Norwich away is awry
Posted by John Beech on April 10, 2009
Readers of this blog may recall that in my posting Life’s tough in Administration of 1st April (1) I commented on the fact that Norwich players had paid for their own flights to Blackpool for an away game. Now comes the news that the club’s directors have personally paid for the flight to Swansea this weekend (2). Had Delia Smith gone round the boardroom with a bowl and a cry of “Let’s be having you! Come on!”?
This is not simply a new twist to the story – it adds a significant new dimension, the terms and conditions of employment of the team members. In the earlier Blackpool case, it might be argued that the club did not see a flight as a reasonable way to travel, and if the players wanted to use an unnecessarily expensive form of transport, then fine so long as they paid for it themselves. It’s not clear whether the players were reimbursed the notional cost of the train fare or their part of the cost of coach hire.
In this latest Swansea case, the fact that the directors paid implies that the club’s position is that flying is the reasonable way to travel. According to the AA’s route planner, the journey from Norwich to Blackpool is a smidgeon over 250 miles and takes a minute under five hours. Norwich to Swansea, on the other hand, is slightly longer – 307.6 miles, taking five hours and thirty seven minutes.
What strikes me is not the implicit setting of a limit for being allowed to fly, but that their flights to Swansea are being paid by the directors rather than by the club. A rum way to run a business. Surely if an employee is required to travel on business, then the employer (which in this case is the club) should pay the travel expenses. If I go to an academic conference to present a paper, I’d think it mighty odd to be told “Well, you can go, but only because the University Governors have had a whip-round”!
Norwich’s revenues last season were £10.9m, and they spent £6.8m on players’ wages. This should allow the basic principle of paying staff travel expenses to apply, but the annual overall loss of £2.7m explains why it hasn’t (3). The cost of ‘first team travel, medical & fitness, accommodation & catering’ was itemised as a total of £805k.
It is possible that Norwich may find themselves having to turn out at Brunton Park next season to play Carlisle United (281 miles; five hours and fifty-five minutes). Would the directors pay up personally again, or would they join John Nixon, Carlisle’s Managing director, in his call for league regionalisation (4), an idea with obvious financial advantage for both clubs and fans.
Norwich’s only remaining away games this season are fortunately at Ipswich and Charlton.