PROMOTION to the Championship – if Town win Saturday’s play-off final – will be a great result for the Huddersfield economy, it is claimed.
Academics and business leaders expect the whole town to benefit from a higher level of football at the Galpharm Stadium next season.
But they stress that some sectors of the local economy have more at stake than others.
Glynis Jones, a lecturer in sports marketing at Huddersfield University, said Town could hope to attract more visiting supporters next season, boosting business for pubs and restaurants in the town centre and close to the ground.
While fans arriving by coach or train would have little chance to visit the town centre – due to police tactics for getting them to and from the stadium quickly – those travelling by car would have more opportunity to take a more leisurely look at Huddersfield.
“Many of them will have an image in their mind of Huddersfield and what it’s like,” said Glynis. “We find that people visiting the university are pleasantly surprised by the town and say ‘it’s not a bit like we expected’.
“Football supporters are not all young hooligans. It is a much more family orientated sport and Huddersfield Town has a reputation as a family club.
“So businesses in Huddersfield need to welcome the away fans and encourage them to come again.”
Colleague Mohammed Mirza, who lectures in sports and leisure consumer issues, agreed: “Huddersfield Town has a very good fan base. We rarely hear of trouble at matches.
“Town has a reputation of being a family club – where families are welcome and can feel safe. If Town win promotion, the club is likely to attract more supporters and more families.
“The club will have a higher profile in the newspapers and youngsters will want to be part of a winning club.”
Mohammed said the club had already won many new fans with “hooks” such as its community involvement – with initiatives such as raising money for the Yorkshire Air Ambulance and linking up with schools.
“People can see that such initiatives are genuine rather than superficial and that means people are keen to get involved, even if they are not football fans themselves,” he said.
That level of support would increase if Town are playing Championship football, he added.
The club would also expect to increase sales of merchandise, such as replica shirts and other souvenirs.
“Football supporters are unlike any other consumer,” said Mohammed. “If you buy something on the high street and it doesn’t work, you go somewhere else.
“Football fans invest emotionally and financially in their club and will support their team win or lose.
“People are much more likely to change their bank – or even break up with their partner – than change their allegiance to a football club.
“Clubs like Huddersfield are appreciating more and more how much fans give to their club and what they get in return.”
Steven Leigh, head of policy and research for the Lockwood-based Mid Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, said promotion would give the town “a real fillip” and put the club “just one step away” from the Premiership.
Mr Leigh said Championship football at the Galpharm Stadium would mean more TV money for the club, higher attendances at matches and a raised profile for the town.
Huddersfield’s economy had already benefiting from the presence of its university and the facilities offered by the town’s “world class” stadium.
Mr Leigh added: “Football crowds mainly benefit the fast food retailers and the pubs.
“But the more people come to Huddersfield – for whatever reason – the more likely they will be to return as they see that the town has a lot to offer.
“At the chamber, we are rooting for Town 100%”.