Tampa Tour: Canaries director hoping unified approach will reap benefits of time in Florida
Keir Magoulas/Visit Tampa Bay
After going behind the scenes at two of Tampa Bay's top sports franchises, Norwich City director Stephan Phillips gave a rare interview to David Freezer about the Canaries' time in Florida - and the season so far.
The sense of camaraderie and a common goal is obvious among the large travelling party in the USA for City’s warm weather break.
Canaries director Stephan Phillips, inset, has been on board the roller-coaster ride at Carrow Road since being appointed as a director in 2009 after relegation to League One brought a fresh look to the club’s hierarchy.
So with Daniel Farke’s team sitting top of the Championship table during their time in Tampa, Phillips is among the corporate partners taking in the sights in Florida with plenty to feel positive about.
“This is the first time that we’ve ever done anything like this and I’m not really sure there’s any club in the Premier League or the Championship that has actually got commercial partners, players, all the support staff and our commercial teams with an organisation like Visit Tampa Bay and the various sporting organisations that we are seeing,” said the former managing director of Archant Norfolk, the parent company of the Eastern Daily Press and Norwich Evening News.
“So it’s unique really. I can only really give a view from not only the partners but the players as well, who think it’s a fantastic way of creating this unified football club that we want.”
Phillips is another at the club keen to stop expectations growing too quickly, after an excellent nine wins in the last 11 league games catapulted the Canaries to top spot after 17 games.
“As a board of directors, what you tend to do is not get too over-excited at the highs or too downtrodden about the lows, we try to have a smooth path through the middle of all those things,” he continued.
“From our perspective we know how hard people like Daniel Farke and his team work in terms of preparation for every game, how hard the players work in approaching every game and their work on the training pitch.
“So sometimes it’s difficult for us when we see that perhaps the result hasn’t gone our way yet and we know how much work has gone in from everyone associated with the performance levels of the club.
“We know sometimes it’s going to take a little time to gel.
“I have a view that we have a very young team at the moment, Max Aarons for example is only 18 and we know he will only get better over time, he’s not a 35-year-old at the end of his natural playing life at our level.
“So it’s going to take a little while for success to come. In some ways I’m not surprised that we’re top and two points clear, I think it’s testament to all the good work that has been done by everyone involved in the club.
“As directors we’re very appreciative of that work but also we are a community club, we want our fans to be entertained and to share in our success, and we can see that now.
“But there are still 29 games left so a third of the way through, so I don’t think any of us are getting overly excited yet but it’s great when you are top of the table and two points clear.”
On Tuesday the tourists visited the facilities of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the area’s American football franchise, and the Tampa Bay Lightning ice hockey team – thanks to relationships struck up by sporting director Stuart Webber, chief operating officer Ben Kensell and head of partnership activation Sam Jeffrey during a trip earlier in the year.
“We went to the Buccaneers’ training ground, which was really interesting,” Phillips continued.
“The fact that we are able to pull people together but also understand the very fine details of what makes these organisations really successful, the preparations, the analysis that they do – as an example, the Buccaneers’ training ground is not too far away from their training ground, so their equivalent of Colney.
“They won the Super Bowl in 2002 and when you go into that organisation and when you go into where the players go into, it’s a gym which is a massive place and in order for us to get to see that, Stuart and Ben have had to make the contacts to allow us to see behind the scenes.”
He added: “Our focus is that we’re a community club, we want to really shine on behalf of the local businesses that are out there.
“When you look at some of the Premier League clubs you’ll maybe see three or four logos behind their managers when they are speaking to the media, that’s not for us, we want to involve as many people as we can both at a supporter and customer level.
“It isn’t about getting one or two massive contracts, it’s about attracting a whole array of organisations.
“For example, we have around 50 people here with us from all different organisations all with the same aim, which is what can they do to support the football club and help it to be successful.”