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Legal row over Norwich City claims

PUBLISHED: 06:30 25 January 2010 | UPDATED: 07:41 02 July 2010

Norwich City Football Club has launched legal action against a national newspaper and demanded an apology amid untrue claims it is to go into administration by Thursday if it cannot find major new investors.

Norwich City Football Club has launched legal action against a national newspaper and demanded an apology amid untrue claims it is to go into administration by Thursday if it cannot find major new investors.

David Bale

Norwich City Football Club has launched legal action against a national newspaper and demanded an apology amid claims it is to go into administration by Thursday if it cannot find major new investors.

Norwich City Football Club has launched legal action against a national newspaper and demanded an apology amid claims it is to go into administration by Thursday if it cannot find major new investors.

The News of The World article claimed the Canaries were the latest club teetering on the brink of financial meltdown, and that financial experts Ernst Young and KPMG had been called in as potential administrators.

The article was also posted on the Sunday paper's website, where it remained accessible until yesterday afternoon when it disappeared.

The club responded immediately with both chairman Alan Bowkett and chief executive David McNally issuing statements, and a letter was sent by the club's legal representatives, Leathes Prior to News Group Newspapers Ltd, the publishers of the News of the World.

The letter states: “The remarks in the article are untrue and are without any foundation. They are also defamatory.

“The club is not on the brink of administration, it's not teetering on the brink of financial meltdown or about to go into administration by Thursday.

“Neither Ernst Young or KPMG has been called in as a potential administrator, and the club does not need new investment to stave off administration.”

The letter calls for a full apology in wording to be agreed, to be published in at least as prominent a position in the next edition of the News of the World and on its website, payment of a substantial sum in damages, payment of all costs incurred to date, and an undertaking not to republish the article or repeat its allegations.

Should the paper not satisfy these requirements, the club says it will start action for defamation.

Mr Bowkett said: “In all my years in working in corporate finance I have never read such tosh and complete fabrication. The News of the World will be hearing from our lawyers and we look forward to claiming substantial damages.”

Mr McNally also issued a statement calling the article “completely untrue”. Mr McNally said: “As far as the club is concerned we consider the story is defamatory and accordingly we have placed the matter in the hands of our solicitors, and will be pursuing for damages.”

The article correctly said that despite City crowds averaging around 25,000, the club's 2009 accounts showed a £5m loss.

A spokeswoman for the News of the World said it would not be commenting.

The Evening News reported earlier this month that Delia Smith said Carrow Road would “absolutely not” be sold to clear the club's debts.

The Canaries had announced they were considering selling the ground after debts hit a record £23m following a £5m loss last season.

On top of that City admitted they faced a £2.9m hole in their finances for the 2010/11 campaign.

Five solutions were suggested to plug the gap including the sale of Carrow Road valued at £34.5m and leasing the ground at a cost of at least £1m per year.

However, Delia Smith is loath to sell the place Norwich City have called home since 1935 to rectify the club's financial problems.

Have you got a football-related story for the Evening News? Ring reporter David Bale on 01603 772427 or email david.bale2@archant.co.uk.

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