Delia strikes blow for women in football

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The Independent Online

Having helped improve the nation's eating habits through the success of her cookbooks, Delia Smith is now striking a blow for gender equality in the national game.

Having helped improve the nation's eating habits through the success of her cookbooks, Delia Smith is now striking a blow for gender equality in the national game.

The promotion of Norwich City to the Premier League will make one of a select band of women to sit in the boardroom of a club in football's top flight. The best known is Karren Brady, whose 10-year tenure as managing director of Birmingham City has seen a dramatic turnaround in the club's fortunes.

Ms Smith became a director of Norwich in 1996 and is joint majority shareholder with her husband, Michael Wynn Jones, with whom she has invested about £7m. Ms Smith, a multimillionaire through her "How to Cook" books and television spin-offs, helped the club through the trauma of the collapse of ITV Digital, which deprived clubs of millions of pounds in television revenue. As part of Norwich City's financial recovery during Ms Smith's directorship, the club has improved its stadium, issued shares and found the cash to buy players good enough to win promotion to the world's richest league. The promotion brings a windfall of at least £15m for the East Anglian club.

Representatives of the professional clubs paid tribute yesterday to her passion for the game and the dividend achieved by Norwich through her business acumen. A Premier League spokesman said: "Delia's position, as indeed Karren Brady's, will surely serve as role model."Ian Christon, communications executive for the Football League which represents the lower divisions, said: "She is very shrewd and very good for Norwich City. They have been doing everything right in business terms and that has paid off on the pitch."

An almost entirely male bastion 50 years ago, football has proved more accessible to women over the past 10 years, although the game's top power brokers - the Premier League chairmen - are all men. There are 10 female club directors in the lower divisions, including the professional game's only female club chairman, Lorraine Rogers of Tranmere Rovers of Division Two. There are also two female chief executives in the lower leagues at Colchester United and Wigan Athletic.

Ms Smith said yesterday she was "overwhelmed" at the promotion of Norwich, which was confirmed on Wednesday by the defeat of third-placed Sunderland at Crystal Palace.

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