A leading Huddersfield businessman has every reason to cheer on the Terriers in their Premier League play-off final at Wembley.
Graham Leslie, a former Town chairman and the man behind the early development of the John Smith’s Stadium, will watch Monday’s crucial match against Reading on TV from a bar in Marbella, where he is due to attend a wedding.
And he is in no doubt what victory and promotion to football’s top flight could mean for the club, the stadium site and Huddersfield itself.
Graham, the founder of pharmaceuticals firm Galpharm who went on to become a serial entrepreneur with several businesses to his credit, said Premier League football would bring “a huge opportunity” to realise the ambitious HD One leisure and retail development at the stadium site.
Recalling his struggle to secure funding for the new stadium in the 1990s, he said: “For the first two or three years trying to raise money for the plans I had, I couldn’t get anyone interested. Once the diggers were there, everyone wanted to be my friend. It would be the end of a magnificent dream to get HD One up and running and established.”
Graham, Professor of Enterprise and Entrepreneurship at the University of Huddersfield, said Premier League status could also win the club a following among the university’s 3,500 Chinese students. “The interest in football in China is phenomenal,” he said. “There are 81 stadiums currently being built in China. It is very much a cultural thing in China now.”
Steven Leigh, head of policy at the Huddersfield-based Mid Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “When other clubs have won promotion in recent seasons it has been estimated that their local economies benefited to the tune of £50m to £60m per annum.
“The prospect of some of the biggest teams in the world playing at the John Smith’s Stadium is tantalisingly close to becoming reality. The cash injection into the football club alone will be in the region of £100m per annum and the economic benefit to the town just on match days will be tremendous for all businesses in the accommodation and hospitality sectors.”
The global exposure would mean a unique opportunity for the town to attract inward-investment on an unprecedented scale.
He said: “This is a wonderful opportunity for Huddersfield Town to make strategic investment on and off the pitch as part of a medium-to-long-term strategy to use Premier League status as a springboard to sustainable success and financial stability.
“People around the world will be made aware of the town – sitting at the heart of the Northern Powerhouse, brilliantly connected by road and rail and providing excellent opportunities as a holiday destination, as a place to run a business and as a place to live.”