‘We’re not going to stand in the way’ - Delia Smith on the prospect of outside investment at Norwich City
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Norwich City majority shareholder Delia Smith is urging fans to back the long term vision for the club - but insisted the board would never rule out fresh investment.
Smith, speaking to the Guardian, was a key figure in sanctioning the roll out of the recent £5m Canaries bond scheme to revamp the academy facilities but a season of Championship mediocrity and the sobering financial reality at Carrow Road ensure the topic of outside investment remain a live issue.
“‘Release the purse strings’, that’s the actual phrase,” said Smith. “Why don’t the board release the purse strings?
“Well, I certainly feel that my experience of the Premier League was that we never had any money.
“Even if we got promoted this year, we still wouldn’t have had any money, the way the wages are. I think the first time a supporter came up and gave me a rollicking face to face I was bit shocked. But you do get used to it over time. And I do understand their passion.
“I know. If you are a football supporter you understand.
“But I think perhaps the younger ones now don’t understand how it was before the money started corrupting it.”
In answer to a question would she be open to outside investment, she is quoted as saying: ‘We’re not going to stand in the way.’ But the decision to embrace a new football model, with sporting director Stuart Webber at the head, a year ago and now the Canaries’ bond underline Smith is looking to the future.
“This change of strategy has been the best experience I’ve had since I’ve been a board director,” she said.
“I think the structure of the all-singing, all-dancing chief executive, you could see in the end that can’t really work.
“You can’t have a one-man show. My big dream has always been that we work together and in the past that hasn’t always happened.
“On the academy side I feel very passionate.
“Not many people listen to me much but when I first became a board director I went to visit a football club called Auxerre and their manager, Guy Roux.
“The first thing he said to me, and he didn’t speak much English, was: ‘I never buy footballers.’
“The academy had their own little stadium, they had houses built on site. Roux knew all the youngsters by name.
“And the record is there, isn’t it? They played in Europe, they never went out of Ligue 1.
“And Auxerre is the size of Thetford. Wow. That’s the kind of club I want Norwich to be. I want it to feel like it is part of the community.
“I think what we’ve achieved here with Stuart and Steve (Stone) is a wonderful sense of unity, solidarity with each other.
“We’ve got some work to do I think in getting our supporters really to buy into that with us. But it would be wonderful if we could go through everything and stick together.”