Colchester United chairman Robbie Cowling has revealed he's taken the "very difficult decision" to release a number of senior players due to the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Striker Frank Nouble and captain Luke Prosser have both been allowed to leave, as have Ryan Jackson and Brandon Comley.

In a statement, Cowling admitted he'd have loved to have offered them all new deals under normal circumstances, but wasn't prepared to "gamble" with people's livelihoods or the club's future.

A number of academy players will now be drafted into the first team squad when football returns.

The U's were sixth in League Two when the season was suspended.

  • Watch an interview with Colchester United chairman Robbie Cowling by ITV News Anglia's Andy Ward

"The club has a proud record of always paying its players in full and on time. We achieve this because I will never sign a contract if I can’t commit to fulfilling it. I just won’t gamble with other people’s livelihoods or with the club," Cowling said.

"It is for that reason that I have had to take the very difficult decision of not re-signing a number of players that under normally circumstances I would have been determined to re-sign.

"I appreciate the decision will make the team less capable when the season does resume but it is very unlikely that we will be the only club to take such a step.

"I wanted to make the decision as early as I could to give those players that are being released a head start in what will be a very difficult environment for out of contract players. They find themselves in this difficult situation through no fault of their own and I wish every one of them well."

Cowling also told fans that he wasn't prepared to "sugar coat how difficult things are for Colchester United" but insisted he was "confident" the club would get through these tough times.

"I’m not going to sugar coat how difficult things are for Colchester United. Things were not easy beforehand when the club relied on financial support from my other businesses," said Cowling.

"Obviously, things recently got much more difficult and not just for the club but also for my other businesses that normally support it.

"I’m confident that Colchester United will get through this crisis, but we will do so because we are part of a football family that is pulling together."

In addition to the release of the senior quartet, a number of young players will also be let go at the end of June - including Louis Dunne, Cameron James and Bailey Vose.

Colchester United's Jobserve Stadium. Credit: EMPICS Sport

Full list of players not being offered new deals

  • Luke Prosser

  • Frank Nouble

  • Ryan Jackson

  • Brandon Comley

  • Dean Ager

  • Callum Anderson

  • Jamal Campbell-Ryce

  • Louis Dunne

  • Chandler Hallett

  • Tyrique Hyde

  • Luke Ige

  • Tariq Issa

  • Cameron James

  • Callum Jones

  • Percy Kiangebeni

  • Bailey Vose