When the press saved Norwich City - for £500
Writing in the latest edition of the Pink Un magazine, our head of sport Chris Lakey looks back on the time this newspaper company helped Norwich City survive a perilous financial situation.
Sixty years ago, the Eastern Evening News's front page splash headline was 'WE GIVE CITY FC £500'.
Not the snappiest perhaps, but to the point. The sub-head revealed a little more... 'To meet wages bill this week'.
At the time, just before Christmas, the club was faced with an overdraft of £6,000 and, with an away match the following weekend, did not have enough money 'to meet current commitments'.
The Norfolk News Company, which owned the Eastern Evening News and the Eastern Daily Press at the time, handed over a cheque for £500 on Wednesday, December 12, 1956 – the day club directors met representatives of 'some of the city's big industrial and commercial undertakings' at the Royal Hotel.
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The intention was to raise over £10,000 so City could carry on until the end of the season. If not, the gates would be locked and the club closed down.
Chairman at the time was Mr JL Hanley, who made it quite clear what would happen should the SOS not be answered.
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'My recent statement on the finances of Norwich City FC has produced very marked public reaction.
'The most vigorously expressed view has been that the club has not taken the public into its confidence, and that, I feel bound to say, is a thoroughly valid comment.
'It is, however, one which I must remedy now. The facts are that Norwich City Football Club had not the money to pay the players and staff their wages this week.
'We are grateful to the Norfolk News Company Limited who have most generously given us £500 to meet these obligations, but I must add that unless the people, the shops, and the industries of Norwich and Norfolk respond to the appeal which I am about to make, Norwich City Football Club will have to close down immediately.
'The basic trouble is, of course, that we have been fighting a losing battle against falling gates and high costs.'
One of the roots of the problem was the floodlighting, which the club had installed at a cost of £8,500. Folly, said some.
The meeting concluded with all directors agreeing to resign and two committees established: one an Appeals Committee and then a three-man committee of inquiry which had 'full powers to examine all matters connected with Norwich City FC'.
The crisis meeting had raised £3,000 but the appeals committee later pushed the required target up to £25,000 – minimum.
Needless to say, the club was saved, it didn't close and here we are today.
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