Two quit in wake of Norwich relegation

TWO of Norwich City Football Club's highest ranking figures quit yesterday as heads began to roll in the wake of the club's relegation from the Championship.

TWO of Norwich City Football Club's highest ranking figures quit yesterday as heads began to roll in the wake of the club's relegation from the Championship.

Chairman Roger Munby and chief executive and director Neil Doncaster stepped down from their roles less than a week after the inquests into the club's demise began.

Their departures were announced in a joint board statement just after 6pm yesterday evening.

The cash-strapped club have promised more changes to the board, which now comprises just majority shareholders Delia Smith and her husband Michael Wynn Jones and local businessman Michael Foulger, but while there are certain to be new members, it is unclear whether or not there will be further departures.

Doncaster's exit from his �180,000-a-year post was not unexpected given the intense pressure he has been under in recent weeks. The 39-year-old has been public enemy number one among angry supporters, with a number of calls for him to quit following confirmation of the club's relegation at Charlton 10 days ago. Doncaster joined the club in November 1997 as company secretary and solicitor, was promoted to head of operations two years later and became chief executive in 2001.

Munby became a director, for the second time, in May 1996 having served between January 1986 and September 1987 and was appointed chairman in 2002 following the departure of Bob Cooper.

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His market research and strategy company SMRC Ltd was reimbursed around �25,000 a year for his services of the club, where he was in the unusual position of chairing a board of which two other members held the purse strings.

Both departures now leave major appointments to be made.

“There will be further changes to the board,” said the statement. “Meanwhile, an announcement about the executive management structure at the club will be made in the near future, once staff at Carrow Road and Colney have been fully consulted. The club will not be adding to this statement until then.”

City have been lobbying local businessmen for investment, but many fans will be hoping for insurance tycoon Peter Cullum to step into the breach, even though earlier this month he said “the economic environment is simply not conducive to investing in an ailing football club”.

The question of investment is the major priority and the decision to rebuff Cullum's advances last summer turned many fans against the board, and Doncaster in particular.

Yesterday's news was welcomed by John Tilson, chairman of the Norwich City Independent Supporters' Association (Ncisa) and one of the board's fiercest critics.

“I won't say it's a champagne moment because it isn't anything to celebrate,” he said. “But something had to happen. Like it or not, if you are the chief executive or chairman of an ailing and failing business, your head has to roll.

“Roger has been the head of PR and spin at the football club for a number of years, he has been the front while Doncaster has been the man who has negotiated contracts, dealt with managers and agents and all sorts of financial issues and he has failed miserably.”

Ncisa's fans' forum at St Andrews Hall tomorrow will still go ahead.

“There still issues to be resolved,” said Tilson. “We have just three board members left and I can't believe that two senior figures would leave the board without there being a Plan B and that is something I expect and hope we will hear about very quickly.

“But we mustn't forget that we are without a manager of the club as well.”

In a joint statement, Munby and Doncaster said: “It is clear that for Norwich City Football Club to move forward, there needs to be a fresh start. A new board of directors is an essential part of that process. We therefore believe it is in the best interests of the club for us to step down from our positions.

“We would like to place on record our sincere thanks to all the staff at Carrow Road who work long and often anti-social hours to serve Norwich City's wonderful supporters.

“Delia, Michael and the Foulger family have worked tirelessly for supporters and put huge amounts of their own money into the club over the last 13 years. They, and City supporters everywhere, deserve much more success than has been possible in recent years. We would like to wish them, and everyone associated with Norwich City Football Club, the very best for the future.”

While internet message boards suggest most fans welcomed the news, it would appear to be the first sign of major changes at Carrow Road, where relegation is expected to cost the club more than �5m in lost revenue.

Staff cuts are expected to pay for part of that, while the first change on the playing side is expected to be completed today when goalkeeper David Marshall completes a move to Cardiff City for a “six-figure” sum.

The future of manager Bryan Gunn and his coaching staff is still unclear, with no decision reached on whether or not they will be asked to continue or whether a new management team will be brought in.