Lee Payne takes a look at Norwich City's thriving online 'new media' community which is putting fans at the front and centre of Norwich City news and reaction.
How times have changed since 2005, hearing Nigel Worthington's sacking on Sky Sports and Radio Norfolk.
Norwich City has always been renowned as a club for the community. The whole of the city, and pretty much the whole county, rallies around it. While the residents of places such as Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham have more than one league team to support, Norwich has just the one in the entirety of the seventh most populous county in England.
The unusually large catchment area surrounding the club might be a factor, but I genuinely think there is something a bit different about Norwich and its fans.
We are often, tiresomely, the butt of unimaginative jokes due to the remote, off-the-beaten-track nature of Norfolk but I am arguing that this particular trait is something to be celebrated. I think of the enormous crowds that gathered in the city centre two years running; first when we were League One champions, then promoted to the Premier League. The number of people that congregated in front of City Hall and lined the streets to see the players on the open top bus parades would have filled Carrow Road more than twice over. I recall the buildings on Timberhill being handsomely decorated in yellow and green. There was also, of course, that wonderful day Wembley became a temporary suburb of Norwich.
The aspect of this community feel I want to discuss is the brilliantly thriving Norwich City media scene.
Where before there was only the Evening News or the Eastern Daily Press to get an insight into the club, where the best place to hear City news first was Radio Norfolk, where the only place for fans to express their opinions about the team was the misery pit that is the pink’un forums, there now exists a growing number of high quality websites, YouTube channels, podcasts and TV shows for a Canary to get their teeth into.
When Nigel Worthington lost his job as Norwich manager on 1 October 2006, I first heard about it on Sky Sports News. I then followed the story on Radio Norfolk, where they were holding a phone-in for fans to give their views. A decade on, the first place such news would break would almost certainly be on Twitter. The traditional media would probably do the same as they did back then, and there is still a place for that, but the community, fan produced content would come out quicker and make you think more. The club’s official Twitter account has more than 429,000 followers at the time writing, a figure which I would bet greatly outweighs the number of visitors to its official website.
I became aware of the brilliant home grown media scene the club had when I joined Twitter five years ago. Then, the outstanding parts were three sites – Holtamania, which analysed tactical aspects of Norwich matches in painstaking detail, Sing Up The River End, a resource for almost any fact or figure about the club a fan could wish to know and the website MyFootballWriter; which was created in 2005 by former newspaper journalist Rick Waghorn, nicely bridging the gap between old and new media. Eleven years on Holtamania (the blog) is now a thing of the past (though you might well follow him on Twitter), and SUTRE is not updated as regularly as it once was, but MyFootballWriter continues to showcase fans alongside bona fide journalists and great things have followed their paths.
Jack Reeve has more than 850 videos on his YouTube channel TalkNorwichCity, offering a unique perspective on the club. Where he doesn’t have a great deal of access inside, he instead puts the fans at the front and centre of what he does, and it absolutely works. As a season ticket holder than cannot get to away games, the videos on his channel make me feel a connection with those who can travel around the country supporting the team.
This very website is of course part of the scene I’m talking about too. AlongComeNorwich has really taken off because, for me, the writing on it is of a very high standard and the topics covered extremely relevant. I’m not being paid to write this by the way. There’s also been a wide range of different writers, giving a different angle. My mind turns to the article by Di Cunningham about Norwich’s LGBT fanbase.
Then there’s The Little Yellow Bird Project. It started as a podcast, had some written pieces on its website too, and now includes video from Jon Rogers, AKA Big Grant Holt, one of the great characters of this community.
There are careers in this too – Jack Reeve of TalkNorwichCity can be heard reading the sport news on BBC Radio Norfolk, and Dan Brigham of The Little Yellow Bird Project has recently become editor of City’s official matchday programme, where he has been utilising the talents of the amateur writers, graphic designers and photographers and showing their considerable skills to a wider audience.
I think this is fantastic, and it’s really exciting to witness. You’ve probably heard about the English Football League’s recent total ban on fans filming inside grounds on matchdays. Well, this grassroots media movement shows why such ridiculous rules are surely doomed to failure. Whether it be in writing, in audio, in video, in photos or in graphics, this community of Norwich City fans making and sharing content is getting bigger and better every day.
Long may it continue.