Norwich City CEO Jez Moxey says the Canaries’ ownership model can prosper
- Credit: PA
The focus when Norwich City return to Championship action at QPR will be on the pitch. But a cursory glance at the directors' box would illustrate the fault line running through football ownership in England.
City's majority shareholders, Delia Smith and Michael Wynn Jones, recently mapped out a future succession involving their nephew and fellow director Tom Smith. In a wide-ranging interview on the state of the game, to mark their upcoming 20th anniversary at Carrow Road, they made it clear they are not in the market for potential new owners.
QPR's majority shareholder, Tony Fernandes, once publicly claimed he had discussed investing in the Canaries during his time as principal of Norfolk's Team Lotus. The Malaysian business tycoon ploughed his millions into Rangers. And kept on ploughing them.
In November 2015, respected Guardian journalist David Conn revealed Fernandes and his fellow QPR owners had effectively written off £180m in loans as the West Londoners adjusted to their new reality in the Football League. The Fernandes-era has brought two Premier League relegations, survival in the top flight by a single point in another campaign of struggle, and a sixth different manager since Alex Neil took over at Norwich following Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink's recent dismissal.
City CEO Jez Moxey understands better than most the precarious balance between ambition and financial responsibility in the most volatile of corporate environments.
'One of the messages I have heard throughout my career is, 'When are you going to get your cheque book out?' or 'You need to spend more money',' he said. 'Essentially what you are saying is speculate to accumulate or perhaps there is a desire to seek more fan-participation, in terms of the ownership. Well, actually fans own the club here at Norwich City and coming from my experiences of being in this type of post for 28 years I can tell you the fans who do own it commit everything they possibly can and more into the football club.
'They are not risk-averse, they invest everything they can to make this club successful and that is laudable; often at the expense of some other things off the field.
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'I know our fans understand the reality and do not get caught up in scenarios that won't happen. There has to be that realism. There is a unique loyalty here when it comes to supporting Norwich City and it is one of the main reasons why Carrow Road is full every other week.'
There are success stories. Bournemouth's rise and now attempts at Premier League consolidation are fuelled by Russian money. Leicester City's fairytale was bankrolled by Thai billions. But such models can be transitory.
'I believe the ownership we have here is healthy, we are clear about how we need to operate. We are not beholden to the whim of an owner who will invest money one minute and then seek to claw it back the next,' said Moxey. 'One who wakes up on the wrong side of the bed one day and decides, 'I am going to do something completely different'. We are clear about the strategy and everyone who works at the club is behind it.
'The alternatives are not always as bright as people might think, and I stress it is not just about football. Some of the successful ones are the clubs with so much money that it is not a factor in their existence. Take Chelsea or Manchester City for example. In my opinion they are not good business models because they are losing hundreds of millions of pounds and the owners have had to put in so much money to get them to that level. I know we have to compete against that but it is what makes the whole process unequal and difficult. As long as we understand that and our fans understand that then we can work in this way.'
Moxey witnessed both sides of a growing chasm in the closing days of his time at Wolves, with Steve Morgan selling to Chinese-based company Fosun International. The Norwich CEO feels the stated ownership strategy from City's majority shareholders cuts to the heart of what type of club Norwich want to be now and in the future.
'The ownership that exists here as genuine supporters themselves of this football club is an honourable and traditional way of owning a football club. I have got no problem with that whatsoever,' said Moxey. 'In terms of future plans and where the share ownership goes is totally up to them but there is nothing wrong with the model of fans owning a football club and saying, 'This is who we are, we are comfortable in our own skin, we understand the competition and the market we are in and we believe we can have success with that particular strategy'.
'We have seen with so many other clubs if you sell and they invest a load of money in a football club does that guarantee success? The answer is no. What it does is potentially create all sorts of other issues supporters don't like. Just go and ask Cardiff City about changing colours. Or what happens if an owner simply gets bored of it?'