Is your hard-earned spent wisely by City?

David Cuffley Norwich City fans deciding whether to renew their season tickets at the cheapest available price - before today's first deadline - may have paused just briefly this week to think about where their money goes.

David Cuffley

Norwich City fans deciding whether to renew their season tickets at the cheapest available price - before today's first deadline - may have paused just briefly this week to think about where their money goes.

On the very same day that chief executive Neil Doncaster reassured supporters that the club's financial position was “stable” and “manageable” despite debts of �20m and a wage bill double what they can truly afford, it was revealed that the Canaries had spent almost ��m on agents' fees in the first half of the current season.

The latest Football League agents' fees report, issued on Thursday, showed that the Canaries committed �490,000 to agents between July and December 2008.

The report covers a period in which City carried out 21 transactions under former manager Glenn Roeder - 14 new registrations or transfers, six loan deals and one updated contract.

The figure is more than three times as high as City's outlay in the same period last season, when they had to pay agents �155,200.

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Derby County are the only Football League club to have spent more on agents in the first half of this season, shelling out �717,000.

Nothing in the football world we inhabit, especially relating to finances, can truly shock us these days, so it is perhaps no great surprise to see such huge sums going to players' “representatives”, to the tune of �5.7m across the Football League in the six months to December.

Nearly three years ago, at the end of the 2005-06 season, it was revealed that City alone had spent more than �500,000 in agents' payments in the previous 12 months. So this is not exactly a new phenomenon.

The details of Thursday's report were certainly not deemed significant enough to warrant a mention on the Canaries' own website, despite the fact that this is one Championship table in which they can rightly claim to be in the top two.

Perhaps it was just bad timing when they are trying to persuade fans to part with next season's cash, or it may be City were reluctant to draw attention to the report out of a feeling that not every club has been quite as transparent as they have.

If the figures in the report are accurate, Norwich's spending on agents' fees constitutes well over eight per cent of the total outlay of the 72 League clubs. That in itself seems a curious statistic.

Perhaps, in the next few days, City will give a full explanation of the need for such handsome payments to Mr Ten Per Cent.

One assumes they had little choice in order to get the new players they wanted - a pity, then, that some of them have been such a disappointment.

Whatever other clubs have spent, or admitted to spending, �490,000 still appears to be a hefty sum of money for a club so heavily in debt to sink into the pockets of those who put nothing back into football, and all in the space of a mere six months.

Small wonder the player budget for this season was so swiftly used up. That sort of sum could buy well over 1,200 Barclay Stand adult season tickets for next season at the first renewal price.

Or, to put it another way, it will take more than 1,200 season ticket sales just to pay the equivalent of the agents' cut for July to December.

One can only hope the figures for January to June are rather more restrained.

Not that the club is in imminent financial peril, we are assured. Relegation to League One may be a threat, but administration certainly is not, according to the chief executive.

“Administration only arises when you can't pay your bills,” said Doncaster this week.

“We remain a football club that is widely respected throughout the football industry for doing things the right way, for building on football income streams which are vital to support what goes on on the pitch and for being a club of integrity, and we value that reputation,” he added.

“Part of our responsibility to supporters is to run things in a long-term sustainable way, and that means not taking undue high risk options, the likes of which have landed a number of clubs into very serious hot water.

“So the situation is stable, it remains manageable and we are better placed than many of our competitors to withstand the troubles that the economic climate throws at us.”

Whether City are better placed than their competitors on the field at the moment is a very different matter.

Today's visit of Coventry was the first of five Championship matches for the Canaries in 15 days and, by the end of that sequence of games, we should have a much better idea of their chances of avoiding the drop into the third tier of English football after 49 years in the top two divisions.

We are constantly reminded that there is no such thing as an easy game in the Championship, but a quick perusal of the fixture lists suggests that this run of five games offers their best hope of accumulating points and that things will get a good deal tougher over the closing weeks of the campaign.

A team with just 10 points from their first 17 away games must travel more in hope than expectation to Birmingham, Swansea, Ipswich and last day opponents Charlton.

If City are not clear of the bottom three in the table when they visit St Andrew's in three weeks' time, you have to fear for them.