Is it time for us to ruffle some yellow feathers?

PUBLISHED: 09:00 04 May 2009 | UPDATED: 16:15 10 September 2010

Sarah Hall

Majority shareholders Delia Smith and Michael Wynn Jones have made clear they are prepared to relinquish their shares at NorwichCity, yet when a multi-millionaire came calling it failed to lead to investment.

Time for change? Delia Smith and Michael Wynn Jones endure the agony at Charlton.

Majority shareholders Delia Smith and Michael Wynn Jones have made clear they are prepared to relinquish their shares at NorwichCity, yet when a multi-millionaire came calling it failed to lead to investment.

Frustrated fans, disappointed with a succession of poor choices of managers and mediocre player signings, today said it was time for a shake-up on the board.

John Tilson, chairman of the Norwich City Independent Supporters Association, said: "No-one has to come and buy Delia out. She could agree to step away from the boardroom without that happening. She could still be majority shareholder but maybe sell 10 to 20pc and we could get some expertise in.

"What have we got on our five-man board? A solicitor, a PR man, a cook, a publisher and a Norfolk businessman made good. There is nobody there with the financial skills we need let alone the knowledge of football.

"We have had a succession of managers who have dismantled the squads built up by the predecessors and yet we still do not have players who are good enough. I fear this club will go to hell and back before it gets any better."

Tim East, a supporter for 50 years and a member of Norwich City Supporters Trust, said he was disappointed the Peter Cullum approach had led to nothing and said it was time for changes.

He said: "Our board has, for many years, been quite amateurish at making decisions.

"They have made bad management decisions and then not acted quickly enough when things have gone wrong. A new board is required because Delia and the other board members must take responsibility for taking us from the brink of the Premiership to League One in just four years.

"Next year our local derby will be against Colchester and we don't have the players we need to get us out of that league. Presuming players like Croft, Clingan, Hoolahan and Marshall leave, then we'll be left mainly with youngsters from the reserves, who will be trying to play pretty football in a league full of bruisers.

"I don't necessarily think Delia needs to relinquish control, but what does need to happen is changes to the board. As a member of the Norwich Supporters Trust we are calling for someone from the trust to be invited on to the board.

"They would be an elected board member, chosen every three years like the other ones, but they would be chosen by the other trust members and would give a grassroots voice on the board."

If Delia does end up leaving it would bring to an end a rollercoaster 13 years at the club for a woman now as inextricably linked to Norwich City as she is to cookery.

Despite the good work the pair have undoubtedly done for the club, criticism has been levelled at the decision-making of the board which they sit on, with a string of managers including Bruce Rioch, Bryan Hamilton, Nigel Worthington, Peter Grant and Glenn Roeder coming and going.

Even when the Canaries got into the Premiership, the board came in for criticism again. While money was spent on the likes of Thomas Helveg and Mattias Jonson, supporters felt the Canaries needed a proven goalscorer, yet the board were talking about "prudence with ambition".

Struggling to register wins, Dean Ashton was signed for a record £3m in January 2005. His goals helped the Canaries notch up vital wins against the likes of Manchester United, Newcastle and Birmingham, and supporters still argue over whether Norwich City would have stayed up had he been signed at the start of the season.

Delia had said in January 2007 her and Mr Wynn Jones would be prepared to relinquish their shares for the right sort of investment at Carrow Road, but said she did not want to see foreign investment.

While some fans praised her integrity, other supporters worried that by ruling out foreign money and insisting investors were the right sort of people, with links to Norwich, she had severely restricted the possibility of fresh cash coming in.

The majority of fans the Evening News spoke to after yesterday's game agreed that it was time for a shake-up at boardroom level.

Season ticket holder Barrie Dennis, of Ashford, in Middlesex, said: "I

think there needs to be changes within the board. We have been in freefall since the Premiership, scraping along for a number of years."

Ian Skates, of Wymondham, added: "I think the board are bad, but who's better? I think the executive board need to go, as in Neil Doncaster (chief executive) and the directors as opposed to the owners."

Dan King, of Brundall, said: "I think the board should go, but in some ways I don't agree with the crowd voicing it as much as they have done. It's time for a change and going down is the right time for it to happen and to move them out."

Robert Clarke, from Briston, said: "They have to go. They always want publicity when we're doing well but in the last few months they have been a waste of space. They have let 3,000 fans here today down badly."

However, the $64m question is just who can take over from the majority shareholders?

Supporters had hoped Andrew and Sharon Turner, two new directors who had been brought on to the board and whose city-based Central Trust business was valued at £275m, might bring some business acumen, not to mention more cash, to the club.

In summer 2008, at the Royal Norfolk Show Delia made comments about investment and a couple of days later it emerged that Peter Cullum, the UK's 40th richest man thanks to his Towergate business, had approached the club informally the previous October.

The businessman, who grew up in Norfolk, revealed how he was prepared to put up to £20m into the club for player purchases, but not without control at Carrow Road.

The club respond to his comments by stating at least £56m would be needed to buy the club, including topping up the £20m for new players with £16m to buy up shares, £16m to pay off City's bank debt which would be called in if a takeover went through and £4m to repay loans from directors.

Even after that it looked like discussions might be revived, but in July a joint statement was released stating all discussions were off. In September Mr and Mrs Turner, whom many fans had seen as a good source of cash, quit the board (later stating it was for footballing reasons), leaving £2.5m of interest free loans and a black hole because of £1.5m they had said they would invest.

Keith Harris, chairman of investment company Seymour Pierce, had been tasked to find investment for the Canaries, but so far no fruits of that have been seen and finding millionaires to invest in a League One club will surely prove even trickier.

Ü David Cuffley speaks to Delia and Roger Munby - Page 8

Ü Is it time for Delia to go? Write to Evening News Letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1 RE or e-mail eveningnews@archant.co.uk

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