Canaries call time on bond that prepared Colney for promotion

Norwich City executive board member Zoe Ward believes the Canaries Bond has more than served its pur

Norwich City executive board member Zoe Ward believes the Canaries Bond has more than served its purpose. Picture: Denise Bradley - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2018

The Canaries bond has played its part in bringing the Premier League back to Norwich City – but now its time to move on. MICHAEL BAILEY spoke to Zoe Ward on the club’s decision to pay back their loan.

The new academy facilities at Colney are close to becoming reality for Norwich City, with their open

The new academy facilities at Colney are close to becoming reality for Norwich City, with their opening planned for this summer. Picture: Norwich City - Credit: Norwich City FC

Fans and investors who helped rejuvenate Norwich City’s academy are getting their money back early – with a sizeable bonus.

This time last year the Canaries teamed up with sports investment platform Tifosy to ask supporters to collectively invest up to £5m in the club’s plans for new buildings and facilities at its Colney Training Centre – a set-up untouched for years, despite a prolonged spell of Premier League income.

The Canaries bond sold out before it could be made publicly available, and has ensured City’s new-look training ground will be ready for a Premier League squad come the summer.

Promotion this season – worth in excess of £150m – triggered a 25pc bonus for each investor, as well as an option for the club to repay the bond back; one it will take up with its incoming top-flight millions.

Investors will still receive their annual 5pc interest and 3pc credit to spend at the club, as well as their principal investment, on May 9 – the first anniversary of the bond.

The promotion bonus will then be paid by the end of September, once the club have started to receive their significant Premier League income.

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And while it means investors will miss out on a further four years of interest, there should be little room for complaint.

“It’s amazing I think; if anyone thought they could put some money into a bank and get 30pc interest after year one, we’d all be in the queue,” said the club’s business and project director Zoe Ward.

“Had people had their money in the bond for five years and we hadn’t been promoted, they would’ve got the same amount of interest – so they are getting all that in a year.

“They will miss out on a few years of some of the privileges but they were minor in comparison to the interest we were offering.

“The bond was a really good piece of supporter engagement as well. It’s enabled us to connect with 740 people we may not have known before and we will have a commitment to those people, give them various special offers and invite them to events.

“We always thought last year when we were looking at refurbishing Colney that we can’t be in a position where we are sitting there thinking: when we are a Premier League club we will do this and do that. And the bond helped us accelerate that.

“Now we are a Premier League club it gives us the opportunity to step into a Premier League season with Premier League facilities, rather than us all now sitting down saying ‘right, we’re in the Premier League – what are we going to build?’

“We are a good 18 months further down the line than if we hadn’t done the bond but to create that financial stability and to be prudent, it is financially in the best interests of the club to pay the bond back.”

There is no hiding what the work – both on the facilities at Colney and on the pitch in the Championship – has helped Norwich City achieve, which could include the title on Sunday when they round of their season at Aston Villa.

It will certainly feature all the colour and joy of a civic reception and promotion parade around Norwich’s city centre on Bank Holiday Monday morning.

“We have a massive sense of pride in what we’ve done at Colney,” said Ward. “I think it’s great for our recruitment, in bringing players in that they can see the facilities we will have and hopefully open in time for pre-season.

“It’s great for our category one academy status that we will have an academy that isn’t just ticking boxes any more but taking it on a level.

“It will be an environment where we will be really proud to bring players and show them round.

“We have spent the last few weeks waiting to get across the line and everyone needs to have that moment – that this season has really shown what a city, a county, can achieve if everybody is pulling together in the same direction.

“If the club, the fans, the media – if everybody gets behind something – then you can achieve great things. Monday is a celebration of that achievement.”

Ward added: “We’re really fortunate that it wasn’t a long time ago we were in the Premier League, so we have got a lot of that infrastructure already in place.

“But we’ve been waiting and waiting for promotion to happen, so we could then move forward with all the things we wanted to do.

“We’ve got some amazing celebrations to come on Monday and I think once we get to Tuesday we’ll be able to sit down, take a deep breath and realise the magnitude of what’s been achieved, sit back and enjoy it.”

The Canaries bond has served its purpose and the results speak for themselves, while the football club appears set to retain its self-funding model for years to come.

That means City may well follow a similar investment model in future – if the time and project are right.

“To do this development we could have gone to a bank and borrowed money, and paid the interest to a bank – it was a no brainer to pay that interest to the supporters, so that everybody gets some benefit from the situation,” said Ward.

“It was a massive success and we were overwhelmed at how quickly we raised the money.

“We know there is an appetite for it and if we had a project that needed that kind of funding in the future, then I think absolutely we’d look at it as an option.

“What we can’t do is say we could get the money, so what are we going to spend it on? We’ve got to find that project first and make sure it’s the right project – and that the payback is right on it.”

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