The devil, as ever, is always in the small print.
The headline figures of an after tax loss of ?2.3 million and a ?5 million drop in turnover following the loss of those Premiership parachute payments merely made for sobering, if utterly predictable reading. Norwich City Football Club live beyond their means; pay wages they can't afford.
The fact that Delia Smith and her husband Michael Wynn Jones had now agreed to pump ?3 million into the Canaries this season was interesting; as was a further ?250,000 loan from their fellow director Michael Foulger and his family.
But as the latest set of Norwich City accounts landed on shareholders' door-steps this morning, so on the back of this summer's protracted 'Cullum-gate Affair' all eyes ought to turn to Page 36. And the last paragraph.
For there, in black and white in the audited, official accounts, is the reason why the Towergate's billionaire's offer to pump ?20 million into Glenn Roeder's transfer budget in return 'for control of the club…' was always going to be fraught with difficulties.
For if the club's current principal shareholders Delia and Wynn Jones parted with just 12% of their current 61.2% stake in the Championship football club, so HBOS, AXA and the Turners, Andrew and Sharon, could all – technically – cash their loans in immediately.
And while the Turners might be prevailed upon to forego that right, given the scale and the depth of the current global banking crisis both HBOS and AXA would be expected to whip every last penny out of a football club at the first excuse. It is why Cullum's '?20 million' could be instantly whittled down to little more than diddly squat for Roeder's transfer kitty.
First, the official confirmation of the immediate implications of any change of ownership this autumn as the club continues to 'actively' seek out fresh investment – be it from Peter Cullum or elsewhere.
'The loan advanced by A C Turner and Mrs S L Turner (2007: Central Trust PLC) is interest free and due for repayment on the earlier of 18 May 2017, promotion to the Premier League or Ms D A Smith and E M S Wynn Jones ceasing between them to be the registered holders of at least 50% of the ordinary share capital of the company…'
Whether the Turners could be prevailed upon to keep their money put if this autumn brought a change of ownership is one question; whether the banks would be happy to see their cash stay in a football club quite another.
“I think the vast majority of our debts – whether it be the AXA securitisation loan, the Bank of Scotland loan or the Andrew and Sharon Turner loan – all of those loan are technically repayable in the event that Delia and Michael's share-holding dips below 50%,” confirmed Doncaster, with such institutions and individuals only ever agreeing to such loans in the first place on the promise of a stable ownership regime at Carrow Road.
Change of ownership prompts uncertainty – at which point they all, potentially, seek a hasty exit. The certainty returns when the new owners have, say, ?1.7 billion up their sleeve and are cited as the UK's 40th richest individual. Even then 'action' would still be required to keep all the players at the table.
“I wouldn't want to speculate about the future, but clearly if there was to be any change of control at Carrow Road that does then trigger a certain amount of action,” added Doncaster.
With this year's allocated player budget of ?8.5 million already swallowed up, without significant, fresh investment the club have an eye on reducing that player budget down to ?5 million for the 2009-2010 season. Clawing back that ?3.5 million will only come via player sales and slashing away at wages and loan fees for the likes of Ryan Bertrand and John Kennedy.
Inevitably, City's ability to compete in the top half of the Champiosnhip table will be hit hard on a background of greater losses going forward. “The club's losses for season 2007/2008 are likely to be exceeded in 2008/2009,” said club chairman Roger Munby.
“And despite the much-needed financial help that we continue to receive from Delia, Michael and the Foulger family, there is now a need for other investors to step forward and help to underpin the ambitions of Glenn Roeder, your board and City supporters everywhere.”
The chairman's insistence that the cub remained in a “robust” position was echoed by Doncaster. It could have been worse. There might have been no Robert Earnshaw to sell; no Dickson Etuhu.
“I don't think they [the supporters] should be alarmed at all,” said Doncaster, with the club's level of debt now standing at nigh-on ?19 million – up ?1 million on last year.
“The figures, in many ways, should be a slightly pleasant surprise to many people who would have expected the figures to be a lot worse than that,” he added. “With the loss of the parachute payment bringing down our turnover very substantially last year, I think there would have been a lot of people who would have expected a loss of maybe ?6 million or ?7 million.
“So to be able to report a loss of ?2.3 million is, hopefully, encouraging. The situation remains at Carrow Road to be stable and under control – it's not half as bleak as some would have you believe. But clearly there is a need for continuing investment in Carrow Road if we are to support the ambitious plans of Glenn Roeder which we all want to see happen.”
The debt is, he said, being tackled. Any new debt is likely to be on far more favourable interest and repayment terms given that the lenders are the D&M, not the B&B.
“We are making in-roads in repaying the debt; the long-term AXA debt which was the 15-year securitisation is being paid off each year – capital repayments of about ?1 million a year plus interest of about ?1 million a year. And the reason that the debt has gone up is largely down to the debt that we've taken on from board members.”
But belts are being tightened; hatches are being nailed down. Don't expect someone to be waving a cheque under Gordon Strachan's nose this January for Kennedy's full-time signature.
“We've already met the player budget of ?8.5 million this season; any future spending this season will therefore have to come out of sales of assets – or, indeed, further financial support from the board,” added Doncaster.