Robin Sainty: Spend, spend, spend - not the way Norwich City should use parachute money
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During the lockdown I wrote several pieces about how unstable the football pyramid was being shown to be, due to precious little of the huge amounts of money at the top finding its way down.
There were warnings of almost two thirds of the clubs outside the Premier League facing financial disaster had football remained in lockdown and the EFL chairman, Rick Parry, called for a reset of football’s finances to prevent more clubs that had spent lavishly while in the top league following Wigan into administration or the likes of Sunderland and Bolton on a slide down the divisions.
For a while it actually seemed that a new air of reality might be pervading the football establishment, but having read Martin Samuel’s attack on Norwich City in Tuesday’s Daily Mail I fear that nothing has been learnt.
The gist of Samuel’s diatribe was that City should not receive parachute payments on relegation because they hadn’t spent enough: “Give it to Aston Villa if they go down. At least they had a go. That is what the parachute payments are for. They are have-a-go money.”
And there was me thinking that they were there to stop relegated clubs falling off a financial cliff due to the huge disparity in income between the Premier League and Championship given that most don’t have relegation clauses in their players’ contracts.
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I can only imagine that a night at the casino for Samuel involves him berating the other punters for not betting their cars and house deeds in order to “have a go” for his entertainment.
By the way, he is currently a hero to fans of Manchester City for writing a series of eulogies about their plucky little club’s victory over the European “elite” in getting their ban for breaching Financial Fair Play rules overturned, so unconstrained expenditure is clearly close to his heart.
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The bottom line is that we went into this with our eyes open. The club has at no point suggested that this season was going to be anything other than an uphill struggle, and that they needed the stars to align in order to survive.
Clearly, the awful run of injuries and poor recruitment ensured that wasn’t going to be the case, but the way in which the season has fallen away, particularly since the restart, is what is really hurting most fans.
City have suffered throughout from a lack of sufficient physicality, something that the ever-honest Stuart Webber highlighted this week, and clearly that is a lesson that has been learnt by the recruitment team, but I think we all expected more fight in these closing weeks, and the apparent lack of it will not have helped any players hoping to attract big offers to stay in the top division.
However, what’s done is done and while lessons must, and will, be learnt, the fact that the club resisted the pressure to spend money that they didn’t have last summer (when they were £30m in debt and would not receive the first tranche of TV money until nearly the start of the season) means that they will now enter the Championship in a financially strong state.
That isn’t an end in itself, but it does give City the best possible chance of bouncing back quickly, which would not have been the case had they been saddled with the financial burdens of previous relegations.
Without doubt the experiment of trying to survive on a shoestring has failed, but the fact that City planned for this contingency with relegation clauses and no excessive expenditure on players means that it will not imperil their future.
Ultimately, the club is financially sound, has valuable assets and the funds for a much-needed squad refreshment, and that’s why Stuart Webber is running a football club and Martin Samuel is ranting about one in the echo chamber of his paper’s readership.