More than 250 Norwich City supporters attended the club’s online fan consultation evening on Thursday, with a wide variety of subjects covered.
Ben Kensell, Chief Operating Officer, began by discussing the roadmap of fans returning to football stadia. "It’s encouraging but cautious news regarding the roadmap set out by the government,” he said.
“We can't wait to have fans back. The roadmap stated the future is quite bright. We have hope next season may start with full stadiums again. We've led from the front in proving we can bring fans back safely in October and December.
“We're in communication around pilot fixtures, and we're working hard to bring 2,000 fans back for our last fixtures in April and May. No assurances but we’re working as hard as we can behind the scenes."
Lynette Hannant, Head of Supporter Services and Junior Development, then explained the club’s new official supporters panel. "The aim is to provide open, honest, transparent and independent dialogue between the club and fans on all non football related issues,” she said.
“The nomination and application process will open via the club website on Sunday, February 28 for the official supporters panel. We’ll be seeking a maximum of 15 members.”
Having been in the role for three months, Caroline Ellis, Supporter Services Manager, then introduced herself to the supporters. She's the main point of contact for all supporter enquiries and feedback and can be reached by email on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gary Dack, Head of Safeguarding, then confirmed that the club have completed a strategic plan to ensure it matches the standards of Premier League safeguarding, adding: “We’re not saying you can't criticise or have negative views, but the point you become hateful or discriminatory may cause a risk within our own environment. We should be supportive to our team and each other.”
Greg Pillinger, Head of Operations and Projects, was next on the panel, discussing the challenges presented by being a Covid-19 officer at the club this year before moving on to the subjects of pitch renovation, toilet facilities and The Killers concert.
“We couldn’t renovate the pitch in the close season last season, and it’s not in the best condition now but that's one of the first projects for us this close season. It will take seven weeks.
“As for the toilet facilities in the Barclay and Regency stands, there have been major refurbishments there that you'll use next season all going well.
“We’re currently working closely with the promoters of The Killers and we’re waiting to hear from them in the coming days to see how the roadmap will affect the concert.”
"If we're fortunate enough to go back to the Premier League we'll have no pressure to sell our players."
Jake Gent, Junior Development and Memberships Manager, then discussed how the club’s Junior Canaries programme is aiming to build a future fan base. Currently, Junior Canaries aged two or 16 get the same benefits, but that will change from next season.
“We’re looking to split membership into age ranges 0-4, 5-11 and 12-17 to provide bespoke benefits and target each range with things they want.
“We recently launched a new Junior Canaries website, which allows us to provide content for junior fans in a safe area like exclusive videos, competitions, activities, and educational series to help with home schooling.
“It's in early stages so we’re still looking to make developments and enhance digital offerings in areas like eSports.”
Jake confirmed that the 0-4 membership will be free, removing barriers to entry for those fans, and that a new Junior Supporters Panel will also be launched to get feedback from junior fans.
The club is also working on an international membership next season for overseas supporters.
"We think SoccerBot will have a strong impact across our teams for a number of years.”
The final section of the fan consultation saw members of the panel responding to pre-submitted questions from supporters.
On whether there would be a pressure to sell players in the transfer market, Zoe Ward, Business and Project Director, said: “There’s no pressure to sell. We can’t deny Covid had a massive financial impact on the club to the tune of around £25million. We'll feel that for some time to come but if we're fortunate to go back to the Premier League then we have no pressure to sell our players."
Ben Kensell then provided clarity on the situation regarding season ticket renewals, saying: “On the season ticket that you paid for this season that you've not been able to use due to the pandemic, it will allow you in next season because you already paid for it this season.
“Of course, away season tickets will continue as soon as we can permit fans to go to away games. We thank you for the amazing support you’ve shown for so many years now.”
Zoe then went on to discuss SoccerBot360, the technology that Greg Pillinger had previously explained would start being built in two to three weeks, making Norwich the first club to invest in one in the UK with the aim of being completed in July, ready for next season.
“The guys at Colney are really excited about it,” she said. “It will benefit players all the way from the Under-9s to the first team. It gives players the ability to develop skills in a simulation environment, creating real life scenarios and going over your decision making. We think it will have a strong impact across our teams for a number of years.”
"Safe standing is still high on the agenda"
Greg then went onto discuss safe standing, and whether it could be implemented at Carrow Road in the future, saying the topic remains high on the agenda.
“In February 2020, five members of the club visited Wolves to see their safe standing in one end. The following day we went to Shrewsbury. We knew where we wanted to go then Covid hit us.
“It is still high on the agenda. We previously got buy-in from the safety advisory group at Norfolk County Council, we showed them around the Molineux Stadium and how it was self administered.
“We haven't got endorsement from them but we’ve planted the seed to have some segments across Carrow Road. When the finances allow, we’ll look to progress it.”
On the subject of the stadium but regarding the extension of it, Ben Kensell picked up the conversation.
"Work has continued,” he said. “We see Colney as an area of development and there’s still some way to go on that, but the stadium is always a consideration. We’re developing those plans even further so that it's a master plan approach rather than just a stand expansion. We’re aggressively trying to pursue it and that will ensure long term growth commercially.”
Finally, Lynette Hannant was asked about how the end of season Player of the Season awards will be voted on.
“Supporters who wish to vote will have a supporter number so that we can ensure a fair process,” she said.