Ex-vice chairman questions ambition

PUBLISHED: 09:54 12 October 2007 | UPDATED: 10:37 14 September 2010

Former Norwich City director Barry Skipper yesterday questioned the board's ambition to take Norwich City back into the Premier League.

In his first interview since stepping down as vice-chairman in May, Skipper said the growing gulf between the top two divisions meant urgent action was needed to bring fresh investment into Carrow Road.

Former Norwich City director Barry Skipper yesterday questioned the board's ambition to take Norwich City back into the Premier League.

In his first interview since stepping down as vice-chairman in May, Skipper said the growing gulf between the top two divisions meant urgent action was needed to bring fresh investment into Carrow Road.

His comments came as Norwich City issued a statement denying newspaper reports majority shareholders Delia Smith and Michael Wynn Jones were preparing to sell the club.

Skipper said the wealth of the Premiership clubs and increase in parachute payments meant the gap between the haves and have nots was widening fast.

And he called on the board to explore ways of raising funds to invest in the team.

"I am quite clear that the only option is ambition," he said. "My long held view is that in the medium to long term there will be only about 25 clubs who play in the Premier League over any decade.

"The decision for the board of Norwich City is whether or not to actively try to join this elite group, however to do so requires a major injection of cash for team-building. A pre-requisite of which must be to have within the football management team, individuals capable of spending this money with a reasonable prospect of success.

"The alternative is to settle for mid-Championship and hope you are not one of the three relegated to League One each season."

Skipper said he could not understand why the club was only authorising the issue of 33,333 new shares in the Canaries at next week's annual meeting, a move that would raise just £1m of new money if the shares are acquired.

He said it would have been possible to authorise 106,940 new shares in the club - raising £3.2m and still leave Delia Smith and Michael Wynn Jones as majority shareholders.

"That would have been a clear signal of ambition, without any compromise to prudence," he said. "This looks like an opportunity missed as new share capital can only be authorised at an AGM."

Skipper said the club should also investigate refinancing its debt - which might generate as much as £10m to invest in the team.

"Debt in itself is not necessarily a problem, many successful businesses trade year after year with substantial debts," he said. "The issue is how to secure it and how to service it. The club's debt is extremely prudently organised at present.

"The board should advise the annual general meeting what possibilities they are exploring to refinance and conceivably increase the debt.

"This would be reasonable ambition without a "Leeds-esque" risk to prudence.

"Add to that £3.2m from new shares and we might be in with a chance."

Mr Skipper said he welcomed the arrival of Andrew and Sharon Turner as directors, who have provided a £2m loan to help the club cope with the loss of its parachute payments.

"I believe they are an excellent addition to the club and wish them well and I hope quite soon they are the cavalry that comes over the hill."

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