Norwich City travel to Stamford Bridge later today for their 5th Round F.A. Cup tie with Chelsea, and while said clash conjures up the compelling visage of Charlie Higson slugging it out with Suggs, the real celeb throwdown is between the Carnaries’ culinary magnate Delia Smith (above) and moneybags Roman Abramovich. From the Guardian’s Matt Scott.
“I really don’t believe that foreign billionaires get involved because they really love English football,” she said. “There are other reasons. I long for the days when I had my season ticket and all football was fair. It was such a wonderful experience when you could go to football and you had got to the top on your merits. When you think of us playing a team that cost £250m, it is a joke, really, isn’t it?”
The problem is that the punchline is all too predictable: a likely repeat of the comprehensive defeats that Norwich suffered against Roman Abramovich’s Chelsea during their Premiership season in 2004-5. But as far as they can, promises Delia, Norwich will make a stand against foreign investment.
“We are not going to sell to a foreign investor, ever,” she said, adding that after more than 10 years as a director at Carrow Road she has realised that “the supporters really are the ones who own the club”.
Smith agrees that the idea of a billionaire investor saying he had grown up kicking a ball around the streets of Minsk and dreaming of Ted MacDougall would probably be quite intoxicating for ordinary Norwich fans, but stresses it would not be in the club’s long-term interest.
She thinks it strongly possible that “it will all go haywire” at clubs where Abramovich, the Glazers, Lerner et al hold sway. But what alarms her is that no one seems to be paying much heed to signs of declining interest in the game. “Things are happening that we don’t like,” she said. “It’s very worrying that the average age of football supporters is now 40. You could say that it’s dying on its feet, certainly at normal club level and people going to watch football matches. If we’re not very careful it’s just going to become a TV game.”