Is now the time for Norwich City owners to think of selling up?
PUBLISHED: 06:30 12 May 2016 | UPDATED: 14:25 12 May 2016
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This newspaper’s head of sport, Chris Lakey, asks whether is it time for a huge policy shift by Norwich City’s owners.
The bizarre events which followed the final Saturday afternoon offering at Carrow Road this season momentarily took our eye off the ball.
The ridiculous circumstances surrounding the resignation of City’s chief executive David McNally served to deflect attention away from a passionless defeat against the worst Manchester United side to have played here in many a year.
Momentarily at least.
Football fans are no fools, and whilst McNally-gate prompted a social media reaction that was generally in good humour (depending on whether you get your laughs at toilet level or prefer something more sophisticated) it was simply a sideshow to the real issue.
What happens now?
Does the club simply find someone to succeed McNally – or does it take one of the most momentous decisions in its history?.
Whilst all appears to be rosy off the field – finances are under control, the stadium is always full for home games – on the field it isn’t so much running as stumbling.
And let’s face it, whilst all Norwich City fans will be happy to never again see the dark days of the summer of 2009, when the bottom of the barrel was scraped and nothing was found, what they really, really care about is the state of their football team.
Leicester City have done clubs like Norwich no favours: whilst many believe they have encouraged every club to believe they can achieve the near-impossible, the truth is they have simply piled the pressure on clubs of a similar stature to emulate their successes.
And the chances of that are perhaps 5,000-1.
However, what Leicester may have done is finally debunk the theory that foreign ownership of football clubs is a bad thing.
Plenty of clubs have gone down the foreign route and have suffered – Aston Villa have not thrived under Randy Lerner while the Glazer family may have a hugely rich club in Manchester United, but they have enormous debt repayments and a team that is a shadow of its former self.
There are horror stories at Leeds and Blackburn – but at the same time, ‘home’ ownership has been a millstone for many others.
A few years ago there was an active desire to sell Norwich City, not to any old Joe Bloggs who came along, but to someone who had the interests of the club at heart. Problem one is trying to find owners with the passion of Delia Smith and Michael Wynn Jones. Problem two is finding someone who fits that description - and has the money to take on the job.
Is foreign ownership the answer for Norwich City? It is one that most Premier League clubs have opted for but which hasn’t, at least publicly, been on the agenda in the City boardroom.
It is the option that ensures that finances are top of the agenda, rather than emotional attachment.
From Stoke to Southampton and Bournemouth to Manchester, how many Premier League clubs owners are lifelong supporters of the club that is now in their stewardship?
Was Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha on the Filbert Street terraces cheering on Gary McAllister and Steve Walsh in 1989? No, of course he wasn’t. He was just launching his chain of duty free shops which became the source of his billions.
Norwich City are one of six Premier League clubs with British owners – their fortune is estimated at £23m. It doesn’t compare favourably with the others:
•Crystal Palace: Steve Parish £45m
•Newcastle: Mike Ashley £5,600m
•Stoke City: The Coates family £2,400m
•Tottenham: Joe Lewis £4,900m, Daniel Levy unknown
•West Brom: Jeremy Peace £50m
•West Ham: David Sullivan and David Gold – total £650m
Norwich City have thrived under Delia and Michael, and since those dark days of 2009, the club has found an even keel. But what do you want from Norwich City? Regular doses of joy followed by heartbreak, or the risk that comes with finally saying goodbye to tried and trusted owners in search of adventures new?
It is a huge question for the owners to ponder – and with no chief executive it may be one they are unable to consider just yet.
It would be a policy switch of the highest order, to take the club out of home ownership, family hands, and sell it to an outside interest. It would also be a huge gamble.
But, again, it depends what you want from your football club.
There are 20 places in the Premier League, each one a treasure trove, their Title Deeds highly valued. Only the richest can afford them. Is handing over the keys worth the risk?