What makes City so good at engaging with fans – and how can it improve?
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Norwich City is among the best clubs in the country when it comes to engagement with fans.
The Canaries came in 10th out of every club in the top four English leagues, and were the highest Premier League club on the list from the 2019/20 season, according to a Think Fan Engagement study.
City fell three places from seventh in the previous edition of the rankings, but actually improved their overall score from 135 to 140 out of a possible 280.
Points awarded to each club are based upon their respective owners being scored on dialogue, governance and transparency with supporters.
In an article to go along with the report, Fan Insights boss Kevin Rye described Norwich City as "the club often held up as an example".
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The Norfolk club is an "example of clubs who, in 2019/20, just continued to get it right", Mr Rye added.
Robin Sainty, chairman of the Canaries Trust, concurs, adding he was "very pleased" to hear his beloved Canaries were among the best for fan engagement one again.
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He said: "It's a credit to the club and also the various supporters' groups. We are very lucky to have the level of access to the club that we have at Norwich.
"We speak to the club on a regular basis and they're always very open and honest with us. There are times they discuss things that for obvious reasons have to remain confidential, but they are extremely open and that's all you can ask.
"We're not always going to agree, and it's not our role to agree with everything, but if both sides are honest with each other then that's a really strong basis for a relationship going forward.
"I suspect, given the progress that has been made in terms of fan engagement during the pandemic, next year's figure is going to look even better."
Mr Sainty said it was "difficult to think of" anything that could be improved in terms of communication and openness from the club, adding: "I think they're doing pretty much everything right at the moment."
One person who could think of an example where he felt the club got it wrong was supporter Samuel Walden.
A season ticket holder of 20 years, Mr Walden described the way the club brought in a new membership scheme ahead of the 2019/20 campaign as "a mistake".
He said: "As a regular supporter I had no warning – I got no email asking me to give my views. I think that was a mistake, and it wound up a lot of fans.
"It would have been nice if they could have come out and said 'we've got an idea for the membership, we want to put it to a vote', like they do for player of the month or player of the season. Give a deadline for people to vote, and see what people say.
"To be honest the club probably wasn't going to win either way. But they could have communicated it better."
Overall, though, Mr Walden heaped praise on the work Mr Kensell and sporting director Stuart Webber have done in this area since joining the club.
He added: "This year, I think since Covid came in the club has communicated brilliantly around season tickets. We had three choices – get the rebate, donate it to the Community Sports Foundation or keep it.
"Communication has got so much better since Kensell and Webber came in."
While Norwich City can be proud to be top dog in the top flight when it comes to fan engagement, further improvements will be necessary over the next year to make sure rapidly improving clubs like Leicester City and Everton don't outshine them in the next league table.
What is the club doing to boost fan engagement?
Norwich City is hoping to further benefit from dialogue with fans with a new Official Supporters Panel.
The aim of the panel will be to further promote important dialogue between the club and its supporters on all non-football related issues.
It will be made up of a maximum of 15 members, with a shortlist of candidates already chosen by the club.
City then published those candidates, and asked supporters to vote for who they would like to represent fans in such discussions with club officials going forward.
The panel's first official meeting is set to take place this month.
Mr Sainty said: "It's made up of people who are not already involved with established supporter groups, so should help provide an even greater cross-section of opinion.
"That can only be a positive thing."