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Norwich City FC – The Canaries continue to fly off the field

Norwich City currently sit at the bottom of the English Premier League table after winning only three games this season. Whilst their team hasn’t particularly impressed on the park in the world’s most popular league, a change in ideas off-the park well over a year ago is being associated with their rise back to the top division of English Football.

Adopting a shared leadership management structure, three people were left in charge of making decisions at the top table. Chief Operating Officer Ben Kensell believes this type of approach has encouraged innovation throughout the club when it came to dealing with the industry, the fans, the community and its staff.

“There is Stuart Webber, who deals with the footballing side, myself handling the non-football sides of the business, such as all commercial areas, finance, operations and Zoe Ward who is very much the glue in between the two areas driving behaviours and culture on both sites whilst managing support services such as Legal, HR and our fantastic community work,” he told FC Business.

“We are all experts in our fields but we communicate and run the business as a three and as a collective and that means you can be across everything and we can focus key objectives across all areas to really drive results and what’s best for the club as a whole.”

Owners Delia Smith and Michael Wynn-Jones are adamant the club must look after itself financially, which brings about an element of self-pride according to Kensell.

“We are immensely proud to be a self-financed club, as are our fans,” he claimed.

“Delia & Michael lead by example and they are brilliant owners of this great club, we do it our way and we want to be the best we can be in everything we do. Being self-financed certainly sharpens your focus. We know how much responsibility we have to get it right and that means we take responsibility for every bit of the detail because your margins for error are very small. Our attention to detail for each other’s business needs comes from the knowledge we have little wiggle room and we have to get things right. Across all areas of the club we look for continuous improvement and from top down we are all hungry and committed to be the best we can be for Norwich City and its fans.”

But the structure seems to be providing the club with several commercial benefits, aside from the clear achievement of reaching the English Premier League.

“Our commercial revenue in partnerships has doubled. Our club-controlled income of £33 million plus has grown and we have seen good growth in retail and memberships after overhauling previous structures and we are sold out home and away for the majority of our games thanks to the phenomenal support of the fans. We are maximising every opportunity we have to work in an innovative way with partners and its certainly paying off.

“We have made a seven-figure investment in our new training facility and secured a lucrative long-term sponsorship with Lotus cars taking the naming rights of the training centre and academy. That’s on top of money that the Norwich City fans themselves have invested through the Canary bond, which we facilitated.

“We have improved fan experiences around the ground and in the city centre with our new Fan Hub. And in all that time we have worked to make sure Stuart [Webber] and Daniel [Farke] have the budget they need and the player development structure they desire to take this club forward on the pitch.”

Whilst various changes have been made it is still extremely important to communicate efficiently with fans, to get them back onside. This was a core focus for Ben, Zoe and Stuart once the executive committee was created at Norwich.

“We have firm short, medium and long-term plans in place whatever happens on the pitch. We are in a financially sound position but just as important is that our fans and everyone in our community understand the decisions we are making and buy into it.

“That’s why we work hard on our fan engagement and broader communication. We try to involve the fans through clear and concise communication in every stage of our thinking about the future of this club, we want them to feel very much part of the plan and proud of doing it the Norwich City way. Sometimes people are not going to like what we plan to do, but we make sure they understand our reasons for that.”

Ben adds: “You rarely hear a Norwich fan call for us to get the cheque book out to make a big-money signing. That’s because they have bought into our sustainable plan of being self-financed. They know through previous experiences that breaking the bank can lead to tough times for the club they love and equally, they know from what we tell them we are not willing to play that lottery again, either. We are investing in the stadium and training ground because then we will have something to show for the monies the Premier League brings but we know it’s a balance in everything we do as we want to remain competitive.

“They also know we are spending money on the club infrastructure, whether that be improvements at Carrow Road or on fan engagement zones – it is clear what we are doing.”

As the Premier League does attract a global audience, Norwich have profited through deals with the Tampa Bay tourism board and Philippines-based Dafabet. However, the club promises to stick to their roots and do things the Norwich way.

“We have to build our commercial expansion plans carefully to ensure we stay true to our club values and ways of doing things. We are making a name for ourselves by doing things differently, we are growing and have impressive numbers to show from a club-controlled income perspective compared to our peer group clubs, but we can, and will, continue to grow whilst never losing sight of our doing it our way.”

A new Canaries Fan Hub in the centre of the city has recently opened, with fellow English Premier League sides interested in the development. Kensell is extremely satisfied with the progress of it so far as it promotes the club’s identity further, as well as being commercially rewarding.

“It’s been a massive success and a real game changer for us; you can purchase everything there from retail to tickets to special events. It’s a true one stop shop but more importantly is that it has loads of fans and kids just coming in and playing on our penalty shoot-out simulator or going on the iPads or taking part in some of the cool experiences within the Hub.

“People come in to just watch the exclusive content whether it be interviews, highlights of the game, training across our giant screen or playing on the PlayStations. We have seen turnover rocket since it was launched in August and I am delighted with the performance of it in every aspect.”

With room for growth and plans to expand Carrow Road on the agenda, Norwich City FC are in a good place to continue to thrive.

Barcelona the most popular online club in China from Red Card report findings

Barcelona has overtaken fellow La Liga powerhouse Real Madrid to become China’s most popular soccer club online, based off Mailman’s 2020 Red Card report.

In Mailman’s 2020 rankings, it shows that Barcelona have risen significantly from fifth to first place since last year, mainly due off the back of their impressive growth on Chinese social media.

The club’s followers on Chinese social media platform Weibo went up from eight million to 16.3 million, a massive 104 per cent jump. In turn Barcelona improved on it’s engagement through Weibo, trending up 45 per cent from their 2018 efforts.

The club also gained huge exposure on short form video platform Douyin, with Lionel Messi’s penalty pass to Luis Suarez ranking as the fourth most watched video last year, accumulating 64 million views and 2.3 million engagements.

“[The award is] a testament to the effort, teamwork and innovation of all of those involved with FC Barcelona in China,” said Barcelona Board Member Didac Lee.

“Our challenge is to create content for China that is bespoke to the ever-evolving digital landscape, culture and habits of this market and we’re proud to be recognised for outstanding fan growth and engagement.”

In English Premier League standings, Chelsea are the most popular club from England and sit third in Mailman’s rankings overall.

There are two more Premier League outfits in the top five, with Manchester City and Manchester United in fourth and joint fifth alongside Juventus respectively.

City went up from ninth place in 2019 to leapfrog rivals United this year, while Liverpool are seventh, dropping down a single place.

The Premier League itself is the most popular competition with China’s digital community, ahead of the LaLiga which overtook the Bundesliga to claim second place. The German top-tier sits third, recording its lowest ever ranking.

“To receive this Red Card award for the second year running is a great honour and testament to the Premier League and our clubs’ loyal fanbase in China,” said Premier League Chief Executive Richard Masters.

“We witnessed their passionate support during last year’s successful Premier League Asia Trophy in Nanjing and Shanghai, something that has been reflected by the growing popularity of our digital coverage in the country.”

Cristiano Ronaldo is the most popular player with China’s digital soccer fans according to Mailman, ahead of Neymar and Lionel Messi respectively.

It’s the second consecutive year that Ronaldo has topped the poll, being one of the few players to see increased engagement and followers on Weibo despite a decrease in soccer-related user activity on the platform. Neymar found himself the most followed player on rival platform Douyin.

“I am very pleased with this award. I know that I have a huge part of fans in China and it means a lot to be on top of the table for the second year in a row,” said Ronaldo.

Chinese fans have contributed many commercial opportunities for European soccer clubs, with an estimated AUD$98.9 million of digital sponsorship revenue still on the table, according to Mailman.

Football Queensland’s CEO Robert Cavallucci to reform Junior Development on the Sunshine Coast

Football Queensland today released a statement on the current state of junior development on the Sunshine Coast.

In their statement, FQ say that they have discussed potential pathways for women and girls to play soccer on the Sunshine Coast. Talks were held with NPL club Sunshine Coast Wanderers.

The statement in full can be found below, per footballqueensland.com.au:

Football Queensland (FQ) Chief Executive Officer Robert Cavallucci met with club officials from Sunshine Coast Wanderers on Monday to discuss future pathways for women and girls on the Sunshine Coast.

Following a review of junior development opportunities across the state, discussions were held around how FQ can support the club moving forward to strengthen pathways for women and girls in the region, including the National Premier Leagues Women’s (NPLW) Queensland.

Related Articles:

Football Queensland announce reformed junior NPL competition

Football Queensland welcomes new SWQ Technical Development Manager

Over the next few weeks, FQ will work collaboratively with Football Queensland Sunshine Coast Zone and Sunshine Coast Wanderers as the NPLW licence holders to grow opportunities for women and girls.

FQ will not be making any changes to the current NPLW licence holders on the Sunshine Coast.

Further details around the support package will be announced in the coming weeks.

*ENDS*

The Sunshine Coast Wanderers are the leaders in their geographical area for promoting the women’s game and making it as readily available as possible.

The club has women’s sides in under 13’s, under 15’s, under 17’s and seniors.

However, Football Queensland have clearly seen the women’s game and the junior side of that, in particular to be an area in need of addressing.

This is a great show of initiative from Robert Cavallucci and FQ. The women’s game is arguably as important as any area of soccer in Australia at this point in time. They have clearly noticed the need to maximise coverage of the sport in the state and we here at Soccerscene tip our hats off to them.

In recent weeks, some of our best exports have been making all the headlines.

Sam Kerr, who recently signed for English club Chelsea FC, scored her very first goal in the Barclays FA Women’s Super League (the female equivalent of the Premier League) in the Blues’ 4-1 win over Arsenal.

The win itself came as a real surprise as Arsenal, for all their struggles in the men’s league, are the reigning champions and currently sit second on the table in the Barclays FAWSL.

They are only behind Manchester City on goal difference.

It’s great to see Sammy hitting the scoreboard in England and let’s hope that this is merely the beginning for the Matildas star.

Fellow Australian Hayley Raso also made waves by joining Everton’s women’s side from Brisbane Roar.

Raso, who is from the Gold Coast originally, had stints at Brisbane, Canberra United in the W-League and the Washington Spirit and Portland Thorns in the National Women’s Soccer League (the female equivalent of the MLS).

Raso has been riddled with injuries in recent times and after moving from the United States, then to Australia and now to England, let’s hope she can make a splash like that of Sam Kerr.

Australian soccer legend Tim Cahill, who made his name at Everton as well as Millwall, made the announcement via Everton’s Twitter page. The video can be found below.

2021 AFCON switches to winter due to heat

The Confederation of African Football (CAF) has made the decision to move the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) to the months of January and February, going against its plan to have the tournament during summer.

The AFCON has formerly seen winter months at its traditional time slot and is due to take place from January 9th to February 6th 2021. .

The African governing body, currently being presided over by FIFA General Secretary Fatma Samoura, cited extreme heat as the reason why they they made the decision to move the competition, however it also now prevents a clash with FIFA’s expanded Club World Cup in June 2021.

CAF’s announcement follows discussions with the Cameroon Football Federation (FECAFOOT), the host nation’s governing soccer body.

CAF Deputy General Secretary Anthony Baffoe confirmed the association’s decision.

“We have reviewed the period of the competition as requested by the Cameroonian party due to unfavourable climatic conditions during the period initially slated,” he said.

“After listening to the various arguments and viewpoints, and in particular from the Cameroonian meteorological authorities, the coaches and players; the representatives of the Afcon organising committee, which received the mandate from CAF Executive Committee to take the decision, has granted this request.”

English Premier League clubs are most likely to be affected with this news – the heavy scheduling around January time could mean that teams may miss key personnel for up to six games.

Some of the African stars that will depart across EPL sides:

  • Liverpool – Sadio Mane (Senegal), Mohamed Salah (Egypt) & Naby Keita (Guinea)
  • Manchester City – Riyad Mahrez (Algeria)
  • Arsenal – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Gabon) & Nicolas Pepe (Ivory Coast)
  • Manchester United – Eric Bailly (Ivory Coast)
  • Leicester City – Wilfred Ndidi (Nigeria)
  • Crystal Palace – Wilfried Zaha (Ivory Coast) & Jordan Ayew (Ghana)
  • Everton – Alex Iwobi (Nigeria)

The biennial African national team tournament was meant to be hosted by Cameroon in 2019 but was reassigned to Egypt because of building delays, which lead to the Ivory Coast now hosting the tournament in the summer of 2023.

Despite having more construction time last year, Cameroon will need to get everything right six months earlier.

The 2019 tournament was won by Algeria through a 1-0 victory over Senegal in the final.

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