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Another blow for United as they lose at abbey again

CAMBRIDGE United were today (Monday, 29 May) counting the cost of their failed Abbey Aid adventure.

The two-day concert attracted about 1,000 pop fans on each night - well short of the numbers the club had anticipated would come through the turnstiles.

It had been hoped the gigs would generate between £150,000 and £200,000 towards United's aim of breaking even in the next two years.

Last year United had to cancel a similar fundraising concert because it clashed with Live 8.

But finance director Nick Pomery admitted Abbey Aid, featuring Lee Ryan, Liberty X and X Factor stars Journey South and Chico, had lost cash due to a poor turnout.

He said the board would discuss how the costs could be covered in a "post mortem" later this week.

"Without doubt the show has lost money but what we need to do is look at the actual figures," said Mr Pomery.

"It's a disappointment because we wanted it to make money and we thought it would make money, but that's not turned out to be the case."

He said it had always been a gamble to stage the concerts and hinted that the United board had allowed for the possibility of a flop.

"We knew there was a possibility that this could happen so we've got to talk it through seriously, but it would be wrong of me to speculate because we need to examine the situation," he said. "We don't know until we've looked at the numbers and talked about how we're going to deal with it.

"I don't think it's the right time to reflect on what the implications could be until we've done this first."

It had been hoped Abbey Aid could become a regular event but its future is now unclear.

Heather Wilkanowski, commercial manager at Cambridge United, tried to put a brave face on the event.

She said: "The feedback was brilliant, the artists were good, the set-up and atmosphere were excellent. It was a shame that there weren't more people here, maybe due to the weather, but hopefully people will go away and tell others about it and we can build on that in the future.

"Obviously, the first time you do something like this there are positive things and negative things, but the overwhelming vibe was that it was well organised and people enjoyed themselves, and it's proved itself as a live music venue, and that's a good foundation to build on."

Liberty X were due to be first on stage on Saturday, but got held up travelling from Portsmouth for the concert - so Lee Ryan, a former member of boy band Blue, saved the day by agreeing to perform an hour earlier than planned.

The singer, who rose to fame when still a teenager, said he was enjoying pursuing a solo career following the break-up of Blue in 2004.

He said: "I like being by myself because it's so much more relaxing.

"I hated waiting around for Duncan to do his hair! I'm a singer and I hated dancing on stage. Well, I didn't hate it, but it wasn't my thing.

"Nearer the end, I hated all the interviews and stuff because all they kept on asking is 'are you going to break up?' I sort of got bored of the music as well."

Lee's single, Army of Lovers, reached number three in the UK charts and number one in Italy following its release in July last year. His self-titled album was another top 10 hit.

But he said of the album: "I enjoyed it but it wasn't something that I really wrote with my heart."

He said he had been looking forward to performing in Cambridge.

"I've got a friend who used to live round here - it's a beautiful place. Is it quite boring though?

"Mind you, I bet you could find a nice wife to settle down with. Nice temperament of people, not fast-living," he joked.

n Opinion - Page 6.

29 May 2006

First appeared in the Cambridge Evening News
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