U's face £600K shortfall

POOR attendance figures at Colchester United's new Weston Homes Community Stadium could leave the Essex club £600,000 short of their budgeted loss this season.

Carl Marston

POOR attendance figures at Colchester United's new Weston Homes Community Stadium could leave the Essex club £600,000 short of their budgeted loss this season.

But owner and chairman, Robbie Cowling, remains upbeat about the League One club's current situation, stressing that crowds are still up from the U's last season at this level.

Furthermore, Mr Cowling confirmed that the club always budgeted for a sizeable loss this term, although that loss is likely to be bigger than anticipated.

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A mere 3,214 fans turned up to watch the U's League One home fixture against fellow strugglers Yeovil Town on Tuesday night.

United chalked up a narrow 1-0 win to notch only their second victory from 10 games at the new stadium, since their summer move from Layer Road. It was a great night result-wise, but a worrying one in terms of the lowly attendance and the knock-on financial effect.

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However, Mr Cowling was quick to stress the positives rather than the negatives last night.

“We have budgeted for crowds of around 6,000 this season,” revealed Mr Cowling.

“We were always going to make a loss, and it's not about breaking even. In fact, crowds are up from the last time that we were in this division (2005-06).

“Obviously we would like attendances to be better, but they are better than the last time we were in League One. It's not fair to compare them with our two seasons in the Championship.

“It's been a big move for the club, and there have been too many negative things written about it,” added Mr Cowling.

The U's are currently averaging crowds of 4,742 from their first 10 games of the campaign, which equates to a deficit of approximately 1,250 on the figure budgeted by the club at the start of the season.

To put a rough estimate on the possible shortfall, an approximate 1,250 fans at a cost of £20 (cheapest adult price) would equate to an extra £25,000 per home fixture on the budgeted loss.

Spread over 24 home fixtures (23 in the league and one in the Cup), that would mean an overall shortfall of £600,000.

The poor attendances can be explained by a multitude of factors, including the team's relegation from the Championship last season, the dismal start to this season, increased ticketing costs as compared to Layer Road prices, and the difficulties with transport to and from the new facility.

Hopefully, Paul Lambert's men can build on Tuesday night's win to start climbing the table, because ultimately it is success on the pitch that will increase crowds.


HOW the figures stack up at the West Homes Community Stadium, in terms of attendances (U's home matches):

Highest: 5,506 (v Millwall)

Lowest: 3,214 (v Yeovil)

Total: 47,423 (10 matches)

Average: 4,742

Budgeted loss 6,000

Shortfall: 1,258

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