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Spalding United’s promotion can bring economic boost to the town, says CEO Leigh Porter





Spalding United secured an historic promotion on Saturday - and club officials hope their title win will bring an economic boost to the town.

More than 1,700 fans - from as far afield as the United States and Ireland - packed into the Sir Halley Stewart Ground on Saturday to witness the Tulips thrash Coleshill Town 8-0 and be crowned Northern Premier League Midlands Division champions.

The Tulips will now move up to step three of English football’s non-league pyramid, the highest position at which the club has ever competed.

Fans get ready for the trophy presentation. Photo: Chris Lowndes
Fans get ready for the trophy presentation. Photo: Chris Lowndes

Club CEO Leigh Porter believes that playing bigger clubs with bigger travelling support will have a knock-on effect that benefits the town.

“We know football well enough to know the best form of marketing is success on the pitch,” he said.

“When you get success on the pitch your attendances grow because you’re bringing in bigger away support, potentially bringing in teams from step three who have hundreds of fans.”

Spalding United are league champions. Photo: Chris Lowndes
Spalding United are league champions. Photo: Chris Lowndes

“I’m a big advocate that a good football club run the right way in the middle of a town can benefit the community.

“We had people telling us they came in by train and by bus. Car parks were filling up and people left the club on Saturday and went into the town centre to carry on their celebrations.

“People stopped overnight. We had a fan over from Ireland, somebody who was on holiday from the US and decided to see what soccer was all about came and sent us a very nice email afterwards.”

The Spalding players celebrate with their fans. Photo: Chris Lowndes
The Spalding players celebrate with their fans. Photo: Chris Lowndes

Next season’s league structure is still being finalised, but at present the Tulips look destined to be promoted to the Southern League Premier Central.

There they could potentially face teams such as Halesowen, Lincolnshire rivals Stamford, Kettering Town and AFC Telford United who - due to their close proximity or large fanbases - could be expected to bring bumper away support, which could again translate into more money being brought into the area.

“From our point of view it’s about bringing people into Spalding that might not have come into Spalding without the football club as a pull,” Porter added.

Spalding scored three goals in the first half. Photo: Chris Lowndes
Spalding scored three goals in the first half. Photo: Chris Lowndes

“If we can do that on a regular basis then it’s a positive. We’re madly passionate about being part of a group of people involved with Spalding that makes Saturdays a little bit busier and more dynamic.”

United remain in talks with South Holland District Council about securing a long-term lease that would allow the club to secure external funding to aid ground improvements necessary to compete higher up the footballing ladder.

And Porter understands news on this situation may be imminent.

Skipper Nathan Stainfield lifts the trophy. Photo: Chris Lowndes
Skipper Nathan Stainfield lifts the trophy. Photo: Chris Lowndes

"We’ve got massive amounts to do between now and next season and we can’t do that on our own,” he continued.

“If we have a few people that can help us and get behind us then why can’t this journey continue and why can’t it keep developing?

“We’ve got ground grading work that needs to be completed by March. We can’t sit around talking about a lease as we’ll run out of time.

Chairman Andrew Killingsworth after the title triumph. Photo: Chris Lowndes
Chairman Andrew Killingsworth after the title triumph. Photo: Chris Lowndes

“We’re making plans and if we get the lease and assistance then we’ll be in a great place.”

Saturday’s magnificent attendance was boosted by the club offering free entry to all, which saw an total of 1,708 through the gates.

This was one of many gestures made to the community over the campaign, which included free entry and a bacon roll for senior citizens, free entry for youngsters and also operating a matchday foodbank donation spot which saw supporters give something back to

Manager Elliot Sandy looks on. Photo: Chris Lowndes
Manager Elliot Sandy looks on. Photo: Chris Lowndes

With promotion sealed, the Tulips are hoping to continue with similar offers next campaign to thank supporters and aid their ambitions of competing at the top end of step three.

“We need to do everything we can this season to attract as many people as possible through the gates,” Porter continued.

“Every single penny that’s generated for the club goes into the club, so if we can get 1,700 people there every week then the project would move on a hell of a lot quicker.

James Clifton races away to celebrate. Photo: Chris Lowndes
James Clifton races away to celebrate. Photo: Chris Lowndes

“If more people come in and buy merchandise and food and drink at the bars and a programme then that helps make this easier and happen quicker.

“Hopefully, we can user this as an opportunity to take the next step.”

Tulips general manager Jonathan Barnett welcomed Saturday’s bumper gate.

“The atmosphere was amazing,” he said.

“By about 1.45pm it was heaving. They were coming almost faster than we could clock the turnstiles at.

“It worked wonders for the club.”



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