With the new season only a fortnight away, Colchester United Chairman Robbie Cowling has issued the following:
Sadly football didn’t come home but I think most of us would agree that Gareth Southgate’s team performed amazingly well and not only did they make us extremely proud, they have also whetted our appetites for the new season. Especially now it's been agreed that we can get fans back into our stadiums.
I’ve looked forward to the return of fans for more than a year and I thought I would be writing a statement that was filled with the joys of seeing off the pandemic. However, most of this statement is once again going to be about the way the club is dealing with the coronavirus because we now have to cope with both the pandemic and the pingdemic.
I’m naturally a very optimistic person but I don’t have a single brain cell that thinks the return of fans to stadiums is going to be straightforward. The first steps back to normality are likely to be challenging, both for the fans and the club. Taking two steps forward and one step back is a realistic expectation for what lies ahead.
Having said that, Tim and the stadium staff, and you the fans, have managed to deal with everything that the pandemic has thrown at the club so far so I have every confidence we will manage to deal with these next set of challenges too.
I need to thank those of you that have bought Season Permits. Current sales levels suggest we will be about 20% down on normal sales but that does not overly surprise or concern me.
I am expecting further restrictions of some kind to be introduced at some time this season which is why I have kept all of the system we have in place to deal with such measures if and when they do come in to force.
We can cope with full lockdown or full freedom and the only cost to those of you that attend games whilst we have full freedom is you don’t get to choose your actual seat and you may, although we expect it to be quite rare, get moved from time to time.
I’m aware that the choice to not only select a specific seat, but also to select the seat you have always sat in, is important to many of you but it is a choice we just can’t provide if we have to operate at any time with social distancing measures in place.
For some of you, it’s so important that you will decide not to come to games until the club return everything back to how it was before the pandemic.
That is understood, but it’s also a shame because the club really need your support and is doing everything it possibly can to operate as normally as possible in the most abnormal of times.
I also appreciate that a number of fans just don’t feel safe enough to attend games, especially whilst infection rates are so high and that is also understood. If it helps you, I can assure you that whilst the infection rates remain high, the staff at Colchester United will be wearing face masks and signage will be in place at the stadium to encourage fans to take extra care by socially distancing where they can.
Anyway, to clarify the matter I can state categorically that specific seat selection at games will not be an option this season.
It will only be re-introduced at the start of a season when we are confident we won’t have to be dealing with any Covid restrictions throughout that whole season. When that does happen, we will honour the seat selections that were in place when the pandemic curtailed the 2019/20 season.
Therefore if you haven’t bought a season permit in the mean-time, it will not affect your chance to keep your original seat when the option is re-introduced.
Pre-season has gone well, but we are starting to suffer from a few infections and also from the dreaded ‘Pingdemic’. Trying to provide full freedom and deal with the self-isolation rules that are in place is very challenging.
For example, at our training ground we have returned to the strictest of protocols just to ensure we have our best chance to complete pre-season and be in decent shape for the game at Carlisle.
In fact, I’ve only written a few paragraphs of this statement but I’ve already replaced my outlook from going two steps forward and one back to one where I just think we have to look at things as if we’re playing snakes and ladders but without any ladders.
In terms of the actual training and the pre-season matches, things have been going well. To their credit, our players had kept themselves in good shape whilst they were on whatever breaks they could take and the ground staff and maintenance teams at Florence Park have done a brilliant job turning the training ground around.
Those things have allowed Hayden and Alex to hit the ground running so things have gone well so far. The team have had two very tough games this week against Premier League teams and we are now moving into the last two weeks of pre-season, with games coming up against Gillingham, Ipswich and Wealdstone. These will present us with the different challenges that we need.
Last season, all of the games were streamed on iFollow. Pre-Covid, any game that kicked off between 14:45 and 17:15 on a Saturday was blocked from being shown live in the UK and these games will be blocked again for the forthcoming season whilst fans are allowed back in to stadiums.
It has not been decided yet but it is likely that it will be the home team’s decision if a game that is played outside of the blocked period will be streamed.
For the pre-season games against Gillingham and Ipswich, we will be streaming both games at a cost of £10 per game but unlike last year when we streamed the footage from our analysts’ camera, we have employed a dedicated cameraman and broadcast camera to ensure the footage is significantly better.
Our TV station has gone down really well and throughout the season, we plan to host a show around our matchdays and then a mid-week show which will be based around a mid-week game if one is scheduled.
Once the season starts, our matchday shows will start thirty minutes before kick-off and they will consist of pre-match, half-time and full-time sections. This is all new to us and I think our shows will be good from the very start but I’m also sure they will improve as we find our feet.
We are going to air a pre-match show tomorrow which will start at 2:30pm and will be available free of charge on the CUFC Media channel which you can access via your dashboard on your colutickets.com account. It’s free to create an account.
If you buy a streaming pass, then both the pre-match show and the live footage will be streamed on the ‘1st Team Matches’ channel. We will do the same for the Ipswich game with the pre-match show starting at 7:15pm.
I’m going to give an interview with COLU TV prior to the Ipswich game where I can go into more detail on the issues raised in this statement. If you have a specific question for me, then please email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Up the U’s