Building on success, the Carrow Road master plan and a feisty exchange – how City’s AGM unfolded
Carrow Road’s future, January transfer spending and a feisty exchange about shirt sponsorship revenue were all part of Norwich City’s annual general meeting at Carrow Road last night.
The packed out Norfolk Lounge in the Barclay Stand saw shareholders having the opportunity to chat with the club's directors during the 30 minutes prior to the meeting formally kicking off.
With Ed Balls having vacated the role of chairman last December it was Stephan Phillips chairing the meeting, having been on the board since 2009 - in front of the mantra on the TV screens: "Be positive, respect each other, together we are stronger."
Chief financial officer Ben Dack kicked things off with a summary of the financial report for the year ending June 30, 2019 - which was published earlier this month - which showed that a pre-tax profit of £14.6m for 2017-18 had dropped to a pre-tax loss of £33m in the wake of Premier League parachute payments finishing.
However, a profit in the region of £16m is projected for 2019-20 now that the club has returned to the top flight, with income forecast to rise by £89.5m to a total of £126m.
Business and project director Zoe Ward then led a presentation entitled 'building on last season' in which the aim of becoming established as one of the country's top 26 clubs in the long term was re-emphasised.
Firstly a review of last season summarised the work of the executive committee of which Ward is a part of, alongside sporting director Stuart Webber and chief operating officer Ben Kensell.
This included, of course, promotion to the Premier League, the revamp of the club's training ground, replacing the Carrow Road pitch for the first time in 14 years and £1.5m in savings from a cost efficiency review - followed by a video montage recapping success on the pitch.
Creating financial stability was the second part of the presentation, involving planning over a period of three to five years, ensuring the club owns all of its assets, efficiencies and maximising revenue to allow the playing squad to be enhanced.
There was a notable part of that second part of the presentation as well: pro-actively planning for stadium and training ground improvements.
Point three focused on developing 'a culture of continuous improvement' with an importance on growing the next generation of players and staff.
While the final point of Ward's presentation was on improving the club's infrastructure, involving the creation of a 'master plan' for Carrow Road and the surrounding land.
The next stage of development for the Lotus Training Centre at Colney was also mentioned, as well as continuing to develop the fan hub opened at Jarrold Intersport in the city centre this summer and the continued pursuit of full funding so that phase two of The Nest community hub near Norwich Airport can be completed.
Next up was the question and answer session, with the first question regarding the 'master plan' for Carrow Road, with Kensell stressing it was a long-term plan but that two pieces of land have been purchased recently, which will allow for a 'full feasibility study'.
It was later added by Kensell that the land purchased is between the City Stand and Koblenz Avenue, allowing the possibility of that stand to be extended, as well as land behind the Barclay Stand.
Next were the funds available for January transfers, with Webber stressing he couldn't reveal the exact amount and that any players signed could not be financial risks, saying: "I love this question, when we've just lost £33m!
"There are funds available for January, I make no apologies for having to spend wisely, not sign for popularity so that people are happy on Twitter for an hour because we've signed a player that they've heard of."
There was an unexpectedly feisty exchange swiftly following as the apparent low shirt sponsorship deal with Dafabet was queried by a shareholder, suggesting the negotiator should be sacked as it was lower than some in the Championship, citing a £3m deal.
While that slightly aggressive accusation drew a few laughs Kensell was having none of it, bluntly replying "quite frankly you have no idea of what you are saying" and outlining that commercial revenue had grown by 83 percent and that the club's commercial partners had grown from five to 46 on his watch.
A further question about that deal with the betting firm saw Kensell admit that he would prefer not to have a sponsor linked to addiction problems, but that gambling firms were the most willing to commit to big sponsorship deals, with a self-funded club not in a position to pass up such money.
Questions about VAR, financial fair play and whether City could resist big offers for their star talents all contributed to the discussion.
And as the Q&A drew to a close Kensell also revealed that the club's consultation into complaints about this season's ticket membership scheme was almost completed, teeing up January news of how that will evolve next season, saying "I think you'll be pleased with the scheme moving forward".