Recent weeks have seen two of the oldest independent Norwich City supporters groups announce that they would fold.

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Last week FONCY (Friends of Norwich City Youth) announced that they had folded and this week the committee of INCSC (Independant Norwich City Supporters Club) have recommended to our members that we should wind up our own organisation after 17 years at next week’s AGM. This leaves the Norwich City Supporters Trust as the last locally based independent supporters organisation open to grassroots fans.

Many of INCSC’s reasons for calling it a day reflect those of FONCY, and while there are also key differences, we have both been adversely affected by the fact that football finances, methods of communication, and Norwich City Football Club itself have changed.

Clearly the obvious change is in terms of City’s success on the pitch. The club is riding the crest of a wave of three consecutive successful seasons and an increasingly strong financial situation. Consequently, there are fewer concerns raised by fans than, for example, in the aftermath of relegation to League One, and a feeling that an independent supporters’ voice is unnecessary. Equally, the fact is that when clubs are enjoying success less attention will inevitably be given to issues that only affect a limited number of fans.

Premier League clubs are multi million pound corporations run on strict business lines. While that has been a major contributory factor in City’s Phoenix-like rise from the ashes, there will always be collateral damage in the form of those who are priced out of buying tickets and merchandise or renewing sponsorships. Looking at it from a cold business perspective, when there are big waiting lists for season tickets made up of fans willing to pay the prices demanded, then those struggling financially will not find a business willing to peg seat prices. It is the simple law of supply and demand, with Premier League football clubs acting like any other business, although this is little consolation to those who are no longer able to pay the asking price.

It is inevitable that the club wants to control access to its staff and to the information that it provides. Whereas it was once normal for players and managers to be available for forums organised by independent groups like ourselves, they are now restricted to the club’s own events and those of key sponsors. The players are the club’s main assets and it follows that they wish to restrict their commitments, but it does make it harder for the average fan to get close to their heroes. The days of John Bond’s players mixing with fans in chip shops are long gone!

On top of this comes the rise of the Internet and social media sites like Twitter. With the additional development of Global Canaries the club can deliver whatever message it wishes to transmit to thousands almost instantaneously.

As long as the best interests of the club and the fans run parallel (and there will be those who believe that they never diverge) this is fine although it further obviates the need for groups like ours. However, these are not tools that allow genuinely open debate particularly if online forums involve pre-vetting of questions. Whether a new demand for independent fan representation will arise in future is, I suspect, directly related to City’s success on the field. NCISA (Norwich City Independant Supporters Association), the forerunner of INCSC, was born from the discontent surrounding the latter stages of the Robert Chase era.

Membership peaked again when we went down to League One, but numbers have steadily declined as City’s fortunes have improved. It’s no-one’s fault, just the fact that, while most fans want a mouthpiece when something adversely affects them, they don’t see the point of maintaining one when the garden is rosy, but maybe that’s just human nature?

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