Heard reassures U's fans

CHAIRMAN Peter Heard has reassured Colchester United supporters that they will not ground-share with Ipswich Town if they reach the Premiership, and that they will stay at Layer Road until the new Community Stadium is built.

By Derek Davis

CHAIRMAN Peter Heard has reassured Colchester United supporters that they will not ground-share with Ipswich Town if they reach the Premiership, and that they will stay at Layer Road until the new Community Stadium is built.

The U's incredible first season in the Championship, boosted by 10 home wins in a row, will see them go into the New Year hovering around the play-off places, and while the club's hierarchy are still more concerned with staying in this division, it is not too fanciful to suggest they could reach the top flight.

With a 6,300 capacity at Layer Road, Premiership teams would find visiting the Essex club a culture shock, and many reports have suggested the U's would be forced to move across the border into Suffolk and share with Ipswich Town - but Heard insisted he would not let that nightmare scenario happen.


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Heard last night told the EADT: “First of all the manager and the team are concentrating on getting enough points to ensure we stay in the Championship next season.

“In the event that we do reach the Premiership then we would hope to receive dispensation to stay at Layer Road for the few months that it would need before we move in to the new stadium.

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“We are on schedule to move into the new ground by December 2007 and would not want to play elsewhere until we can move grounds.”

Heard will meet with Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore this week to get confirmation that they will be allowed to stay at Layer Road if they were promoted.

There have been precedents set when grounds have not matched the standards expected in the top flight - Fulham for example did not have an all-seater stadium in their first two seasons in the Premiership and shared QPR's Loftus Road home while work was done to bring Craven Cottage up to standard.

The Community Stadium being built at Cuckoo Farm will house 10,000 fans, all seated, and would still be the smallest in the Premier League - and even among the smallest in the Championship.

While Layer Road may not be state of the art, it is home and U's fans would be opposed to playing any games elsewhere, especially Portman Road.

The form shown by Geraint Williams' side would indicate the team would be keen to stay in the ground where they have notched 38 goals in 12 home games, and after losing the first two, have won 10 on the bounce since.

Ipswich Town's home form doesn't match the U's, with just six wins, and even though new turf has recently been laid, the surface does not compare with the Layer Road pitch.

Meanwhile, the U's are looking to maximise what space they have at Layer Road by reallocating season tickets when the holders can't get to games.

The U's are one club that doesn't add season ticket sales automatically to its home attendances, therefore even though all home area tickets for a match have been allocated the ground is not quite full because season-ticket holders have not been able to attend.

That was the case again on Boxing Day when all home area tickets had been sold for the 4-1 win over Luton but the actual attendance was almost 800 short of the 6,300 capacity, with nearly 500 not turning up in the home areas of the ground. Season-ticket holders who can't go to games are now being encouraged to use a newly-formed forum on the official website to allow other supporters to use their seat on a one-off basis.

U's chief executive Marie Partner said: “It is our hope that with the community spirit the fans have built up among themselves over recent years, there will be some sort of exchange scheme put in place to help as many extra supporters get to games at Layer Road in what has been a fantastic season for us. Every extra U's follower in the ground will add to what has been a brilliant atmosphere, so we hope we can try and minimise the number of spaces left available on a match-day.”

The forum for fans to post their needs, spares or available season tickets can be found at

www.cu-fc.premiumtv.co.uk

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