Colchester: Sparks fly between MP and club owner

MP SIR Bob Russell and Colchester United chairman Robbie Cowling were last night locked in a war of words over claims the politician is a “prawn sandwich munching freeloader”.

Sir Bob ignited the row after a radio interview where he said the club had lost a third of its fan base and the only future for the club is a new owner. He also said Colchester United FC had lost ties with the community.

And yesterday Mr Cowling hit back with a furious statement on the club’s website claiming: “A few years ago, Bob Russell decided to take a swipe at the way I ran Colchester United and claimed it was just a play thing that I would soon get fed up with and that I was only interested in prawn sandwich eating corporate fans.

“Interestingly, I established at that time that Bob was only attending games if he was receiving a free invite into a prawn sandwich filled corporate box and once he was outed as freeloading, prawn sandwich eating fair-weather fan, he stopped coming to games altogether.”

Speaking yesterday in response to the statement, Sir Bob said he would be taking legal advice on the accusations. “These claims are simply untrue,” he said. “I have only been to three games for free since the new stadium opened. One was an invite from the firm that built it, another was for a military charity event and I also attended the opening game.

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“I was a season ticket holder for more than 20 years and these comments are hurtful. Even when I was offered a seat in the directors box way back in 1997 when I was elected I turned it down. I’ll be taking legal advice.”

The row comes after the club reported a 9% drop in attendance figures compared to last season.

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During an interview with BBC Radio Essex on Tuesday, Sir Bob said the owner was the “root cause” of the club’s problems.

But Mr Cowling says football attendance figures are down across the country and he should be left to run the club as he sees fit.

He said: “I am surprised he would go on line radio and not check his facts out first. In my statement I only defend myself on the points he raised, I have not attacked him in the news.

“He should leave me to run the football club.”

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