City chief Ward on investment, Carrow Road expansion and Webber's contract

Zoe Ward, business and project director, at the annual general meeting at Carrow Road. Picture: Dani

Zoe Ward, business and project director, at the annual general meeting at Carrow Road. Picture: Danielle Booden - Credit: Danielle Booden

The focus is currently on Dean Smith's efforts to guide Norwich City to top-flight safety, but there remains a series of pressing matters off the pitch. 

Every year, the AGM provides an opportunity for the shareholders to press the Canaries' hierarchy on key matters surrounding the club on and off the pitch. 

The question of external investment is one that has cropped up for many a year and continues to persist. Under their self-funding model, Norwich don't have owners prepared to continuously pump money into the day-to-day running of the club. 

Investment in football clubs remains a contentious issue. 

Some wealthy benefactors aren't always interested in helping progress a football club forward. Any investment can be made for egotistical reasons or ideas of grandeur. 

Plenty of clubs are living with the consequences of poor ownership but, on the flip side, Leicester City and Saturday's opponents Wolverhampton Wanderers have been the benefices of increased investment. 

The club outlined at the AGM that they weren't currently seeking investment from third parties, but had received numerous enquiries. 

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Zoe Ward, the club's business and projects director, believes any investment from afar would need to be properly scrutinised before being accepted by the club.

"I think that it depends on people's motives," she said. "There aren't many people who want to invest and not own or have a majority share. 

"Anthony (Richens, finance director) spoke about it tonight, we do get enquiries and we are quite attractive because of our model but it has to be the right thing. You see lots of clubs who do have investment but that doesn't always become a positive thing. 

"If we were to do anything like that, we would want to ensure it was the right thing. If you're looking for investment, then you have to be sure who you are getting into bed with."

The headline announcement of this year's shareholders meeting was confirmation from sporting director Stuart Webber that he has agreed to remain at the club beyond the expiration of his current contract next summer. 

Ward admits the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic has changed his plans, but that the Welshman feels he has unfinished business at Carrow Road. 

"There's still long way on that journey. Covid has probably set us back and we try not to think about it, but sometimes you can't help but think 'what if we had that £30million?

"For Stuart, there is still plenty of growth here for him. There's unfinished business that he wants to do. It's great that we have that stability going forward. 

"I think it would have been very difficult to make that decision (sacking Daniel Farke) if he hadn't made his decision. To go to the board and make a recommendation without discussing where he was at would have been difficult." 

But does a rolling contract offer more stability to the club than a deal with a fixed length? 

Ward responded to that particular question by saying the agreement suits the needs of both Webber and the football club. 

"It was the type of contract that he came in on initially. It's the kind of contract that most employees would have. 

"When the three-year term was done it was to make a commitment that was the same as Daniel. We didn't really feel the need to open a negotiation on the length of terms. 

"We felt that reverting back to a 12-month rolling contract was delivered everybody what they wanted."

The capacity of Carrow Road and future expansion of the stadium is a regular topic of the meeting. 

Ben Kensell revealed in 2019 that the club had taken the first steps of purchasing plots of land around the City Stand that would enable them to increase the capacity of Carrow Road. 

Micahel Foulger, Stuart Webber, Ian Thornton, Zoe Ward and Anthony Richens at the annual general mee

Micahel Foulger, Stuart Webber, Ian Thornton, Zoe Ward and Anthony Richens at the annual general meeting at Carrow Road - Credit: Danielle Booden

Ward has added that there is an acceptance that it is an area that will require work in the long-term, with the club even beginning to consult with a company about the feasibility of completing that work. 

"We've acknowledged that we do need to do something," Ward said, speaking after Thursday's AGM.

"When we do that will depend on the club's circumstances. Where we've been with other projects is that we'd always like to be in the position that when we can do it, we're prepared to do it. 

"For us at the moment, it's about taking the first steps and understanding what the feasibility is and what that stand would look like, what the rest of the Carrow Road site would look like and then we can build that masterplan before implementing some of that work. 

"We're not saying there's going to be a spade in the ground anytime soon but we absolutely have to start with that kind of work."

On the topic of stadium redevelopment, trials of rail seating are to take place at other Premier League clubs in the new year ahead of an anticipated law change from the government.

City have been at the forefront of pushing for a change of legislation under former chairman Ed Balls and managing director Steve Stone. 

That decision has been met warmly by Ward who admitted the installation of the rail seating would be a logistical challenge for the club but is a process they have started. 

"Safe standing has been something the club have always been in support of. We have to do extensive consultation with the season ticket holders that we have. 

"We've got to make sure where we put that safe standing is in the right place where there is a demand for it. We've got to understand who would want to be in that area, who would want to move out of that area and how we facilitate that. 

"That then has to be built into the season ticket renewal process. So it's a journey we have to go on and we will start in the next few months."

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