The following 'From The Boardroom' column by chief executive Gary Sweet appeared in the matchday programme for Saturday's game against Carlisle United.
Good afternoon and welcome to the final home game before Christmas. It’s been a very significant week for the club, with major news about Power Court emerging. More of that later, but first of all we’d like to offer a warm welcome to the John Nixon and his officials, Keith Curle and his players and, most importantly, the supporters of Carlisle United after their 466-mile round trip from Cumbria. We hope they return home safely but far less successful than after last season’s eventful midweek fixture!
On the pitch, we’ve seen another terrific performance in the Checkatrade Trophy, with a thrilling 3-2 win at the County Ground, Swindon. It was a great game to watch and further evidence of the strength and depth of our squad. As we go to print, we hear that we’ll be hosting Chesterfield in the next round of this cup. We’ll approach the Spireites game the same way as we have previous ties – with Nathan Jones having the freedom to select our team however he wants, putting out a strong team which also provides the opportunity to give game time to younger players. We believe they will develop faster and better with minutes on the pitch in meaningful fixtures. That’s what the revised format of this competition was said to be all about – and we are immensely proud that Nathan’s teams have already proved to be victors against three teams from higher divisions. The future is bright, the future is orange!
That brings me neatly to the big news of the week, off the pitch. We are delighted to announce that we have confirmed exchange of ownership of the Power Court site with British Land. By the time you read this contracts will have been completed. The deal is an outright freehold purchase of British Land’s property at the planned location for our new ground.
Owning the land doesn’t mean that planning permission has been granted yet, of course – that process is currently subject to the continued scrutiny by development control and our continued provision of technical clarification.
Owning both key sites does, however, provide more clarity over any delivery and viability issues they may have. In contrast to some plans, we have both the ownership of the land and the finances required in place to turn drawings and projections into reality.
It’s pertinent to mention that the level of detail contained in our applications means we all need to be patient while a robust assessment is made in isolation. Realistically, we don’t expect to know the outcome until February or later.
Nonetheless, purchasing Power Court land is a major, major step forward and takes the amount of land in our control to over 70 acres. That includes the Newlands Park site at Junction 10 and The Brache, our new training ground location, which is on a long-term lease with a purchase option in our favour.
All of this represents a massive investment which shows the level of ambition that the 2020 directors have for our football club. The sum committed so far is the equivalent of over 30 years’ worth of season ticket sales at current levels! The stupendous generosity of the club’s key stakeholders – those directors – and the hard work, dedication and diligence of the team working on this complex project aren’t the only factors in bringing our vision for the future of LTFC to life though. You and every fan have an essential part to play. We’ve already seen an unprecedented level of emails and letters to LBC in favour of our plans – nearly 11,000 of you have made your voices heard (with less than ½% objecting): please don’t underestimate the importance of such fantastic support. It’s not just vital in proving how much the club means for the whole future of the town, it’s what drives us on in all areas.
We won promotion back to the League in a season when the club, players and supporters were all galvanised together. In the second half of that season the stands were rocking and the intensity of your support was quite incredible, home and away. Let’s make the second half of this season the same. Nathan has often said how amazed he is at the noise he hears from you, the numbers and the passion. In a highly competitive league small margins make a big difference and the lift your vocal support and positivity give to the team can often carry them over the line. Our home record so far isn’t anything like as good as we want and need it to be – but you can help the team change that by singing and chanting your hearts out for 90 minutes (and injury time!) even when things aren’t entirely going our way. Those large numbers of you who follow the team away have certainly witnessed that, and the effect it can have. What chance did Plymouth, Cambridge or Leyton Orient stand, for instance, with our fantastic fans in full flow from the first minute to the last! You should have seen and heard the noise on those occasions from our vantage point in the directors’ box – truly amazing.
We all love it when the whole of beloved Kenilworth Road really gets going - it’s a unique place with an atmosphere you won’t find anywhere else, so let’s make the most of it and let that team know they’re special too. It does wonders for their confidence, and not just the young players! So here’s to a noisy afternoon and hopefully three points as an early Christmas present. With great progress towards the new stadium and the team handily placed for the turn of the year, ‘this is our town, this is our time’.
Finally, I’d like to offer you best wishes for a happy Christmas on behalf of everyone at the club, from the boardroom to the backroom staff, Nathan, his management staff and all of the players. Come on you rip-roaring Hatters!