Michael Bailey: Sales, signings, sausage rolls and Stone – six things we might learn from Canaries’ AGM
It’s annual general meeting time but what will we learn from 2018’s effort? Norwich City correspondent MICHAEL BAILEY wonders aloud…
1 – Taking Norfolk’s optimism temperature
It has taken years of work to get the Norwich City annual general meeting to where it is now – something that for some, generally sends a shudder down the spine.
Not many clubs do it the way the Canaries do – the official business, followed by an open question and answer session that has both helped build careers and reputations, and torn them down. Quite clearly, Glenn Roeder’s was never the same again.
I remember asking Jez Moxey two years ago – doesn’t sound long, does it? – how he found his first City AGM experience, to which he said it was pretty bizarre given Wolves’ version was basically him and owner Steve Morgan talking to themselves around a table.
Of course the remarkable thing about this year is obvious: City are top of the table. If this AGM cannot foster an air of optimism, no AGM ever will.
Perhaps that in turn offers the opposite task of keeping people’s feet on the floor and expectations realistic.
2 – Can City hold off until the summer?
The AGM is actually the finalising of business – given City’s latest set of accounts were revealed last month. We know the deal: City have money in the bank after last season and they owe all of it – plus a little bit more – and expect to be back in the red come the end of this season.
In fact, City have completed some clever accounting to leverage their currently excellent and Premier League-backed financial fair play period to include future obligations on some pretty hefty contracts.
That will serve them well over the next year or two, regardless of division.
But with City flying in the Championship, attention focused on the club’s best-performing assets and an open appreciation City will sell players to prop up their revenues, the January transfer window may propose a fresh angle on some familiar questions.
Will City sell in January if a rival goes big for, say, Max Aarons? The noises are no – the answer on the record will be intriguing.
3 – Is everyone really ‘totally relaxed’?
We’ve heard it a lot. The view is publicly shared by those involved. Maybe their being in the know and party to the conversations is helping.
But in reality, being on the outside and a supporter or shareholder is likely to bring a few squeaky bottoms when the subject of Daniel Farke’s contract is discussed.
The fact it is expiring in the summer with no apparent resolution being openly discussed at present, feels a little like the countdown to Brexit. Likewise it’s hard to imagine anyone would choose this current situation if it was offered them as a scenario by preconceived choice.
So the chance for sporting director Stuart Webber and head coach Daniel Farke – as well as anyone else on the top table – to describe their feelings and share their thoughts to a group of fans and shareholders who will want to see the facial expressions and body language for themselves, will be a key moment.
Hopefully everyone is “totally relaxed” come 10pm.
4 – Who might fill the big boardroom vacancy?
Steve Stone’s exit as managing director will almost certainly come up. Whether much will be added to the official lines and innuendo of culture-change is a moot point. If we all think about it, we probably already know the answers.
But there is another curiosity that may well come up: the vacant seat Stone has left in the City boardroom.
First and foremost, it doesn’t need to be filled. The club may well be happy to see if anyone pops along with a few quid or a bit of expertise. Likewise, we may hear of an idea the club is likely to pursue over the coming year.
With the Canaries now appearing to be upwardly mobile on a number of fronts, it’s hard not to believe the club would look reasonably attractive if someone did want to get involved. But as always, how many of those people exist?
Last year the top table wanted to be asked about ownership and investment – and it didn’t come up. Let’s see what we get this time.
5 – Will two more be seamlessly re-elected?
I’ve been doing this job for 11 years and covered City’s AGM almost as long. Not once can I remember a jot of controversy from the key official business of the night – the re-election of directors.
City’s articles of association declare the club’s directors retire on rotation before being voted back in.
This year it is chairman Ed Balls and fellow director Tom Smith who will be subjected to the vote. A few dissenting hands will no doubt appear – they always do – but that usually has minimal bearing on the evening’s events; unless something truly exceptional and out of kilter is in the pipeline.
This is the night when some of the lesser heard directors get to share their thoughts, if asked. It’s no doubt been a tough and soul-searching time for Michael Foulger recently, while Balls notably declared the jury was still out on the club’s new direction this time last year.
As such the floor will be open for anyone who wants to have their say, and say it.
6 – It will probably still get random
Not only is the AGM a rare if regular opportunity for fans to quiz the club’s top table – it’s the one night where the spotlight is shared equally (almost) between ownership, investment, contracts, welfare, huge amounts of money... and sausage rolls, the choice of pies and possibly toilets.
There is a wonderful unpredictability offered by each AGM. Cuing up his second mention in these six things, who knew Glenn Roeder was going to destroy any of his remaining good will with those infamous eight words back in late 2008?
OK, perhaps that one was not entirely impossible to predict given how he went about things.
So what will we get this year? Well if it was that predictable, I would be undermining my own point – and it’s a rare AGM that doesn’t throw up some sort of unexpected diamond in the rough.
That really is the Norwich City way I know – so shareholders, it’s over to you.
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