ticket. There`s also no chance of getting a response out of the PR team, nor actually hearing from the players unless through official channels. This is not a grumble, just an observation. It`s part of a number of reasons that the INCSC is to be closed down.
On balance, all of the above is a price worth paying. I can confidently muse about supporting a 'well-run` club, and I feel somewhat superior speaking to fans of clubs propped up by wealthy benefactors, whereas we are headed along the envious path of self-sufficiency, and profitability.
Chairman Alan Bowkett in 2011 said, "We have taken the decision that we are going to be self sufficient in the funding of the club," Bowkett added. "If we can find further investment that will be great, but we are not depending on it. We are well on the way to doing that, we have the support of our creditors, we are performing ahead of budget. In fact we are doing as well off the pitch, I think, as we are doing on the pitch.
"We have to stand on our own two feet. In order to do that in the Premier League we would need a capacity of around 35,000."
So there`s the first milestone: A 35,000-seater stadium in the centre of Norwich, and a consistent mid-table position in the Premier League to pay for it.
Does it stop there though? Is it enough for those that run the club? Is it enough for the fans, or does everyone want more than mid-table mediocrity? Rather than aiming to be a Fulham, should the next aim be to become an Everton or a Tottenham Hotspur?
What if standing still isn`t an option. What if the talented trio at the top made the case that we need a 40,000 capacity (or more), and that to get this we`d be best off selling the current much-loved ground for redevelopment and relocating outside of the city? If Everton can consider leaving Goodison Park, and Liverpool can consider leaving Anfield with all that history, then you can be sure that leaving Carrow Road is an option on the table no matter how unpopular.
Another option on the table (especially attractive to sponsors of a shiny new stadium) would be to sell the naming rights to the ground. Manchester City, Arsenal et al have actioned this to great effect and have shown that it`s possible to make as much as £10m per year by renaming the ground and selling sponsorship as one combined package. Arsenal make more money on a match day than any club in the world, and this (together with the lucrative sale of Highbury) was a major reason they chose to relocate.
Such talk would make the most laid-back of City fans feel wholly queasy. This isn`t incremental, steady change; such a move would be seismic and uncomfortable for most. Will it happen in the next couple of seasons? No. Could it happen soon after that? Yes. It would take a very brave character (or a set of characters) to make this decision, but it`s a possible route the club could take.
One of Playwright George Bernard Shaw`s quotes does sum things up quite well, 'The reasonable man adapts himself to the world. The unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. All progress, therefore, depends upon the unreasonable man.' Think Michael O`Leary (Ryanair) as a good example of such a fellow.
An 'unreasonable man' in this context is one that is willing to take substantial calculated risks for the sake of progress, but also one who is not too worried about who he upsets along the way. An unreasonable man is exactly the sort of man you`d want to run a business you had invested in. Being unreasonable is great - so long as the investors/stakeholders are bought into and supportive of the vision.
A number of fans, suppliers and players of Norwich City might suggest they know of such an "unreasonable" man in the club right now.
Just keep an open mind folks, progress is sometimes uncomfortable.