Come on feel the noise – but how do we kick it all off?
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
There is a real feeling of starting with a clean slate around Norwich City at present and that was further evidenced by the recent Fan Focus Group meeting arranged by the club to discuss ways of improving the atmosphere at Carrow Road.
This is an issue that is very close to our hearts at the Canaries Trust, and for the last couple of years we welcomed representatives of Barclay End Norwich, who have done excellent work in trying to maximise the noise from that stand, to our board meetings. I also know that this is an area which is of great importance to Tom Smith, who may sit in the directors box now, but who has spent a great deal of his time in the past in with his fellow fans and is always keen to discuss ways in which match-day atmosphere can be improved.
I think that most of us would agree that Carrow Road has often been rather muted in recent years, and of course there will always be the ongoing circular argument about whether responsibility for that rests with the players failing to fire up the fans or vice versa.
What is unquestionable is that it is an issue that needed to be addressed, and while focus groups generally don’t result in immediate action the meeting resulted in lots of suggestions, all of which the club will take away and look at with the intention of putting some into action in time for the start of the season.
Some of the ideas discussed such as half-time quizzes or improved Wi-Fi don’t strike me as really being likely to improve atmosphere, while trying to group fans who want to sing together could be a logistical nightmare for all concerned, given that it would almost certainly involve moving people who didn’t necessarily wish to be reseated elsewhere. However, other ideas put forward were very interesting.
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For example, I think that things like improving the output of the PA system, and allowing the draping banners like those we see at many other grounds would help to make the ground less sterile, while greater engagement between players and fans both pre- and post-game would all help to build a closer bond between players and fans.
All too often last season we saw poor performances followed by players slinking down the tunnel with barely a glance at their long-suffering supporters.
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There was discussion about how to approach the pre-match singing of On the Ball City (and I, as an old codger, would love to see it restored to its original, slower tempo) and more rousing music as the players took the field might also potentially improve the atmosphere, as would more uplifting pre-match images on the big screen.
The club is, however, limited in terms of what they are allowed to show, with rights to footage of the 1959 Cup run, for example, still owned by Pathe News.
However, it is encouraging that the club has made an ongoing commitment to work with the focus group going forward, with Ed Guichard, the Head of Marketing stating that: “It was agreed that for this initiative to be successful it has to be owned and driven by the fans as an organic process, but with the club playing a crucial supporting role to facilitate as much as we can operationally achieve.”
I welcome all of that, particularly the fact that this strategy engages individual fans and not simply fan groups and I hope that the ideas that are put into practice as a result of these focus group meetings will have the required effect.
However, the old cynic in me still thinks that the most effective way to improve the Carrow Road atmosphere is for Daniel Farke to produce a team that all the fans feel connected to and want to get behind.