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Why the sky’s the limit for ambitious King’s Lynn Town

PUBLISHED: 07:50 13 October 2017

Former Norwich City stars (R) Grant Holt and Simon Lappin were unveiled at The Walks, pictured with Linnets chairman Stephen Cleeve. Picture: Ian Burt

Former Norwich City stars (R) Grant Holt and Simon Lappin were unveiled at The Walks, pictured with Linnets chairman Stephen Cleeve. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant 2017

Opinion: Could Norfolk one day have two senior football teams? Nick Conrad welcomes the ambition of King’s Lynn Town, and shows how West Norfolk would share in the benefits.

Ever heard of a little place called Nailsworth?

No? Me neither - until a little club called Forest Green won promotion to the Football League. The tiny town in the Stroud Valley is not exactly on the tourist map, but now businesses in the area are reporting increased revenue due to their local club’s success. Rising attendances, television money, extra fans and increased interest makes for buoyant business.

No wonder there’s a real buzz around King’s Lynn this week. The Linnets’ signing of two ex-Premier League players - former Canaries Simon Lappin and Grant Holt - doesn’t guarantee promotion but it is a clear message of intent.

Much has been written about Simon and Grant’s arrival at The Walks but I want to turn my attention away from the pitch to the boardroom. There is no doubt that Norfolk could support two League teams but what would league football mean for Evo-Stik League South outfit Lynn? Pride and status yes, but is there any economic benefit for the wider community?

The answer is a resounding yes. That said, sadly the cash injection isn’t always felt by the club. Yes, the board would have a bucket full of cash in comparison to non-league football. However, nearly all the extra funds would be allocated to avoiding relegation, improving infrastructure and stepping up to a full-time operation. In fact, you could guarantee the Chairman’s generosity would be constantly called upon.

The wider monetary boost is clear. Fans are more buoyant and free-spending, and there’s a bigger buzz higher up the football echelons. It’s a fact that away fans, coming in much greater numbers, always spend more money and there are more matches being played. Attendances would be up (at least three-fold looking at the current division average). The Chamber of Commerce would predict a modest increase in revenue for businesses around the ground. Fans of teams who’ve made the leap report everything being notably busier, the club shop, the hotels, the restaurants on site. More staff, more jobs...

And there’s no doubt league football would help boost ‘brand Lynn’. It’s free advertising on a level which the town wouldn’t be able to do otherwise and that might help companies bring inward investment.

As for the ‘feel-good’ boost, if you cannot envisage what the atmosphere around the town would be like think back a decade. In 2006 a full Walks stadium welcomed Oldham Athletic in the FA Cup. Thousands crammed into the ground to cheer on the Linnets, but it also had a wider effect on the town. I remember the buzz of excitement as TV trucks wedged up onto the grass verges of the adjacent road ready to transmit the match live to a waiting BBC audience.

So far hats off to club owner Stephen Cleeve. He’s the man with the big ideas. The acquisition of Ian Culverhouse as manager appears to have been a shrewd move, especially in light of the two new arrivals.

So, who buys a football club? Sir John Madejski, the current chairman of Reading Town Football Club, describes the ideal football club owner as having deep pockets, mercurial, and not being faint-hearted. The quip goes that it is relatively easy to become a millionaire by being the owner of a football club. All you have to do is start with two million....

It’s going to be a long journey for King’s Lynn Town FC if they are going to venture up the football ladder. They are at least three seasons away from the hallowed turf of the professional pitches. But I think all football fans in Norfolk, regardless of primary allegiances should get behind the boys in blue and gold. This county is plenty big enough for two League teams.

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