Alan Bowkett: The man who sorted out Norwich City’s financial mess

Club chairman Alan Bowkett presents Norwich City's accounts at Carrow Road. Photo: Bill Smith

Club chairman Alan Bowkett presents Norwich City's accounts at Carrow Road. Photo: Bill Smith - Credit: Bill Smith - Archant

With Alan Bowkett stepping down as Norwich City chairman, Michael Bailey looks back at his time in the boardroom

Norwich City's history is punctuated by occasional financial crises. Moments when the football club needed someone to sort out the mess. To make sure that it would still be around for future generations of supporters.

The most recent crisis followed City's relegation to the third tier of English football for the first time in 49 years – and without the work of Alan Bowkett, Norwich City would have gone bust. It was that straight forward – and should be remembered so too.

A City fan who joined the board and became chairman in July 2009 alongside chief executive David McNally, Bowkett's supreme business and financial experience was not only what saw him invited to the boardroom – it also saw him lead the Canaries back from the brink of financial armageddon.

'It is a privilege and a surprise to be invited to lead the board of Norwich City in these difficult financial times nationwide… I am particularly looking forward to working with David to ensure my 13-year-old son's dreams for our club become a reality,' so said the former chief executive at Boulton and Paul on his Carrow Road arrival.


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His son's dreams weren't revealed at the time, but four seasons in the Premier League, three promotions, a successful Wembley final and a debt-free club would probably feature in there somewhere.

Key to all that were the decisions made in the first few months under Bowkett's chairmanship.

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It was widely acknowledged by his fellow board members that Bowkett's knowledge and experience in dealing with banks and financial institutions was not only what prevented plugs being pulled on the Canaries' solvency that autumn. But it was also key to loans and terms being renegotiated so that come 2013, the Canaries could declare themselves debt-free.

Like any club, success involves many players but those interventions from the chairman were as – maybe more – important than anything that took place on the pitch for the rest of that year.

Life was rarely boring either. From outspoken comments over Paul Lambert's City walkout to the state of the football on offer under Chris Hughton, or putting down exactly what the Norwich City Way should entail – Bowkett made sure he aired his views when possible, both as chairman and as a Norwich City supporter.

Since the financial dust settled and with City's financial turmoil behind them, you wondered if Bowkett fancied stepping away from the downsides of his role. He admitted as much to me a couple of years ago. The fact Bowkett decided to step down yesterday – barely a fortnight since the annual general meeting in which he was re-elected to the board – is a curious chronology that begs further questions.

But having arrived at a club worth almost nothing, he leaves it at a value surely in excess of £100m while in the top flight and with all the funds it needs in January to sign their way to survival. And that, as Alan Bowkett's legacy, is priceless.

FACTFILE

Alan Bowkett – age 64

Norwich City chairman: July 2009 until December 2015.

Also appointed to City board in July 2009, alongside David McNally and Stephan Phillips.

Bowkett is good friends with Wolves owner Steve Morgan – whose own tale of woe he had admitted scared him off redeveloping Carrow Road.

• Follow Michael Bailey on Twitter @michaeljbailey

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