The depth of pockets required by anyone seriously intending to take the Canaries back into the upper reaches of English football became evident this week after The Guardian revealed that the 20 clubs in the Premiership together owed more than ?3 billion – with 15 of their number wholly reliant on the wealth of just one individual.
With individual City supporters wrestling with their consciences in terms of whether or not to forego their 20% season ticket rebate and the club itself forced to listen to each and every offer for its League One bound stars – Sammy Clingan being the latest in that particular frame – the whole financial future of the Norfolk club is under the microscope like never before.
And as the three remaining board members – the club's majority shareholders Delia Smith and Michael Wynn Jones plus Banham Poultry boss Michael Foulger – continue in their quest to bring both extra bodies and extra investment to the boardroom table, so one look at what it takes for a club of Norwich's provincial ilk to get to the Premiership and stay there will make for sober reading.
Particularly for a club that has still to work out how to get itself out of the third tier of English football at the first time of asking – let alone how to then follow a Hull City or a Stoke City back into the top flight.
An individual injection of at least ?10 million would appear to be the 'going rate' to mount one, realistic push at promotion.
The trouble being, of course, for clubs like Norwich, Southampton and Charlton, individuals willing to even consider such numbers are few and far between at the best of times – let alone in the worst of economic times; let alone when the three clubs concerned are still heading south weighed down with the debts incurred via their own, ill-fated stabs at playing the Premiership game.
The work of The Guardian's football finance writer David Conn makes for fascinating reading – particularly given Norwich's present plight.
For as everyone looks to find a model way forward now that the 'Charlton model' appears, at least in footballing terms, bankrupt and broken beyond repair, so all eyes turn towards the Stokes, the Hulls and the West Bromwich Albions of this world. Where is the model club?
Poking around in Hull's business is next to nigh impossible; their accounts relating to their 2007-2008 promotion campaign have yet to be published; local property magnate Russell Bartlett has been quoted as investing ?6 million in that push to the Premiership.
Stoke City's arrival in the top flight was bankrolled by a ?10 million cash injection from life-long Potters fan Peter Coates and his bet365 operation; Albion are the ones without the 'sugar daddy' of a Coates or a Bartlett's ilk; prudence took precedence over their Premiership ambitions as the Baggies returned to the Championship with debts of just [to June '08] ?9 million.
But with two more years worth of parachute payments to burn in the Championship, the stability of Tony Mowbray's tenure at the helm can be expected to ensure their swift yo-yo back up into the top flight next summer.
All of which, probably, makes West Brom the 'model' club.
The real alarming mumbers surround those clubs that have stayed longer in the Premiership, but are – essentailly – clubs of Norwich's standing. Clubs that have had their good share of good fortune and good managerial appointments, but have still found themselves having to pay an extraordinary price to survive in the top flight.
That, according to some, was one of the reasons that would-be investor Peter Cullum got cold feet as he realised that, financially, getting up was the 'easy' bit. That ?10 million can get you out of The Championship. Or, at least, ?10 million given to the right manager can.
Once up, however, how do you stop pouring more money in? Turn off the tap and you're right back where you started…
So with gates dwindling and interest waning, Bolton are ?52 million in debt and are only kept afloat by the club's owner – the Isle of Man-based Edwin Davies; Fulham owe an incredible ?174 million to Mohamed Al Fayed; Wigan are ?64 million in debt, kept alive by the on-going support of JJB supremo Dave Whelan.
Middlesbrough – now of the Championship – arrive down below with debts [as of Dec '07] of ?93 million. Reportedly now trimmed back to a mere ?30 million, you wonder just what chairman and owner Steve Gibson has ever got for his money… a question Mike Ashley up the road must ask himself every day. 'Where has my ?220 million gone..
What the Smiths have got for ?11 million worth of their money is a League One football club that sits at an almighty crossroads this summer; desperately hoping that someone, somewhere might ride to their rescue. Who in their right mind would is, of course, the $64 million question.
Meanwhile the Coventry Evening Telegraph this morning reported that the Sky Blues were – for now – 'monitoring' the Clingan situation and had not made any formal ?1 million bid for the 25-year-old's services.
That the Northern Ireland international looks bound for bigger and better things this summer is in little or no doubt.
With a year to run on his current Canary contract – having signed on a two-year deal when he made his free transfer switch from Nottingham Forest last summer – so the club either had to get his name on a new deal or sell. City cannot afford to see yet another player walk for a Lee Croft-like nothing as and when Clingan's contract expires next summer and he becomes a free agent.
It was the same thought process that under-pinned David Marshall's swift exit to Cardiff City this summer; the Bluebirds remain another of those clubs reported to be interested in securing the City midfielder's signature.
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