Colchester celebrates U's victory

CHAMPIONHIP football in Colchester next season could be worth in excess of £10million to the north-Essex economy, according to the town's mayor Terry Sutton.

By Derek Davis

CHAMPIONSHIP football in Colchester next season could be worth in excess of £10million to the north-Essex economy, according to the town's mayor Terry Sutton.

While U's fans will be visiting many clubs for the first time in the second tier of English football the country's oldest recorded town will also be attracting thousands of new visitors through its football team.

And many Championship clubs prepare professionally by staying overnight in nearby hotels, with Five Lakes, Earls Colne and Stoke-by-Nayland, already popular with teams coming to play in the area.

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The added profile of the town through Colchester United, playing world-famous clubs, and its increased coverage in newspapers and on television and radio, will all prompt further awareness of the Roman town.

Mayor Terry Sutton, who is also an associate director at Layer Road, believes the benefits will be tangible for the area, although ironically enough not for the U's.

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He said: “The local economy could benefit by £10m at least. It is very possible and although it may be a pipedream I would love us to consolidate our Championship status.

“What being in the Championship will do is draw people here from other towns and cities that may never have been to Colchester before.

“You bring a new set of fans from around the country and, even though we can only allocate about 1,200 away tickets, there are 23 clubs that will take that full allocation. Many will be coming here for the very first time.

“Virtually all the teams in the Championship will stay overnight and so local hotels and facilities will benefit further.

“The town's economy will be given a huge boost as more fans will also stay overnight and of course they will spend. The club won't benefit from the spend, but the town and surrounding areas will.”

Mr Sutton revealed how Colchester United had already helped forge good relations in Europe and is convinced being in a higher level in the football pyramid will boost Colchester's profile on a world stage.

He said: “When we hosted the Oyster feast in September I took representatives to a U's game from Imola and they loved it.”

Due to his allegiance with the U's, Mr Sutton is not party to the procedure surrounding the building of a new community stadium but hopes this promotion can help the U's move into their new home quicker.

He said: “The U's success is not particularly relevant to the speed of the Community Stadium being built but there are many factors still involved including the junction off the A12 for the stadium.”

As a U's fan Mr Sutton understands the frustration at the constant delays but as a councillor he also understand why it is taking so long.

He said: “The stadium is unlikely to be ready for August 2007, more like 2008. Because I am a councillor I know why the process is slow. I know the council has not been doing nothing all the time.

“It can't just pick up the plans, produce a few million pounds and get it built, it is not that simple.

“But because the council has been reasonably successful it has attained an 'excellence in standard' and so is now able to borrow money to be able to build things. But it also needed other partners and that has happened recently too.”

Colchester town manager Chris Rawlins said yesterday she was also delighted with the promotion news as the potential for Colchester to benefit was huge.

She said: “The victory parade will be a marvellous opportunity to bring everyone together to celebrate their success and, in the future, big name teams coming will really enhance our image nationally. As a town we will be doing all we can to make the most of this wonderful opportunity.”

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