Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 29 November 2014

Bowkett aiming for top-10 finish

Norwich's plans to develop Carrow Road's capacity are now on the backburner
Norwich's plans to develop Carrow Road's capacity are now on the backburner

Chairman Alan Bowkett sees no reason why Norwich should not target a top-10 finish in the Barclays Premier League as the Norfolk club look to build on solid finances with their debt now 'eradicated'.

Norwich on Thursday morning revealed a robust set of latest accounts published for the year end May 31, 2013, which returned a small profit after tax of £500,000 as a large portion of additional £26.3million revenue was used to slash down external debt which had stood at £11.3m, with the remainder now cleared since June 1.

Last season, manager Chris Hughton guided his side to 11th place after eventually pulling clear of the relegation battle.

Norwich have been quick to further bolster the playing staff, with seven summer signings including a club-record £8.5m purchase of Dutch striker Rickie van Wolfswinkel from Sporting Lisbon.

Even though the Canaries currently sit in 18th place following a 3-1 home defeat by Chelsea - a fourth loss in the first seven Premier League outings - Bowkett is confident the team can push on again through to May 2014.

"Internal debt to the directors is around £2.1m, and we will be budgeting to eradicate that in this current financial year - and I don't think there are many football clubs in the Premier League who could have a balance sheet like that," said Bowkett, who was quick to pay tribute to the role of majority shareholders Delia Smith and Michael Wynn Jones as well as deputy chairman Michael Foulger, each of them having committed significant personal investment to help keep the Norfolk club afloat when just a few years ago it languished in League One and stood on the brink of administration.

"We always sensibly budget for staying in the Premier League at a modest level (of 16th place), but the ambition of the football club - and Chris knows this - is continuous improvement, so 12th (in 2011), then 11th (last season). What does that mean? Well, it is (now) a top-10 finish.

"We have spent £24m in the two months since the end of the financial year, so an expectation of continuous improvement would be reasonable."

Should Norwich - brought up through successive promotions under Paul Lambert - retain their Premier League status for a third consecutive season, then the rewards would increase further following the lucrative new broadcasting deal, with 16th place likely to generate around some £70m.

Bowkett insists the board will look to continue their policy of investing all profits back into the team.

"We will try to remain in profit, but we wont be making huge profits going forwards because our business model is to continually improve all of the offering to fans, both the football and facilities," he added.

Plans to develop Carrow Road's capacity up to around 35,000 are now, for the short-term at least, on the backburner with projected costs of around £30m which would currently have to be financed by a 20-year mortgage-type loan.

"What keeps us in the Premier League is what I term the software - which is the back-office, football management and players. I cannot guarantee we are going to be in the Premier League for the next 20 years, no-one can," Bowkett added.

"Having just taken a huge burden away from the football club, probably the board would prefer to invest in the software rather than the hardware at the moment, so that is what we are doing.

"If you are indebted to the bank, there are specific repayment structures. We control the football club now and so you can take your own decisions."

Bowkett was appointed chairman in July 2009 with Norwich's financial outlook very much different.

He added: "I am very happy, if the board want me to stay, I will stay. The moment they want me to go, I will go."

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