Friday, 18 May 2012

Norwich's Banned Beer

A couple of days following the conclusion of the 2011-2012 Premier League, I was rooting around in the shed and unearthed this bottle of 'On the Ball' ale, initially given to me several years ago by a friend back when Norwich City were still playing in either the Championship or League 1. It was opened, supped, enjoyed. The bottle ended up being reused for one of my homebrewed bitters, stuck in a box, and forgotten about.

'On the Ball' was produced by the Why Not Brewery, a CAMRA award-winning Norwich-based micro brewery. Named after the Norwich City anthem 'On the Ball, City' - thought to be the oldest football song in the world - and featuring the City crest and colours, the beer was sold in local stores and farmers' markets - until, in June 2011, the club threatened legal action unless the beer was withdrawn immediately. It was.

The inevitability of this - Norwich City had just achieved promotion to the cash cow of the Premier League, and images rights and copyright are defended fiercely in what is effectively a multi-million pound business - didn't stop it from feeling, well, a bit mean-spirited and depressing. The unfair reputation of Norwich (both the city and the club) as 'small time' is certainly something worth fighting, but taking on a guy brewing ale from his shed..?

Interestingly, the club even refused a compromise of having the crest removed and the name remain 'On the Ball,' suggesting that the very phrase is (at least believed to be) the legal property of the club.

It's not known whether a 'Let's Be Havin' You!' ale would also have been prohibited...

Visit the Why Not Brewery at

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