My First Norwich City AGM
I attended my first Norwich City AGM this week and set off with wonder at what exciting things might be revealed by the board.
Fortunately I arrived in time to grab a seat in front of the press desk as, by 7:15pm, the place had filled up rapidly. By all accounts, the car park was full by 7pm. The Norfolk Lounge buzzed with conversation and the big screens were excitingly filled with the Norwich City logo. Surely a DVD showing our demolition of our lowly neighbours would have been more interesting to view while we waited?
Fortunate especially because I am indebted to Chris Lakey as he lent me a pen to make notes as mine was nowhere to be seen; a bit like Darren Kenton when he signed for Southampton.
The board filed in and were greeted with applause as they were seated to which Alan Bowkett responded that he had perhaps better declare the meeting closed as it wasn’t often a board of directors is greeted in such a manner before the business has been discussed.
The formal business proceeded efficiently and all the resolutions were all carried. Stephen Fry expressed surprised relief when he was re-elected as a director; ‘Thank you so much’, to which the audience laughed.
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Alan Bowkett assured us that the presentation would not be too long despite the huge pile of papers he held; he kept his word. He took us through a recap of the six year cash-flow period of 2003–2009, resulting in the club being in debt to the tune of �27 million at the point of relegation. He further explained the improved revenue of the 2009/10 season and referred to this time as ‘being a very challenging time in his career’.
We were then taken through the exceptional costs with an aside of thanks to Paul Lambert; the player bonuses for promotion into the Championship. He believes Lambert was worth every penny of the fines etc to get him to Carrow Road. This was met with cheers of ‘Hear, Hear!’ and applause.
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Next Bowkett took us through the key actions for the board to act upon, stating: ‘We are here to support our football team and serve our supporters.’ The two key areas to concentrate on are football and finance. The best and talented was referred to repeatedly about the team management, backroom staff and how a revitalised squad of young, hungry, talented players on permanent contracts was the future of our club; not some Premiership player turning up to collect a cheque.
He ended by stating that Norwich is now a ‘buying club’ as he took us through the projected cash-flow for 2010/11 – being back in the Championship has resulted in increased income in all areas.
There was applause as he exchanged his position on the podium for David McNally. He began by taking us through the income received by football clubs from the Central League Funding – money received for not kicking a ball.
• League 1 - �1 million
• Championship - �4.9 million
• Premiership - �41 million (20th place i.e. relegation)
He welcomed us to the crazy world of football and asked us to imagine any other business that would run on these financial figures. McNally also stated there were 90 million reasons why we should be ready for promotion, in answer to the much-discussed question by fans everywhere, with the monies received when relegated from the Premiership (�90 million over five years).
League attendance averages naturally vary; average over the last seven seasons – League 1: 7,000; Championship: 16,000; Premiership: 35,000. That is why the club is looking at increasing capacity when and where they can.
McNally enlightened us about Wigan and Fulham, saying they survived because of wealthy benefactors; Fulham having been blessed with over �200 million from Al Fayed. Our club has to be self-sustainable.
This led onto a detailed explanation about seating and the reasoning behind expanding capacity at Carrow Road. Next we were taken through the seven-year plan, of which we are one year ahead of schedule thanks to promotion last year. McNally said the club were blessed with a manager determined to win matches.
McNally reiterated Bowkett’s strategies in the continual improvement of the footballing set-up; squad improvements in each transfer window were promised albeit with no figures; spending money wisely (Crofts and Russell Martin – modest fees); the Academy being enhanced across the country – Hatfield and Cambridge.
He reminded us how lucky we are as a club to have the Delia brand; some Premier League clubs barely make �1 million from catering yet we make nearly �5 million, as he went through the business strategy.
McNally ended with this: ‘We must embrace our community so that we are known as The Community Club, which was met with rapturous applause.
Alan Bowkett resumed his role as chair, apologising for Stephen Fry’s early departure (he had to be in Israel the next day) and stating that although we are in a good position, there is still work in progress; that the board will provide cash to support Paul; hopefully we’ll get there this season as there is no such thing as being promoted too early to the Premier League.
Business over, it was time for questions from the floor. Some of the questioners were usual suspects as they were met with groans when they took the microphone. Lambert’s repartee with the questioners was witty and scathing at times.
Topics included the parking issues once ground capacity has increased – travel plan to be developed; permanent players over loans – Lambert said he’d do it his way, his prerogative but wants lads who will play for Norwich City; Academy players and the 90 minute ruling – new hubs whilst no guarantees, greater venture into the country the greater the chance of finding players; Canary Travel issues – should be reported at the time.
With the AGM declared over, there was a surge to speak to board members at the front, get to the bar or depart. Overall, an interesting and enlightening evening.