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New chairman on mission to end his years of misery

PUBLISHED: 11:00 03 July 2009 | UPDATED: 10:36 06 July 2010

New Norwich City chairman Alan Bowkett faces the press. Picture: Andy Darnell

New Norwich City chairman Alan Bowkett faces the press. Picture: Andy Darnell

New Norwich City chairman Alan Bowkett insists the club must learn lessons from last season's failure. Bowkett admitted it was time to stop short-changing Norwich's loyal fan base after being unveiled yesterday alongside recently appointed chief executive David McNally and Archant Norfolk's managing director Stephan Phillips in a Carrow Road boardroom shake up.

New Norwich City chairman Alan Bowkett insists the club must learn lessons from last season's failure.

Bowkett admitted it was time to stop short-changing Norwich's loyal fan base after being unveiled yesterday alongside recently appointed chief executive David McNally and Archant Norfolk's managing director Stephan Phillips in a Carrow Road boardroom shake up.

The 58-year-old businessman and long time City supporter questioned Norwich's liberal loan policy that underpinned the Canaries' Championship relegation season as he outlined the way forward in League One.

"The fans deserve better than we have delivered over the last four or five years and I should know because I am one," said Bowkett. "I refused to go to the Charlton game this year because I couldn't go through the heartache of the Fulham match a few years ago. It almost broke me up, I couldn't take it.

"My son often complains that I am more ebullient than he is. He goes as far as to say that I am embarrassing him when we watch games. I had a difficult season last year. In fact I've had my head in my hands more times than I can remember and I don't want to go through that again.

"I was with Eddie Davies, who owns Bolton Wanderers, and when I told him that we had sold 18,000 season tickets for a third division football club he couldn't believe me. He doesn't get that turning up for a Premier League match, even when Manchester United turn up, and that tells you everything."

Bowkett has ruled out initially investing any of his own personal wealth at Carrow Road after recently retiring from his role as chairman of FTSE-listed construction giant Redrow.

"I might invest, but I'm not making any promises at all," he said. "The only promise I will make is that we will improve how we use our resources and that we have to stand by our performance. I come from an industry that if you don't succeed you are out - plain and simple.

"Getting people to invest in anything at the moment is extremely difficult and I know because I go around trying to buy businesses and trying to obtain leverage debt against those businesses.

"You can be a busy fool at the minute trying to chase deals and not find them. Many rich people have had their portfolios reduced and none of us are immune from that."

Bowkett warns supporters there is no 'magic wand' available to transform the club's financial fortunes.

"We need to maximise the resources we have," he said. "We had a player budget of £8.5m last year. Steve Morgan, who is a friend of mine who owns Wolves, his budget was £9m - £9.5m. He got promoted, we got relegated and there is hardly any difference.

"It's about allocation of those resources and maximising efficiencies. What did Steve have that we didn't have? First of all he had a team. He had very few loan players but people who wanted to play for Wolves. What did we have? We had a number of dedicated players who had been with us for some time and a large number of visitors. I wouldn't have taken the route that perhaps we did take - although there is definitely a role for loan players in the club and at Norwich - but you look at the number and these people are not cheap."

Fellow new director and Archant Norfolk managing director Phillips plans to use his marketing expertise from working extensively in the media industry along with senior roles at blue chip companies Thomson Corporation and Sainsbury's.

"I did have to think twice because I don't believe there are any managing directors of newspapers who are non executive directors of a football club of this status," he said. "But I didn't think about it too long. I've been a fan since I first came to Norfolk in 1986 so I know how passionate the support base is here. It's probably every fan's dream to be in a position to sit down and help the club.

"The people who buy papers feel like they own those papers and it's a bit like that with the football club. You buy your season ticket and you feel part of something. Those relationships are not necessarily found in other businesses so there are quite a lot of similarities between readers of a paper and supporters of a football club."

Phillips defended inevitable accusations his new Norwich directorship could impinge on the editorial integrity of the county's major publishing group.

"I think the company has a very clear policy on editorial anyway and that is the editors decide what goes on their web sites and in their papers," he said. "My role here at the football club will not change that in any shape or form. A journalist's view of how a particular footballer played is his view. He must be allowed to write what he thinks is correct.

"That is really important because we would lose the support of our readers and I think fans would be able to see through that instantly. You have to remember there is a long history of Archant or Eastern Counties Newspapers helping the football club and we are a sizeable shareholder anyway.

"We already work with the football club on a range of things. The forthcoming Canary Preview magazine is an example. Where previously we used to do two separate magazines we have come together and preserved the editorial integrity - but it has also given access to content we might not have otherwise got."

Chief executive McNally will combine his boardroom role with the day-to-day management of the club's executive team.

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