Norwich City to go it alone
Norwich City are aiming for 'self sufficiency' after scouring the world for new investment – and coming up empty-handed.
The Canaries attempts to seek out new investment took in all four corners of the globe, but chairman Alan Bowkett said that of all the businesses they spoke to, none could come up with a cast iron cash guarantee.
'We approached 52 potential investors around the world,' Bowkett told Tuesday night's AGM at Carrow Road. 'Europe, Russia, the Middle East, the Far East, the US and the UK. We had some expressions of interest, but when you asked 'could you please verify you have funding', no one passed the test.
'There is no one out there we know of with real money in their pockets.
'There are people out there with lots of promises, but I like to see the colour of the money before we do any deals.
'In terms of external investment you meet a lot of people who have wonderful, grandiose plans and I am a simple soul, I say 'that's great, love to work with you, could you just confirm you have the money?' and when that doesn't come to fruition you have to be realistic and say, 'when you can prove you have got some money come back and talk to me'.
'Equally, this asset is far more valuable than it was 18 months ago. We are in the Championship, we stand a chance of promotion, we are a well-managed club, superbly managed on the field, and compared to 18 months ago it is chalk and cheese and if you actually put a value on the club now it is far higher than it was 18 months ago and my aim is in the next 18 months is it will be even more valuable.'
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The search for investment continues, but City, with debts of just over �20million will now look to The Good Life model and not put all their eggs in one basket.
'We have taken the decision that we are going to be self sufficient in the funding of the club,' Bowkett added. 'If we can find further investment that will be great, but we are not depending on it. We are well on the way to doing that, we have the support of our creditors, we are performing ahead of budget. In fact we are doing as well off the pitch, I think, as we are doing on the pitch. I think the key thing for me now is to see how much we can raise to support Paul (Lambert) in one push.
'It is not often you get in the position in January where you are a few points off the top of the table. We are realistic enough to realise that a little more investment might secure that future so we are doing the best we can at the moment.'
The Carrow Road ground is a major key in City's plans, with chief executive David McNally pointing out the benefits of transforming the current 27,000-seater stadium into one capable of holding 35,000 supporters. With a single season in the Premier League now worth a staggering minimum of �90m, it is clearly the promised land. City are averaging attendances of 25,277, with the Premier League's close to 35,000 over recent seasons – making expansion of City's home an obvious major part of the self-sufficiency plan.
'Knowing there is no new investment we have to make this club self sufficient,' McNally told an audience of upward of 400 shareholders.
'We have to stand on our own two feet. In order to do that in the Premier League we would need a capacity of around 35,000.'
The average cost of new seats is estimated at about �2,500, but McNally said expert advice would be sought to reduce that as much as possible. While income could be as much as �2.4m a season, that would be reduced by a loss of revenue during construction – and with the total reconstruction of the Geoffrey Watling City Stand the most likely avenue, that would affect a lot of supporters.
It is estimated it would take nine years to recover that investment, although McNally said it would be two years into life in the Premier League before it would happen.
• Shareholders voted in favour of amendments to the way shares are allocated in order to make it easier to attract investors.
Bowkett said: 'At present, if we were able to find a substantial investor in the football club, we would have to offer similar terms to all investors.
'That would firstly cost a lot of money, secondly take a lot of time and thirdly would only generate a small amount of money compared to that from a major investor.
'We would like to change this process to give us greater flexibility should we be able to find a new investor.
'It is perfectly normal procedure for a PLC and I should stress that there is no new substantial investor on the horizon at present.'
The meeting also saw the re-election to the board of Delia Smith, Stephan Phillips and Stephen Fry.