Loyal fans sticking with relegated City

Michael Bailey Norwich City's season ticket holders have defied the club's Championship relegation and the current economic climate to stay loyal to the Canary cause.

Michael Bailey

Norwich City's season ticket holders have defied the club's Championship relegation and the current economic climate to stay loyal to the Canary cause.

City will have 18,248 season ticket holders packed into Carrow Road for third tier football next season - down 1,200 on a year-by-year comparison, and 1,600 fewer than the 19,855 sales after last summer's final deadline.

Since City's relegation was confirmed by the woeful defeat at Charlton Athletic nine days' ago, 117 people have cancelled their seat for the 2009-10 season, effectively ripping up their ticket.

However, despite the prospect of League One football, 385 supporters have either renewed or bought a new season ticket for next season and, as far as football in the third tier and season tickets are concerned, Norwich will be far and away the best supported club in the division.

Only Leeds United's figure of 11,000 season ticket holders this season comes close - and they could yet leapfrog the Canaries with promotion through the League One play-offs.

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Norwich City spokesman Joe Ferrari said: “The fans who have signed up for next season did so either fearing relegation or, for 385 of them, confronted by the stark reality of it.

“To go into League One with 18,248 supporters committed to getting behind the team at Carrow Road is nothing short of incredible.

“The loyalty of the Yellow Army at home and away during a succession of poor seasons for the club is a testament to their passion and commitment, especially in the current economic climate.”

The club has also confirmed the rebate offered to season ticket holders following City's relegation will not be automatically given to supporters, as some had hoped, but will need to be applied for.

Letters will be going out to supporters by the end of the month detailing what they need to do to claim either 20pc for those who bought before the first deadline of February 28, or 10pc after; the first figure differing to that originally advertised by the club.

The rebate has been an area of discussion for City fans, some suggesting the relegation 'bonus' should be waived so it can be reinvested into the club's playing squad.

Should all Norwich's season ticket holders claim their rebate, it could cost the club more than �500,000.

Two Facebook groups - Give City A Waive and Norwich City Season Ticket Holders Group - are campaigning for the waived payments to be earmarked, but the club is yet to make a decision; unsurprising, given it probably comes a long way down the list of items for the current Norwich board to sort out, which include the make up of the club's executive, managerial staff and playing budget ahead of next season.

But one thing seems guaranteed - the Canaries will continue to play in front of attendances envied by clubs across the country.

Fans and commentators have questioned whether such a successful season ticket base has, paradoxically, been part of the decline at the club; stable attendances unlikely to be greatly impacted by the standard of football on offer week in, week out.

City supporters have repeatedly threatened to vote with their feet since the club stuttered back into Championship life from Premier League relegation in 2005, but such a stay away protest has not materialised - even with the imminent arrival of League One.

But Norwich City Independent Supporters' Association chairman John Tilson sounded a word of warning should any City officials be complacent over the club's solid season ticket base.

“Season after season the various supporter groups are asked for their opinions on the incredible season ticket sales we have and yet again the fans come up with the goods, but you have to bear in mind most of these were sales were before the game at Charlton, and before the drums of discontent,” said Tilson, who expects many fans will decide to claim their relegation rebate.

“I think the club could be in for a shock. Had they begun sending out season ticket renewals now, I'm sure it would have been a different story.

“The actual test for attendances maybe the games next season against teams like Bristol Rovers on a cold, foggy autumn night.”