Norwich City's fervent hopes that there might be someone, somewhere out there for them investment-wise received an unexpected boost over the weekend when it emerged that Charlton Athletic was in line to become the latest play-thing of Arab billionaires.
On the one hand, the prospective involvement of Dubai's Zabeel Investments – run by the son of Sheikh Mohammed Al-Maktoum, of horse racing fame – in the Addicks merely makes January's transfer window an ever-more hostile arena for the likes of a Norwich City to tread.
Certainly for as long as they lack the kind of financial muscle that first Queen's Park Rangers and now Charlton might enjoy – hence the reported interest of Rs' boss Iain Dowie in City loan star Leroy Lita once his month-long stay in Norfolk ends on November 1. He has all that Formula One money burning a hole in his back pocket as Flavio Briatore and pals look to transform Rangers into a 'boutique club'.
But on the other hand, it proves that the right Championship clubs can still prove more enticing investment vehicles than certain established Premiership clubs. After all with the collapse of the Icelandic banking system, West Ham United would appear to be in desperate need of new owners.
Mike Ashley's Newcastle United – with all the can of worms that exist at St James' – are also up for grabs with a reported ?350 million price tag; Everton owner Bill Kenwright made it abundantly clear over the summer that he feels he has taken the Blue half of Merseyside as far as he can.
Just another 'poor millionaire', the West End theatre impressario is, like Ashley, desperately looking for a way out. And, like Ashley, will be desperately hoping that Everton's financial salvation lies abroad.
All three – Everton, Newcastle United and West Ham – however come with big debts and even bigger expectations attached. Everton supporters, for example, would like a new home; boss David Moyes would like a few new players.
And while Norwich have the small matter of a ?19 million debt to service, it is still small beer in comparison to their Premiership peers.
What is equally interesting is the reasoning the suits behind Zabeel Investments gave for their potential arrival on the Championship scene.
“The passion of the fans at Charlton, the heritage of the club and the unique status it enjoys in the community make it an exciting proposition for us,” said Zabeel Investments' executive chairman, Mohammed Al-Hashimi.
Given the way in which Norwich have long followed – if not over-taken – the South-East London side in terms of working that same passionate, community-focussed beat so – logic would insist – there must be someone out there who sees the Canaries in the same 'worth a punt…' terms as the rulers of Dubai viewed Charlton.
“We feel now is the right time to make a strategic, long-term investment in Charlton and get CAFC back to the English Premier League where they belong,” added Al-Hashimi.
Chairman Richard Murray confirmed that the club's community-based outlook had played a big part in winning the Arabs' affections.
“They are very into their community projects. Things like our community scheme and the Charlton Trust all appeal to them,” Murray told the South London Press this week. The one thing Norwich haven't got, however, is a London postcode.
“They have looked at many clubs over the last two years – we were just one on the radar. But our community projects were a big factor in them choosing us. Our location in London was also a big factor,” Murray added.
The driving force behind the proposed Addicks takeover is, however, Sheikh Hamdan Al-Maktoum, son of Dubai's ruler, Sheikh Mohammed.
Rather going head to head with Manchester City after their staggering, transfer deadline day purchase by the ruling family of the rival Abu Dhabi kingdom, Zabeel have decided to get into the top flight by way of the back door – working on the basis that a couple of timely tweaks player-wise and given the open nature of the Championship they could get their noses firmly into that Premiership trough for a relatively small sum.
Provided, of course, that Alan Pardew delivers over the next seven months.
A similar thought process could also be part of the Canaries 'package' as the club – led by principal shareholders Delia Smith and Michael Wynn Jones – 'actively' seek new investors after this summer's exit of the Turners, Andrew and Sharon, leaving that ?1.5 million hole in their wake.
And whilst the Smiths were now reported to have taken their personal investment in the Norfolk club to ?3 million this season when a sobering set of accounts were unveiled recently, it is clear that they – like Kenwright – realise that their pot of gold is not limitless. And nor is the fans patience; the feel good factor tends to wane when you are 21st in the league for the second autumn in succession.
They have, of course, one reported suitor in the shape of Towergate billionaire Peter Cullum whose ?20 million offer first last autumn and again this summer has done so much to bring matters of an ownership nature to a head.
Speaking in the wake of the publication of those latest accounts, City chairman Roger Munby revealed that the 'Must be a local…' stipulation of yester-year had now become someone with a 'feel for the local community…' in the way that Aston Villa owner Randy Lerner has demonstrated at Villa Park.
That they exist, Charlton would appear to be busily proving; how many of them there are is another matter.
Likewise, given the current, potentially devastating turbulence in the world's financial markets, you wonder just how many UK-based investors have the stomach – or the banking support – to throw themselves into a football club. However community-orientated it might be.
The big and secure money – most analysts now reckon – is either in the Middle East or the Far East where China has proved relatively immune to the current crisis.
Few would expect City's white knight to arrive from the United States; the choice would appear to lie between either a consortium of local, Norfolk business people, a backer of the Middle Eastern variety or Peter Cullum. Who is not expoecting to pay a penny for control of the Carrow Road club.
Each have their strengths and weaknesses. The only certainty is that as the New Year looms, beggars can ill-afford to be choosers. It's a tough, tough time to sell anything – let alone a loss-making football club.
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