Norwich City in good health says chairman

Several hundred people packed into Norwich City's annual general meeting last night – and the mood inside was the most positive it's been in years.

The Canaries are back in the Premier League, said to be the biggest in the world, after just a year in the Championship, and after 12 games are holding their own.

With the TV money for being in the Premier League a huge �38m, revenue this year is expected to increase �41m with an anticipated operating profit after tax of �18m.

This means that the club can look to improve the squad during every transfer window and fans were told at the meeting that City would remain a buying club.

Bosses are also looking at increasing the stadium capacity to 35,000 spectators from the current capacity of 27,300.

Chief executive David McNally told fans that the main aims were to stay in the Premier League, keep hold of manager Paul Lambert and his backroom staff, but to remain solvent.

He said: 'Our guiding principles are always to focus on supporting our football team and serving our supporters.

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'Retaining our Premier League status is the toughest challenge we face but the most rewarding opportunity we have.

'We have the best owners in the business in Delia, Michael (Wynn Jones) and Michael (Foulger), and they have supported this club more than anyone could possibly imagine.

'Alongside that, we want to remain solvent, and we cannot go back to the debts we had two years ago.

'We want to strengthen the balance sheet and reduce our indebtedness and increase turnover each year, so we can produce operating profits annually.

'We need to do this to give Paul the money the club needs. Any free cash will be re-invested in football.

'We will also explore all stadium development opportunities. The often stated target is a 35,000 capacity and we need that to become a self-sustaining football club in the absence of a billionaire benefactor.

'There's no seven-year plan this time, but it's still a plan we need to deliver.'

Club chairman Alan Bowkett said that despite the TV money rising to �38m this year, from �5-5.5m in the Championship, it did not mean that the club would be 'rolling in money'.

He said that every penny from the TV funds was already accounted for, and that money would be used to pay off the club's debt, although he said that dividends would be paid to shareholders in September next year, adding: 'Next year, when we are still in the Premier League, we will spend even more on the football club.'

The club is also setting up a Premier League scouting network known as a Category 1 Academy to ensure it can get the best young talent available.

And while Mr Bowkett admitted that the club would never be in the same financial league as big-spenders Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United, he said the club was in a healthy financial position.

The club's revenue on promotion was �23m compared to �13m for Swansea and �11m for QPR, the two other promoted clubs, he said.

The meeting was told that the club ended up with a �4.1m debt at the end of last year, mainly due to bonuses being paid to players and staff on reaching the Premier League.

For the current year it sold �9.3m worth of tickets but players' wages have risen to �20.9m and backroom staff wages are up to �2.7m, however they still expect to pay off �6.5m debt.

The meeting resolved to amend the articles of association so that directors were not required to vacate their offices when they reached 70, enabling Delia Smith to continue her active role.

Mr McNally earned �871,000 in aggregate emoluments and benefits last year, including �582,000 in performance related bonuses, and �27,000 was contributed towards his money purchase pension scheme.

Mr Bowkett and Mr McNally were both re-elected to the board.