Cullum will not save Canaries

NORWICH City supporters' New Year dreams are in tatters today after billionaire Peter Cullum said the impact of the credit crunch meant he could not ride to the rescue of the cash-strapped Canaries.

NORWICH City supporters' New Year dreams are in tatters today after billionaire Peter Cullum said the impact of the credit crunch meant he could not ride to the rescue of the cash-strapped Canaries.

On the eve of the opening of the January transfer window, when clubs are allowed to buy and sell for a month, he said his business was, like many others, “under the cosh” as the recession continued to bite.

Meanwhile, City chief executive Neil Doncaster warned that the transfer kitty was empty and said players might have to be sold to pay for new ones.

It adds up to a depressing New Year for City fans, who are desperate to see new players at Carrow Road to drag the team away from the relegation zone and the threat of third flight football for the first time in more than 40 years.


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Mr Cullum, executive chairman of Towergate, has been seen as City's best hope of a revival of fortunes since revealing in the summer that he had made a £20m bid for control of the club.

On-off negotiations with the club have since broken down, although he continues to say he would not stand by if the club went into administration.

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But Mr Cullum said the financial outlook meant he could not put his hand in his pocket to bail out the Canaries.

He said: “The credit crunch is going to be hurting people, so suddenly investing in a football club is quite unlikely for many people - especially if you look at the numbers.

“If you did that, you would be seriously worried. You haven't got to be much of a mathematician to work out that many football clubs are in trouble.

“Every business is being seriously hit by what's going on in the wider economic environment. My business is no different. We are all under the cosh. And we can only guess what 2009 will hold.”

He said the economic situation had changed “significantly” since he made his offer at the end of 2007 to hand over £20m for new players in exchange for control of the club.

Joint majority shareholders Delia Smith and Michael Wynn Jones have since turned to football deal maker Keith Harris to look for investors or a buyer.

The Seymour Pierce chairman has an impressive track record, having brokered five Premier League takeover deals involving major overseas backers.

Mr Cullum, a lifelong City fan, said: “The club has appointed Keith Harris and he's very well connected. I would never say never, but quite frankly I wouldn't be on his list of possible investors to speak to.”

He also called for “fundamental changes” to the way football is run, warning that a number of clubs were in danger of going to the wall.

“It's pretty desperate for most of the Championship clubs. The chairmen of each club have to get together to look at salary levels. “People talk about the wages of city executives, but maybe its time to look at the wages of footballers.

“Based on the game against Nottingham Forest on Sunday, I can't imagine many fans would say the players were worth what they earn.

“It's very depressing but there's got to be some fundamental changes to the way things are structured. It seems as though all football clubs are run for the benefit of the players and managers, not the fans. We need an economic reality check. The whole thing is no longer viable.”

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