City commercial chief provides membership update – and addresses spiky AGM exchange
PUBLISHED: 11:56 29 November 2019 | UPDATED: 11:56 29 November 2019
Chief operating officer Ben Kensell is hopeful that supporters can now appreciate the hard work that has gone into stabilising Norwich City’s financial strength, on and off the pitch.
The Canaries board of directors revealed their priorities for the next year at the club's annual general meeting at Carrow Road on Thursday, with a host of issues covered - including the purchase of two areas of land to open up the possibility of expanding Carrow Road in the future.
"This set of financial results are solid in a sense of a timing perspective," Kensell explained once the AGM had concluded. "We know where we are with Premier League payments that are coming in, the club ultimately is in a good financial position, commercially we've shown 83 percent growth.
"I think it was a good AGM, it's good to be transparent with our fans from that perspective as well. The news today of being a club that really engage with its fans was really positive. We've worked hard the last two or three years to make sure that is what we want to be."
That comment was in reference to City being ranked 10th in England in a 'Fan Engagement Index' which has been put together by FanInsights.co.uk, as the highest ranked Premier League club - based on how clubs communicate with their fans, the involvement of supporters in club governance and transparency of supporter meetings.
Ironically, it's a lack of prior consultation over the club's unpopular ticket membership scheme which was introduced following promotion to the Premier League, which has been keeping Kensell busy in the last six months.
With apologies having subsequently been made and a series of consultation meetings held with the intention of improving that ticket priority system - which saw loyalty points replaced by a paid-for membership scheme - Kensell said the results of those discussions will be announced soon.
"We're getting very close to the end of that consultation, we've already put forward our recommendations which were basically led through fan consultation," he added.
"So what I like about what we're potentially proposing is that it's been from suggestions from fans around areas we can improve.
"We know we got things wrong, we've accepted that, we've put our hands up, but it's now about how do we get it right.
"It might not be right for everyone because it's such a subjective thing but we believe that from the fans' consultations that we've had we'll present a scheme which on the whole should be applauded because it's improved.
"What's also important to note is that games attended, so the points that people were used to, from the 2018-19 season will count and not from this season.
"We've got a final fan consultation this month when we will present the findings back to fans and then in January, in line with season tickets, it will be launched."
Kensell was also involved in the one minor flashpoint of the evening, when a shareholder claimed the "£3million" shirt sponsorship deal with Dafabet was lower than some Championship clubs and even suggesting that Kensell's job should be under threat because of the deal.
The slightly aggressive tone of the suggestion drew some shocked and dismissive laughs - and an understandably spiky response, with Kensell pointing to the forecast for commercial income to have increased by 83 percent to £15.9m for the 2019-20 financial year.
Reflecting on that slightly odd exchange, City's COO explained: "It was inaccurate, firstly. You have to get information from credible sources. The gentlemen only knows what he reads and he read that on Twitter.
"Ultimately I have to know my numbers and even though they are contractual and they are confidential, they were not the numbers that the gentleman was saying - and they were way below, nowhere near them.
"So I had to answer back in a way that righted the wrong that he was stating. Fans are entitled to their opinions but it's got to be factual, that information has to be accurate and the information that was presented wasn't accurate.
"The growth that we've shown here at the club during the last five years during my time at the club, and even just the last two to three years, is there for everyone to see and it's there on Companies House for people to look through on our accounts.
"So quite frankly, I don't need to answer anything personally around the growth in commercial, people can see it, it's an open book."
During the course of the evening it was also announced that chief financial officer Ben Dack will be leaving the club in February.
Kensell explained: "He's a great guy but ultimately people have spent their time here, I've been at the club five years now, had the opportunity to step up from commercial director.
"From Ben's perspective he leaves with our best wishes but also he moves into a different industry that will generate different challenges."
- You can watch our full interview with Kensell in the video above, also discussing the plans for Carrow Road and the club's financial realities