Skip to main content

CHIEF EXEC Q&A TRANSCRIPT

PUBLISHED

18:01 11th September 2013

by Norwich City Football Club

Full transcript of fans' Q&A with David McNally

Richard Temple (Facebook) - Any chance you can provide WIFI free for the fans? It's impossible to get signal or connection within the ground - maybe a provider would sponsor and provide it free?

Good question from Richard. There’s no truth in the rumour that I don’t allow WIFI so I don’t have access to Twitter with all the difficult tweets that I sometimes get! Of course, as a service I think it’s coming. It needs to be a service that’s provided at the right price. We are talking to providers, and there’s a lot of interest from supporters so it’s something that we will pursue, but at the moment we haven’t come up with a solution that is right for us and one that we can afford. Many supporters experienced Hull City and their WIFI service and we had a number of concerns about what they offered at the game there recently. We need to be sure that when we do launch a WIFI service for supporters, or indeed an alternative system for them accessing the Internet or whatever they need to do, then we’ll come up with that and we’ll provide that, but it needs to be at a price that we can afford.

Kieran Butt (Twitter) – What is on the agenda regarding the expansion of Carrow Road?

Kieran, that’s a question we get asked regularly. Supporters will probably remember that we asked the UEA to complete a piece of work into whether stadium expansion was viable here. They concluded that it was; that we could take the capacity in Carrow Road up to circa 35,000. We would love to do that, and we would love to do that in the not too distant future, however seven or eight thousand extra seats could cost us up to £30m, and £30m at the moment would then have to come from the squad costs or the squad budget, and the board decided that it’s so important that we try everything we can to keep Norwich City in the Premier League, that we didn’t want to raid the football budget for stadium infrastructure costs, and that’s something short-term that we conclude is best for the football club. It’s meant that we’ve been able to invest this summer in the transfer market, where we’ve beaten our transfer record at least twice – you could argue three times but at least twice – we’ve spent more money than we’ve ever spent in player recruitment. We would not have been able to do that if we’d have said priority is to expand Carrow Road. So at the moment, we recognise that there’s a need/requirement to expand Carrow Road, but it’s probably number two on the priorities behind the squad investment and so I’ll say we’ll get at it at a time when we can afford it but I can’t see that happening in the next two or three years.

John Hinds (Facebook) - I've heard that if Carrow Road was to expand capacity we would be looking at a possible move (Norfolk Show Ground) is this true?

Thanks for the question John, interesting question but there’s no truth in it whatsoever. Carrow Road is our home, we’ve already identified with the piece of work that the UEA did for us that we have the demand to expand Carrow Road to 35000. Would we need more than that? Maybe in a generation’s time but certainly not in the mid-term and so Carrow Road is ideal, it’s our home, it’s a fantastic traditional football ground, it’s very close to the road network, it’s very close to the rail network and it’s a five/ten minute walk into the city so it’s perfectly located. We have no intentions of relocating to either the one that’s been suggested or any other brown field site. Carrow Road needs to be where we play our football.

Jake Ward (Facebook) - David, will we ever get a large screen installed at Carrow Road?

Good question Jake, good question and we do get it asked regularly. When we do tackle the stadium expansion opportunity at Carrow Road, then that will be the time to look at things like large screens. At the moment there is nowhere for a large screen that wouldn’t obscure the view of many supporters. There’s no point providing one solution if it creates another problem for you. We’d like to have large screens – we’d like to have a couple of large screens at either end of the ground – but at the moment the stadium configuration doesn’t allow for that to be done practically.

Nick Taylor (Facebook) - Hi David are there funds available for Chris to add to the team again in January if this was needed?

Hi Nick, good question. Yes there is money available in January. We have some budget preserved from the summer spending efforts for January. We’ll sit down with Chris to where if necessary we need to reinforce the squad. It’s always sensible to have some money available for January because things happen such as injuries – Elliott Bennett, for instance. He’ll be back I’m sure early in the new year but his injury is a blow that we didn’t anticipate. We did try and bring in loan cover to support that, but who knows – between now and Christmas there are many, many football matches. Our requirements for January may change, may evolve based on injuries, based on form, or based on the evolution of the squad because the squad has changed dramatically over such a short period. Russ (Martin) and Wes (Hoolahan) are the only two that remain from that League One championship winning squad. It just shows how quickly things change.

Mr Carrow (Twitter) – What was the best signing that you made in your opinion?

Well, I think looking back the summer – it was a very interesting summer – we were able to land nearly all of our targets. The only one area where we would have liked to have strengthened, we would have liked to have brought in an extra defender, but we think with the versatility a number of our defenders have that we’re well covered. But it’s no secret that we did try and bring in an extra defender. Difficult to say which is the best, I was just delighted that we were able to sign eight. We said at the start of the window that we’d sign between five and eight. Javier of course you can exclude from that analysis because we knew that he was ours for the new season, so we signed seven, and I think they’re all top class signings in their own right. I'm very excited about a number of them, and I’m very excited that this time for the right reasons we’ve looked at the offensive positions as opposed to this time last year where it was clear that we needed to strengthen the back five. We’ve looked at the forward positions this time in earnest, and most of the players are in either midfield or attacking positions, and that reflects I guess where we felt we needed to strengthen the squad. Who knows who’s going to be the best? Who do I think the best signing is? Unfortunately that’s something you’ll reflect on when they’ve departed and done their three years, four years or ten years or whatever it is.

Ben Williamson (Facebook) - Do you know why Luciano Becchio has not been given a chance by Chris Hughton?

Good question Ben. Luciano is a top striker and he’s one of four out-and-out strikers that we have with Ricky (van Wolfswinkel), with Gary Hooper and with Johan Elmander. Those three we signed this summer. Luciano only signed in January, so if you like at the business end of the pitch there’s been an overhaul, a complete overhaul of our striking options with Grant leaving, Steve Morison, Chris Martin, Simeon Jackson – a number of strikers who quite rightly have done very well for us in the past but it was probably right for them to move on just now. We’ve overhauled the striking options. I think Luciano in my opinion has probably been a little bit unlucky. He joined us, settled in, Grant then found some form and was keeping Luciano out of the side towards the end of the season so he was a little bit unlucky and clearly this summer we’ve spent heavily on reinforcements – Johan Elmander is a current international striker on Galatasaray wages, Ricky van Wolfswinkel was a record signing for the football club and a current Dutch international, and Gary Hooper – I think Neil Lennon described him as the best Celtic striker since Henrik Larsson. So he’s up against some truly talented competitors, but I’m sure he’ll get his chance. He’s a top class professional, he’ll get his moment. When we signed Luciano, I think he’d scored 19 or 20 goals in the Championship before Christmas. That just shows the quality of the man, and we need four strikers.

Robin Jacobs (Facebook) - David, for all the good things that are said about the academy, precious few academy players have broken into the first team in recent years. Why is this? What can be done to ensure that the academy is a source of players for our team rather than for the likes of Colchester Utd, Leyton Orient and King's Lynn?

Well I think that’s a great question. We are delighted that we’re the current holders of the FA Youth Cup, so some of the progress that this club’s made through Ricky Martin, Neil Adams and others should be recognised and generally, the players in our squad are home-grown, so they’re not only produced by our Academy but they’re domestic players too, and not every Academy in the Premier League can say that. I do think there’s a challenge though between doing well at Academy level and Under-18s level, and then progressing through to the Premier League. Clearly the club has come some way in a few years from League One – it may have been easier to go from Academy to League One, it’s certainly more a challenge to go from the Academy to the Premier League. It’s the toughest, most successful league in the world so there’s a real challenge there. The Elite Player Performance Plan is designed to try and do something about that. We need more coaches, we need better coaches, we need more time with the players and I’m delighted to say that we’ve got 26 boys who are full-time with us. We are committing to their education, so we’ve used two schools locally where we’re committing to their full-time education but it means that we have far more access to them at good times during the day to help them with their football education too, so I think we’ll see the progress the Elite Player Performance Plan will deliver over the course of the next two or three years but our roster of young players is very exciting, with the Murphys, with Carlton Morris, with Harry Toffolo, with Kyle (Callan-McFadden), with Cameron (King) – with all of these good young players that are coming through. They did so well to win the FA Youth Cup. We’ve got high hopes that some of those players will develop into Norwich City Premier League players. And of course additionally, we are so lucky at Norwich City – we’ve got the most supportive fans in the country. They’ve backed us to the hilt with our Academy development. The Academy donation was truly remarkable and we guarantee every penny will go towards developing the stars of the future. The Academy jackpot which is one of the more successful Academy lottery products in the country, and time in and time out they’ve backed us to the hilt. All of the lottery products that we have, all of the money that we raise from those products goes directly to supporting the Academy, and whilst we are committing many millions as a club to the development of young players, the more money we get from supporters will clearly aid that and add to that, so we can’t say a bigger thanks to the supporters than 'thank you thank you thank you' and keep the money coming please.

Nathan Williamson (Facebook) - Would you support a move to safe standing at Carrow Road, should the law change to allow it?

Nathan, we get asked this question a lot. It’s very topical.With my personal hat on, I struggle with it because my friend died at Hillsborough so I will always struggle with the subject. However, if the law changed then of course we need to be mindful about what we’re allowed to do as a football club, and in the end football clubs have to ensure that they’re listening to what their supporters want, so it’s something that will develop. I’m not sure where we would put the safe-standing area, and whether we’d be able to do it cost-effectively would be a real challenge for us. So if it costs us more money, then we will have less money to spend on the first-team, so all of those things we’d need to ponder, consider and give real thought to. Company hat on, we’d consider it, personal hat on, I’d always be against.

Klobo (Twitter) – Three years ago David laid out a seven year plan. Has our success changed the plan and what are the goals for the next four years?

That’s right Klobo, we did have a seven year plan which we achieved in two/three, and one of the reasons that it was a long-term seven year plan was that it was established with the banks and the finance houses in mind. We had to develop a plan that we could deliver over a reasonable period, but clearly behind the scenes we were then saying to our football guys – look we need to get promoted from League One, we need to get promoted from the Championship because this great club needs to be playing its football in the Premier League. So the seven year plan we designed with the financial stability of the club in mind. Clearly, playing in the Premier League has helped fix the balance sheet. I’m delighted to say that we now are institutionally debt-free – that means that we don’t owe banks or any other finance houses any money. There is still some money outstanding to Delia, to Michael and to Michael, but they’ve been so supportive over the years that I’m sure there’s no real urgency over that. Long may their support continue, I should say. In terms of planning for the future, we aim to stay in this league. From a football point of view, we have to stay in the Premier League. But alongside that, we have a goal on and off the pitch to continuously improve. All of us, whether it’s myself, or the media team, or the finance team, or sales and marketing – we have some targets that are designed to stretch us, to push us, to continuously improve. The same is true with football, we have a continuous improvement. Read into that what you will – you won’t hear from us saying that ‘we need to finish top x, or top y, or top z’ – we are just looking to continuously improve and the fans won’t need reminding that we were 12th two years ago, 11th last year, so we want to continue to improve from that position.

Lance Harrington (Facebook) - David, do you wish you'd tried harder to keep Paul Lambert? And do you think Norwich City will ever win a 'proper' trophy?

Two good questions there, wow. You’re on form Lance. Paul Lambert is an integral part of our recent history. He did marvelously well for the football club for three years. We wouldn’t be where we are now without him, and he’s quite rightly in the Hall of Fame. And I think all supporters will be forever grateful for Paul’s contribution – I certainly am. Paul decided to leave the club, what can I say about that? That’s football. That’s all it is. He won’t be the first manager who decides to leave a club. Paul and others would argue that it’s often clubs deciding that they want their manager to leave the club, so Paul decided to leave the club. That’s football, that’s all it is. Second question, we will ever win a 'proper' cup? Ever? Yes, we hope so. We won’t be setting any short-term goals for that, but we won a cup last year in the FA Youth Cup, which is the highest level in Academy football in the country and for only the second time in our history. I’m not so sure that will ever be done again – where a bunch of home-grown, domestic-based Under-18s can beat the Academies where players have cost £3/4/5m pounds from all around the world. So I’m not so sure that will ever be done again, so we’re enormously proud about winning that trophy. But I guess the question’s about first-team trophies – yes, we’d love to be in a position to win a trophy at some point in the not too distant future, but I won’t set a target for that one.

Chris Deighton (Twitter) - Hi David any plans for a new website and video service the current one is still the role out one for all Championship clubs!

Yes, good question about the website. Our website isn’t good enough, we’re not happy with FLI and what they produce for us. We are clearly looking for them to improve and we are in discussion with them about a better website for our football club. It’s not good enough, it’s not as good as the old one that they had with Perform. Sapient Nitro and what they provide at the moment isn’t befitting that of a Premier League football club. So yes, not good enough – not quite sure what else I can say. ‘Must do better’ would be the end-of-term report for our website. It’s not for want of trying, and the urgency grows so we will ensure that we do better in future.

James Lake (Facebook) - Could you please tidy up the Russell Allison suite, and bring back working large screens? I suspect his family would be very disappointed to see how shabby it's become.

Yes, good question. It’s the first time that I’ve been made aware of the issues, specifically. There may have been one or two complaints about queues and position of TVs to the proximity of queues, which we are aware of. As a result of having the question, we’ll have a proper look at it. Unfortunately I’m not in there on match day – I’d love to be actually but I’m busy elsewhere – but having now had it raised, the operations team will look at it.

Will Carr (Facebook) David, will there be any more fan-player meetings in the season?

Yes, loads. We are accessible as everybody knows – we’re on Twitter, we’re on Facebook, people can email in and people can write in. People can pop in to see us by appointment of course, and in terms of customer services – the ticket office is open all of the time so we are open for business 24/7. Alongside that though, we have regular fans forums and there’s one in early October at a date soon to be confirmed. We also meet the supporter groups, so supporters groups such as the Capital Canaries, the Northern Canaries, some of the international groups – they’re always invited to an annual meeting where they can put to the club any questions that their members may have, and any concerns that their members may have. So we’ve got one of those in October too, and there will be other Q&As and supporter meetings as the year goes on. There’ll be the AGM later this year – many of our supporters are shareholders too, so we’re certainly more accessible than we’ve ever been, but I’m sure supporters demand even greater access and we’re aware of that, so if there are other things that we should be doing that we’re not, then the supporters should let us know.

Sue Elvin (Facebook) – David, when will you be doing something about the NCFC shops? There is hardly anything for the women who go to the games (and there are a lot). I have been to away games and some of the shops are really full of a lot of lines for women, but NCFC have a few t-shirts and tops and that is it.

It’s a great question Sue and I have some sympathy. Our retail business has improved over the last few years, and it’s now providing a real contribution. The offering for ladies and for girls isn’t as good as it is for men, and we need to do something about that. One of the reasons that our merchandise team would offer would be economies of scale – we need to be able to sell a certain figure in order to justify those products being in store, and I understand that too. What I have done is I’ve asked for an independent audit on what we offer as a club compared to other big football clubs, so that’s underway and will be completed independently – it won’t be our team assessing themselves, so we will have some interesting results from that. I think our replica kit provider Errea have done a fantastic job, both with the quality and the service. We are pleased with what they done. Gifts and accessories have done reasonably well, and whilst the leisurewear sales have been very strong, that’s the area I think in which we can do even better in future, so I have a lot of sympathy with the question.

Ray Youngman (Facebook) - Why do you not disclose players wages to the public?

Good question Ray. They’re confidential contracts. The contracts are drawn up and are as confidential as it would be for Ray’s personal terms and conditions, which wouldn’t be made accessible to the public. It’s the same with undisclosed transfer fees – often there will be a contractual stipulation on one side or both to say that the figures must remain confidential, and with legally-binding contracts, they’re simply that – you have to honour them. But when it comes to salaries, I think it’s right that salaries are confidential anyhow.

Mark Bicker (Facebook) - Are the half-price tickets for Stoke part of the £200k the Premier League gave every club to maintain away attendances and improve the experience? If so, where will the club be using the remaining money or has it already been used?

Mark, firstly the £200k wasn’t given to us – it’s our money that we’ve decided to use in this way. How we can support away fans travelling to away ground was something we discussed with the Premier League, and the clubs did agree that they would ring-fence monies to use to help supporters in this way. To be clear, we weren’t given it to spend it – it’s our money and we’ve decided to spend it in this way. The Hull free coaches were very successful – I think there were 25 free coaches that went to Hull, and we’ve decided – Norwich City have taken a hit on the cost of half of the tickets for the forthcoming Stoke City game. So at every level, those tickets are now half-price and we’ll be taking the cost on at Norwich City. There will be other things that we do throughout the course of the season. We are particularly mindful of fixture date changes due to European competition and television, and when games move from three o’clock on a Saturday to any other time, that can be difficult for supporters so if we can help, we will.

Michael Hayes (Facebook) - Hi David, although we're doing very well, are you happy with Chris Hughton’s tactics at times?

Good question Michael. Chris, obviously the football manager, and it’s his job to prepare teams to win football matches. Yes of course, at Norwich City we have a great tradition of playing attacking football and that’s something that Chris is very aware of. That being said, he’s paid to win football matches and to ensure that first thing’s first, we stay in the league, and secondly, that we continue to improve. I think you’re now beginning to see the shape of his squad – he’s had two summer transfer windows, I don’t know how many players that is if you take off the loan players, but it’s probably 14 or 15 permanent signings, so most of the players that are now starting are Chris Hughton players. So I’m sure that we will see his tactics evolve now that he has the makings of a squad that you would say would be Chris Hughton’s squad.

Greg Skinner (Twitter) – Why have the match pies reduced in quality and increased in price?

Great question and we’ve had that from a few people. We’re looking again, and we’re reverting back to the previous supplier. That will happen hopefully for the next home game.

Liann Read (Facebook) - Where has the goal music gone? We need it back, where's the atmosphere and team support?

Liann, you’re not the first person to comment about goal music. It’s a really controversial subject for something you wouldn’ credit for being so! So many people have an opinion on this – they either want goal music, or they don’t want goal music, or they want goal music but they don’t like the goal music that they use so they want it to be changed. I think this is one of those that I don’t think we can win, ever, so I think it’s one where we will continue to listen to the supporters and the polls we’ve had very recently and in the past are not conclusive if you look at them in the round. So it’s one that we will continue to debate and has been one of the most contentious subjects unfortunately. At the moment, we have not been using goal music this season – we do want to score lots of goals, we’ve got to stress that first and foremost, but at the moment we’ll keep things as they are but we’ll continue to monitor it, continue to listen to the supporters – having scored three goals in the first two home league games, I felt the atmosphere was as good as ever in response to those goals. We’ll just leave it as it is, continue to monitor it, continue to listen to the supporters and then really take things from there. I’m not so sure it will go away though – the debate that is!

Greg Sayer (Facebook) - Is there anything that can be done about away fans in the home end? In the recent Everton game there were at least eight in the same block of the upper Norwich & Peterborough Stand, and despite it causing a lot of angry shouting and bad language in what’s supposed to be the family area it took 25 minutes, six stewards and four police officers to remove one Everton fan causing disruption.

We were quite surprised at how many away fans there were in home areas. It doesn’t take many though for it to appear worse than it actually is. Clearly it’s against ground regulations, and even if it wasn’t we wouldn’t like it anyway because our home areas are for Norwich City supporters, so we will do all we can to find out how those tickets were purchased to ensure that in future, whenever we can, we sell tickets to Norwich City supporters only. We ask Norwich City supporters not to be encouraged by their friends who support the opposition to let them have their tickets – that happens on occasion. We need to think carefully about safety of course – we’ll do all we can and we are taking it very seriously. Our ops team are reviewing where these seats were and how the tickets were purchased because it’s not right – you need home fans in home areas for us to enjoy when we score goals but if the opposition does score, then we can all look after each other – it’s not nice if you’ve got somebody sat next to you jumping up and down, it can be more than a tad annoying so we’ll do what we can.

Daniel DeFalco (Facebook) - Hi David, what has been your favourite moment as chief executive?

Wow, good question. Don’t know, Daniel! We’ve had plenty in the four years or so that I’ve been here. I think the financial restructuring – it sounds really boring – but the financial restructuring in November 2010 was one of the key milestones in our history. So getting that away as a business was huge for the football club. But then you think of the Portsmouth game and promotion to the Premier League, Simeon (Jackson)’s third goal against Derby County – huge moments, but I also remember really feeling that our momentum was beginning to build in League One when we drew away at Gillingham. We had wrongly had a player sent-off – Fraser (Forster) I think it was – we went a goal down, in fact did Simeon score? Simeon was on the other team at the time wasn’t he? And we scored I think in the last minute of injury-time – it may have been a Darel Russell header at a corner. That was a huge moment and I think that was the start of building our momentum in League One, because let’s not forget in League One that season, with Paul coming in he did wonders, but at first it was a little bit awkward – we drew against Walsall at home, we lost at MK Dons and we lost at Leeds, so we didn’t have everything our own way to start with, but it was at that point when we played such good football that day predominantly with ten men, that I thought things were beginning to build. So those were a few of my favourite moments, but we’re lucky that we’ve had so many great moments.

Francis Mooney (Facebook) - Have you set Chris Hughton a target this year? What is it?

Well, like I said we are entirely transparent in terms of the way that we operate, which is we are looking for continuous improvement – all of us, off the pitch and on the pitch. On the pitch, it means absolutely fundamental first big tick, stay in the Premier League but continue to improve. So in every aspect of football we’ll be looking for Chris to ensure that our football performances and our football operation improves, but that’s no different to myself, the media team, accounts, sales and marketing, catering – we’re all charged with continuous improvement, because I’m convinced that if we’re not always moving at 100 miles per hour, we’ll be crushed in the rush. So we need to be pushing and pushing and pushing, and that’s the same whether it’s an administrator or a technical football manager whose job it is to win football matches.

Michael Brown (Facebook) - How do you feel after the loss of Grant Holt, one of the clubs biggest players in the last few seasons? How difficult was it to let him go?

Good question Michael, and again a bit like Paul Lambert, Grant Holt is quite rightly in the Hall of Fame. True legend, four years at the football club, 78 goals was it? He scored at every level and confounded the critics at every level. Hugely important in those first three years in particular when we got through to the Premier League and stayed up in the first year – Grant was an important as anybody, I genuinely believe that. I think he said though that he found it more difficult last year – I think he said in a recent interview that it was more of a struggle and it was probably the right time for him to leave. He’s got a new challenge at Wigan, he’s closer to his family up north, he's playing European football and we wish him well with that but it was probably the right time. He wanted to go; we’re not in the business necessarily of forcing people to stay – slavery was abolished many, many years ago! But like I said, Grant himself said in a recent interview that he found it more difficult last year. The timing was probably right - all good things come to an end. We need Ricky, Gary, Luciano and Johan to score the goals that Grant and other have in recent years.

Simon Wingfield (Facebook) - David, have you any plans to redevelop any areas outside the ground that the club owns?

Outside of the ground, we obviously have car-parking space and we’ve got the Community Sports Foundation Barclays Spaces for Sport, but we haven’t got a lot of other space. We are looking at trying to create more things to do to create more of an atmosphere in the build-up to games, but it’s only in the build-up to games and also we need to be mindful of managing the pedestrian traffic that we’ve got, which is huge in the build-up to kick-off. So we wouldn’t ever do anything that would put that at risk, but we are going to have a look at it. There are huge development plans down at Colney too, where we have put in a state-of-the-art, best-in-class pitch which is an exact replica of the Carrow Road pitch, which will allow our players to train on the same pitch that they play on, as well as ensuring through most of the bad weather that the winter throws at us, that pitch will be in use. We’re looking to establish a new first-team building at Colney, and to revamp an Academy building at Colney – there’s lots of things that we’re looking to do over the course of the next few years, but it will always be with the priority of things that benefit football and football means either the first-team, the Academy or indeed those that come to watch, as in spectators.

    Related Articles