Remarkable loyalty sets City apart

In my EDP article a fortnight ago, just prior to the first season ticket deadline, I wrote about the 11,000 season ticket holders who had already renewed.

In my EDP article a fortnight ago, just prior to the first season ticket deadline, I wrote about the 11,000 season ticket holders who had already renewed. The deadline has now passed and we announced earlier this week that we have hit 15,776 renewals, compared to 15,613 this time last year. In our second year following relegation, and at a time when we have failed to challenge for promotion all season, these figures are nothing short of remarkable.

We often talk about the unique loyalty and passion of Norwich City supporters, but the number of season ticket renewals so far is simply staggering.

This level of renewals is an incredible testament to the nature of the people in this part of the world. In a season where fun and enjoyment have been in short supply at Carrow Road, to have this level of support is truly humbling.

We already have 1,185 names on the waiting list for a season ticket for next season, demonstrating that the appetite amongst families for affordable, live football in a safe, comfortable stadium is as strong as ever. And if we were able to sell-out of season tickets once again, in an environment where many of our rivals are haemorrhaging season ticket holders, what a boost this would be to the whole club ahead of next season!

Meanwhile, the polarisation of the haves and have-nots in English football continues apace. In the last fortnight, two important events in the world of football have happened, barely raising a blip on football's media radar. Millwall, who finished our play-off final season, 2001/2002, in fourth position, ahead of us and having beaten us 4-0 on the first day of the season, now occupy a position in the middle of League 1. But their deputy chairman Heather Rabbatts, announcing further losses and facing calls from supporters for further investment, said that Millwall may be forced to close unless its shareholders approved a £5million rescue loan. As Rabbatts says, “football is not an attractive investment proposition unless you are one of the top three or four clubs in the country.”

Supporters could be forgiven for wondering why it is then, that so many Championship clubs appear to be changing hands at present. And the answer to that question is not straightforward. Unless you are looking to asset-strip a club or extract cash for personal gain, why on earth would you put money into a business that loses money year in, year out, as the vast majority of Championship clubs do? Unless you are a true fan of the club in question, and are putting your wealth into the club you love, it makes very little sense to me.

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At the other end of football's wealth pyramid, Chelsea announced losses of £80million, following losses of £140million the year before and £88million the year before that. This shortfall, unimaginable money to most of us, appears to be paid out of Roman Abramovich's loose change.

English football has long been dominated by a small handful of clubs - Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea. But the way that Abramovich's personal fortune has totally distorted the market simply cannot be good for the long-term health of the game.

It is a lovely, romantic notion that someone, somewhere will come along and simply give Norwich City lots of money to strengthen Peter Grant's hand in the transfer market. But, other than in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, reality isn't quite like that. Just 122 miles away by road, but a million miles away financially, at Carrow Road we have to rely on our supporters, careful housekeeping, shrewd transfer activity and the creative and unrelenting growth of non-football income to keep our heads above water.

But with the incredible financial and emotional support that we enjoy from our hugely loyal supporter base, we are well placed to compete in the Football League next season. As Peter Grant said earlier this week, “I know that if we can match the positivity and passion the fans have shown home and away with the desire and hunger I'm always looking for on the pitch, then we can really go places.”

On The Ball, City!