Fans urge club to accept £20m offer

Norwich City fans have today urged the club to snap up the offer of £20m from a wealthy businessman - in the hope that it could be enough to propel the club back to the Premier League.

Norwich City fans have today urged the club to snap up the offer of £20m from a wealthy businessman - in the hope that it could be enough to propel the club back to the Premier League.

Norfolk-born businessman Peter Cullum has revealed that he wants to help the club and put in up to £20m to buy players and launch a “strong challenge” for promotion to the Premier League.

The news will be music to the ears of long-suffering city fans who have endured a tough few seasons since the club slipped out of the top flight.

However, the excitement has been somewhat tempered by the revelation that talks between the club and Mr Cullum, the executive chairman of the award winning Towergate Partnership, broke down after an informal offer was made last October.


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Today, the club's joint majority shareholders Delia Smith and Michael Wynn Jones, were urged by fans to make the most of the opportunity and take up Mr Cullum's offer.

Dr Ian Gibson, Norwich North MP and season ticket holder, said: "If we had that money we could buy players and get the chance to get into the premiership, which is what the fans deserve.

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"A city of this size should be able to do that. It is up to the management to see if the money is reliable and safe and to make an agreement. There have been dodgy offers in the past.

"We have got to make sure the money is safe, proper and given to the club in a straight forward manner, but if it is they should absolutely take the money. I want to be in the Premier League."

Kathy Blake, of the Norwich City Independent Supporters Association, said: "Quite frankly I think we should bite his hand off and I don't know why we didn't when the money was first offered in October.

"I think we should welcome him with open arms. Unfortunately money is the only way we can compete. £20m is not huge but it would give the club a spring board to get back into the Premier League."

Mr Cullum said he wanted to become majority shareholder, supported by Delia and her husband Mr Wynn Jones, and possibly make some changes to the board, including appointing “someone from the supporters' club”.

The 57-year-old, who is ranked in the top 40 of Britain's rich-list, said there was “no question of any hostility”, and said he wanted to keep Delia on board as the “figurehead and icon”.

He said he admired her “fantastic support for the club”.

Mr Cullum said he was not interested in taking a place on the board but would appoint some of his own people to “create an exciting strategy for the club”.

He said: “I don't believe I can ever make money out of a football club. This is about passion and love for the club. But I'm not prepared to put that sort of money into the club without having control. I don't mean becoming Darth Vader and toasting everybody, though.”

He added: “I don't want to be the front person for the football club - that's Delia. I don't want fame and publicity. If there is to be some sort of deal I would like it to be on friendly terms.

“The £20m is an investment that is very unlikely to yield a good return other than emotional, and it's something I've always wanted to do.”

The Canaries, who as recently as the 1990s were regularly in the top 10 of the top division, have seen their stock fall in recent years, with several managers coming and going.

To make matters worse they had had to watch on in envy as bitter rivals Ipswich Town have welcomed on board a major investor in the form of Marcus Evans.

Delia Smith and Michael Wynn Jones issued a brief statement today in response to news. They declined to answer questions at this stage though.

The statement said: “Over the last 12 years we have continually invited and sought new investment into Norwich City and have spoken to a number of wealthy individuals. Some have approached us, others we have approached.

“However, it's fair to assume that with the welcome exception of Andrew and Sharon Turner, that none of those approaches has been successful to date. We can not comment on any individual approaches as they would normally be a private matter.

“All of us want only that the football club succeeds and therefore remain totally open to any new investment in the club.”

Meanwhile, city's chief executive Neil Doncaster told the Evening News he could not comment before considering more fully today's news.

But Norwich fans were united in calling for the offer to be accepted.

Tim Amphlett, of fans group the Yarmouth Yellows, said: "If talks have broken down with the club there is obviously something they are not happy with, but if someone with a lot of money is coming forward and making this offer I think we should take it.

"£20m is not to be sniffed at. Football now is all about money. We're not going to get anywhere without money.

"If you look at what players we are buying now, it is all £250,000 deals or freebies.

"We need the money to get the right people and the right management."

Alex Warren, chairman of Waveney Yellows, said: "In the present climate you need money. He's a local man and he said he's willing to keep Delia and Wynn Jones on so I don't see what the problem is. We need money because the only way we're going at the moment is down. Money talks and I think the club should listen."

Mr Cullum once played for Norwich City Boys and was a regular on the Carrow Road terraces from the 1950s onwards. He said he used to sell sweets outside the ground to earn £1 to get in for free to watch his heroes, who included Terry Bly and Welsh centre-forward Ron Davies.

He revealed the sensational background to today's revelation.

He said: “I had dinner with Charles Clarke and I then realised that the sole aim of the dinner was for him to persuade me to provide some finance for Norwich City.

“I made contact in October last year with City chief executive Neil Doncaster. Norwich were bottom of the league, five points adrift and in trouble. I had conference calls with Delia, Michael, Andrew Turner and Neil Doncaster about what I was prepared to do.”

Mr Cullum offered to hand over £5m to buy “three or four players” to help the club avoid relegation - and another £15m this season to “make them strong contenders for promotion to the Premiership”.

But, with Mr Cullum's offer set to make him the new majority shareholder, talks did not progress. Mr Cullum said there had been “no contact” since the turn of the year.

He said: “We had a friendly arm-wrestle based on the valuation of the club.”

Mr Cullum said any takeover deal would see City carrying on with current manager Glenn Roeder at the helm. He said: “I'm a fan of his.”

He said: “My main motivation last year was survival. The idea of Norwich going down to League One was horrific. Just ask any Leicester City fans.”

But he said the aim of the investment was to “give the club the opportunity to increase the quality of players and have a good shout of getting into the Premiership”. And he added: “Once you get to the Premiership you start to get serious money and have a chance of staying up if you spend the money wisely.”

Mr Cullum paid tribute to City's “tremendous” support.

“The support Norwich City get is phenomenal for a Championship club. I went to see Norwich v Ipswich at Carrow Road last year. After 20 minutes Ipswich were 2-0 up, but 20,000 people started to lift the team. I felt very emotional. Norwich almost won the game. I thought 'what a tremendous support base'.”

And Mr Cullum, who has an executive box at Carrow Road and comes up from his base in Kent whenever he can, reiterated his love for the fans by saying: “I believe too many clubs are run for the sole benefit of the players and the manager. Supporters are often third in line. I would like to have a member of the supporters' club on the board.”

What do you think? Send us your opinions to Evening News, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE or email eveningnews@archant.co.uk or log on to www.eveningnews24.co.uk/forums

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