Dramatic u-turn over Col U price hikes

COLCHESTER UNITED'S owner today made a dramatic U-turn after admitting he made a “mistake” in season ticket pricing.

COLCHESTER UNITED'S owner today made a dramatic U-turn after admitting he made a “mistake” in season ticket pricing.

U's fans have double reason to celebrate this week after they watched their side win their 4th home win of the season against local rival Ipswich Town on Saturday.

After the price hikes were reported in the EADT, owner and chairman Robbie Cowling announced that the proposed 30% increase to ticket prices has been shelved.

Last week, the Essex club announced that adult season ticket prices for their first campaign in the Community Stadium would increase from £437 to £598, with an early renewal ensuring a 15% discount and a subsequent final price of £502.

The news was met with anger from many U's supporters. Many of them doubted whether they could afford to follow the U's on a regular basis next season, which in all probability will be to watch League One football.

A mini-protest with banners was held at Saturday's game with fans chanting “5-0-8, you're having a laugh”.

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However, a statement issued by Mr Cowling, in which is apologies for the issue, reads: “In recent weeks, I have been working with a strategic planning group to formulate a five-year business plan for Colchester United FC.

“The very first exercise was to determine the club's values, which included honesty and humility, and our traits which included being proud but not too proud to admit when we are wrong.

“On Wednesday, we released the proposed pricing for next season's tickets in our new stadium, and these were structured so that the same price was adopted for all of the seats regardless of their position in the stadium.

“On reflection that was a mistake, and although I am currently out of the country (in Australia) on business I will, as soon as I return to the UK on Wednesday, meet with my staff at the club and a new pricing structure will follow soon after,

“Of course a move to an all-seater stadium will have an impact on whatever pricing structure we adopt, but this is an important move for the club and I am sorry that we did not get it right at the first attempt.”

Mike Coppins, a U's supporter since 1948 and a season ticket holder for the last six years, said he was glad Mr Cowling was going to “take a more realistic view”.

“First of all it's good that the board can admit they are wrong on something. In my view they have made some quite serious mistakes in other areas over the last 18 months, such as the kind of contracts they were extending to players.

“But my view is there has been a rather strange dilemma. On the basis we are going to a new stadium but also going down a division - which we almost certainly are - should they work on the principle of keeping the prices the same, or put them up by a percentage?

“The average supporter's reaction would be 'Why should I pay more for Division One?'

“I am glad Mr Cowling is going to look at the situation because this has caused so much unrest. The original proposal wasn't acceptable to the average fan.”

Mr Coppins, who lives on Mersea Road, Colchester, added: “I am glad they are going to reconsider and take a more realistic view.”

The U's will move to their new £14m all-seater stadium for the start of next season, after which they will have to start repaying a £10m loan to Colchester Borough Council. Mr Cowling has already given public assurances that he will guarantee any shortfall on the loan repayments as security.

Jon Burns, the Chairman of the Colchester United Supporters Association, expressed both surprise and delight over the weekend announcement.

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