Norwich City have walked towards the cliff and peered over the edge before.
It’s not a place their sporting director Stuart Webber wants to take the club back to.
As the Canaries prepare to return to the Premier League after a season away, Webber has rejected the idea of spending heavily in the push for survival.
“You can spend £120m net and get relegated. That’s been proven more than once,” said Webber.
“We can’t go all in now just to try to stay up for one season because, if we get relegated, we’re in deep, deep trouble.
“You can do that if you have a rich benefactor who says: ‘Spend £100m – if it goes wrong, then I can actually afford to write that off.’ We don’t have that.
“Our version of that would be to go into administration. We can’t take that risk.”
‘We’re not sitting here on a load of money’
Norwich have bounced between the top two divisions over the past decade – promoted to the Premier League in 2011, 2015, 2019 and 2021, and relegated to the Championship in 2014, 2016 and 2020.
Daniel Farke’s side are back in the top flight after winning the Championship, but memories of financial turmoil will stop them overspending.
Norwich have come through perilous financial situations before, most notably coming close to ruin after relegation from the Premier League in 1995. They managed to survive with co-owners Delia Smith, the celebrity chef, and her husband Michael Wynn Jones at the helm.
A relegation to League One in 2009 saw debts stack up to £23m and a brush with going into administration, before a restructuring and back-to-back promotions restored financial equity.
Webber says the club “would look very different today” if they had not sold midfielder James Maddison to Leicester City for about £20m and Josh Murphy to Cardiff City for about £11m in 2018 to help their financial situation.
Webber has previously said the club would have been in a “dire” position without those sales.
Norwich now work within a model of being self-sufficient and, while they have been promoted to the Premier League on more of an “even keel” this time around, they would be in a “really great position” if it was not for the “£30m-plus that Covid has cost” them.
“We are not sitting here on a load of money,” said Webber. “There’s a massive myth that goes around about the Premier League, where everyone thinks we’ve now got £170m just dropped in and someone has written a cheque for us. They haven’t.
“We can only work within the parameters that we’ve got. It’s not like we’re sitting here with £100m in the bank and we don’t want to spend it because we’re tight-fisted.
“We’re not spending it because we haven’t got it. It’s not a choice – it is what it is.”
‘If we do sell one, it’s going to be a club record deal’
Nevertheless, Norwich’s approach of working within their means will see them turn the loans of defenders Ben Gibson and Dimitris Giannoulis into permanent deals for about £15m.
More funding could be generated if Emiliano Buendia, Todd Cantwell and Max Aarons are sold, but none of them will go cheaply. They will cost at least £30m each, says Webber.
“If we do sell one, it’s going to be a club record deal,” he said.
“It’s probably going to start with a number three in front of it and that will give us great opportunities to maybe make the whole better as well. We’re really relaxed on that front.”
Ultimately, Webber knows it will take “perfect work” during the transfer window to build a squad for Farke that is capable of surviving in the Premier League, but he takes “inspiration from Burnley” as a club able to achieve that “with little ownership investment”.
“They are a very similar model to us and the work that [Burnley manager] Sean Dyche, his staff and the club have done is beyond exceptional,” said Webber.
“Burnley have been there about eight years and it’s been up, down, up, and each time they have built the club step by step.
“I’m sure if you asked the guys up there, they would say it’s been extremely difficult, and we’re under no illusions it is going to be extremely difficult.
“But that’s our aim and that’s what we have to try to do.”