‘The whole money thing I find irksome’ – Delia & Michael discuss inequality in football, ownership and City’s top-flight challenge
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Norwich City’s joint majority shareholders Delia Smith and Michael Wynn Jones are frustrated by the financial disparities in modern football and say they always expected this season to be difficult for Daniel Farke’s promoted squad.
City's majority shareholders of over 20 years sat down with former Manchester United and England defender Gary Neville at Carrow Road ahead of Friday night's televised clash with Watford.
The 2-0 defeat which followed left the Canaries bottom of the Premier League table and with seven points from 12 games, continuing a difficult start to the season after promotion, with defensive injury problems proving a major issue.
Delia and Michael had spoken of their expectation of a huge challenge after promotion was sealed at the end of last season, after Farke and sporting director Stuart Webber had engineered an unexpected title triumph amidst drastic cost-cutting to steady the club's finances.
While the conversation with Neville was light-hearted at times, there was still plenty of interest for City supporters. Here are the key parts of that Sky Sports interview...
NEVILLE: You've been involved at this football club for over 20 years now, are you still enjoying it as much as you used to?
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DELIA: Absolutely, just the same, we love it.
NEVILLE: Still as much, does it test you sometimes?
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DELIA: Well, we know what a roller-coaster it is but when you've been on it 20 years, it does kind of become normal.
NEVILLE: What would you put as your greatest achievement in that time?
MICHAEL: Getting out of debt. We spent all of the early years, or a lot of them, just fire-fighting, just managing to scrape enough money together to keep the club going. At least now we have no external or internal debt, whatsoever. So that's an achievement.
NEVILLE: And in terms of the toughest decisions you've had to make, what would they have been?
MICHAEL: Inevitably, I think it's getting rid of managers because that's a horrible thing to do.
DELIA: I never want any player or manager to go!
NEVILLE: That's a problem isn't it?!
DELIA: I hate it, I can't bear it.
NEVILLE: How would you describe football?
DELIA: It's a very, very beautiful game.
NEVILLE: All of it? Are their parts of it that sometimes do tire you out and you think 'why do I do this'?
DELIA: Yes, I think for me, the whole money thing I find irksome. The whole thing about money, because it is sport, with a capital S, and sometimes it doesn't seem as though it's sport when these huge, enormous sums of money are involved. But apart from that it's lovely.
MICHAEL: Yes, it's beautiful, with certain defects! And I think the inequality is one of them. That's not just the Premier League, it's not sour grapes, it's all the way down, right through to the National League, where money seems to count rather more than it should.
NEVILLE: Inequality in terms of the distribution of the actual funds to football clubs?
MICHAEL: Yes, like Bury should never have gone out of business. If the riches of football cannot save Bury it's a disgrace, that's the inequality.
NEVILLE: I'm with you, I was born in Bury, my mum worked there for 30 years and I completely agree with you. In terms of this season and the Premier League, how are you enjoying it?
DELIA (laughing): All I can say is there are no surprises, we knew it would be really tough.
MICHAEL: We didn't come under any illusions other than it would be really, really tough. I wouldn't mind picking up a few more points, but there you go!
NEVILLE: How important is tonight, in terms of playing bottom-of-the-league Watford?
DELIA: They are all important.
MICHAEL: It's another game, I think it's self-defeating to think of this game as pivotal to the season, it isn't, there's a long, long way to go yet. They're all pivotal games.
NEVILLE: Last question, you're the owners of a football club, do you want that to continue forever? Or is there a day when you think you'll hand it over and pass it on to someone else?
DELIA: No, (laughing) I want to continue forever!
NEVILLE: Keep going?
DELIA: Keep going, yes.