It was perhaps the headline figure in Norwich City's 2021/22 financial report - the fact that the club had taken £66m worth of loans out to protect the future of the club.

The accounts even came with a warning from the independent auditors that acknowledged 'that external funding, or the realisation of value inherent within the club’s player assets, may be required' in the next five years to keep the club afloat.

A statement in itself that is an admission that Norwich may need to venture away from the self-funding model they have adopted for a prolonged period of time without promotion this season.

The stakes on the club are even higher than ever.

City have taken out two loans to protect them after the effects of Covid and a costly Premier League recruitment drive.

The Pink Un: Norwich City's finance director Anthony Richens.Norwich City's finance director Anthony Richens. (Image: Archant)

One is a £22.6m loan taken out against future contracted receivables, for example transfer funds that have been paid in instalments, so serve as an advance payment on guaranteed funds that the club will receive regardless of division.

Norwich have until September 2024 to repay that - but given the context above, that shouldn't pose an issue. It just means it won't be factored into budgets in the future.

The other is slightly more of a gamble.

A £43.9m loan has been secured against future media rights, broadcast revenue, and is fully repayable in March 2024. This one is slightly different in the sense that it is dependent on the Canaries regaining promotion to the top flight.

Even though the accounts imply there is a debt of £66m, cash in hand of £4.8m at yearly earnings, it's perhaps more accurate to suggest that the net debt sits at £49.1m.

Norwich are entitled to two years of parachute payments which will be used to help ease the burden created by that debt in the short term.

Either way, it isn't too dissimilar to the approach that Norwich employed between 2013-15, which resulted in the departure of James Maddison in 2018 in order to fill the financial void that appeared as a result.

A complete reset followed. A change in footballing direction on a lower budget and a rebuild required. Those are the fine margins of Norwich City's existence in their current model.

It amps up the pressure, if that was needed, on promotion. Dean Smith will be under pressure to deliver a Premier League return or City potentially risk another period of financial pain and austerity.

Under their self-financing model, that is always a risk. But the problem with advanced payments is the club may well need them further down the line, more so if promotion from the Championship isn't secured this season.

It may explain why Norwich have several players with contracts that expire come the end of the season - that would represent a swift way to make savings if needed.

In the worst case scenario, Norwich would need to sell players. Another unwanted impact could be raised prices for supporters, possibly in season ticket hikes, which have already been raised this year in line with inflation.

A second successive Championship season would see the wage bill need to be significantly reduced.

The Pink Un: Mark Attanasio has invested ?10m into Norwich City Football Club.Mark Attanasio has invested ?10m into Norwich City Football Club. (Image: USA Today)

For all the talk of their self-funding model in a positive sense, this is the reverse side of the coin. A prolonged spell of second-tier football would be problematic without intervention from the listed factors.

There is also Mark Attanasio's impact in the background, with questions remaining about the role he will play in the coming years. Any further investment to either bail the club out of a financial hole or to inject cash could see a departure from the self-sustainable model.

In contemporary football, a sport increasingly awash with cash, Norwich may have to change to survive. Exactly what form that takes remains to be seen.

Whether it comes from external funding, Attanasio or through Norwich becoming an established top-flight side, the future is unclear.

City's board have produced cash flow forecasts that extend to the end of the 2026/27 football season under various prudent scenarios, all with the confidence that they won't be needed.

This is a marked departure from the way City have attempted to operate in previous seasons, where a cautious approach has taken precedence. But, in light of a heavy-spending Premier League campaign, it may have been born from necessity.

Norwich spent more, £118m, on wages than Brighton and Leeds United and spend nearly £50m on transfers plus £15m on loans, a figure that includes fees and wages.

Nobody can adopt the narrative that they didn't display ambition in their pursuit of survival. The resources were available to them, it was more what the money was spent on and how it was utilised that proved problematic.

This year, Norwich have already committed £10.5m to the signings of Marcelino Nunez, Gabriel Sara and a loan fee for Aaron Ramsey. That hasn't been added to the accounts - neither will any January spending, which looks unlikely at present.

Another point to note is that Norwich have changed auditors for this year's accounts despite passing a motion at last season's AGM to retain the company who audited last year's accounts. The reason for that change is unclear.

The Pink Un: Dean Smith will be under pressure to get Norwich City back to the Premier League.Dean Smith will be under pressure to get Norwich City back to the Premier League. (Image: (C)Focus Images 7813 022858)

In previous years, the club has held a media briefing prior to the accounts being released in order for the figures to be scrutinised and pressing questions answered by those in high-ranking positions at the club.

We have made a request to speak to finance director Anthony Richens, executive director Zoe Ward or any other member of the Canaries' executive committee about the numbers contained within the report but, at time of writing, no answer has been forthcoming.

One thing is for sure, Norwich are embarking on a different course. How that looks is yet to be decided.

Underpinning it is a risk that places a massive emphasis on promotion. The ball is now in Smith's court to deliver it to ease any financial burden that may be on the horizon.