Gary Sweet | "Your support has been nothing short of magnificent"

Luton Town Chief Executive Gary Sweet was on boardroom notes duty this week in our Wolverhampton Wanderers matchday programme – read what our CEO had to say after a busy summer!


It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all to Kenilworth Road for our first Saturday 3pm home match in the Premier League – and indeed our first fixture played here on a Saturday afternoon since beating Swansea City in the Championship on 4th March.

While we always relish a raucous night under the lights here, there will always be something special, something traditional, about 3pm Saturday afternoons here in front of our own supporters.

Our visitors today are Wolverhampton Wanderers, and I wish a warm welcome to everyone associated with those of an Old Gold persuasion who have made the trip down from the West Midlands.

Although this is our first league meeting with Wolves since 2007, we have of course more recent, happier memories with our Black Country visitors. Who can forget Alex Lawless’ stunning winner in our FA Cup meeting back in 2013 when we were in the Conference and they were in the Championship.

Both clubs went on to win promotion the following season before going onto enjoy a sustained period of success, leading to today where we go head-to-head with one another in the top-flight since the 1983/84 season.

We also share many mutual connections which I am sure you will read further about in today’s programme. Rob Edwards served the Molineux club with great distinction as a player and a coach and, in that latter role, he also oversaw the development of one of our summer signings, Ryan Giles. Kevin Foley, another summer recruit of ours, is back for more where it all started for him as a player. Kev played in the Premier League with Wolves and we were all incredibly proud of his achievements as ‘one of our own’ went onto play at the highest level.

Rob, Kev and Ryan are all part of a group who are desperate to record those first ever Premier League points of the season this afternoon which we all believe are creeping ever so closer following the encouraging performances in recent weeks.

This week, David and I attended a Premier League shareholders’ meeting where we took our (now) regular seat between Manchester City and Liverpool. Despite common conjecture, the level of professionalism and detail among the Premier League’s executive is amazingly good.

One of the topics open for debate was the ‘New Deal for Football’, which includes a redistribution of funding between the Premier League, the EFL and leagues below. It won’t come as any surprise that we remain fully behind a fairer distribution of funding within the game to provide greater sustainability for all clubs whilst also providing a more level playing field. This is despite sitting at the top table, which is where the funding would come from.

It may come as a surprise, however, to hear that a majority of Premier League clubs were also supportive of the initiative. Clearly, anything so complex as this will need time to resolve but it feels like it’s now on track with an agreement potentially in sight.

A more challenging issue is how football at every level engages with the new, upcoming football regulator. Whilst we are broadly supportive of an independent regulator overseeing the game, we would have certain concerns about how deeply it may expect to engage with the day-to-day operation of the game.

Our last home league match versus West Ham represented a significant milestone for us. Not only was this our first home fixture in the top-flight since April 1992, but it was the first time since 1986 that we had a significant number of fans watching a league match from the Bobbers Stand side of Kenilworth Road.

The project to ensure Kenilworth Road met the myriad of Premier League criteria was a Herculean task pressured by the stringent regulatory criteria we had to meet whilst, of course, complying with building control regulations and all be completed in a ridiculously tight schedule and in such a confined space.

Everyone involved had to shed blood, sweat and tears, going above and beyond all expectations to dexterously construct a mini masterpiece and in optimal contrast and harmony with our somewhat more vintage structure.

It is my duty and pleasure to thank all of the numerous contractors involved including Capital Sky, AND, Faithful & Gould, ESG Global, Momentum Engineering, Civic Engineers, FPM Facilities Services, TTL, Focus Rigging, Musco, Factotum, White Horse Contractors, Arena Stadium Solutions, Switchshop, Ryebridge, OMM, Cristec and not ignoring the numerous smaller suppliers who all did us proud. Thank you one and all.

You’ll notice from that list that whilst we needed to refer to some national/international specialist contractors for certain items, such as floodlighting and steel structure, every other contributor was local with many of the – sometimes up to 250 per day – workers being Luton supporters.

I’d also like to thank all of our staff, of course, who have been magnificent in their resolve to just get the job done over the summer.

During the build period our total spend didn’t deviate too far from racking up £1m per week, which perhaps demonstrates what a logistical military operation this has had to be and how different contractors (some of whom are competitors) showed that our team spirit exists off the pitch too.

Of course, it wasn’t just the media facilities in a new Bobbers stand which we have improved. Indeed, there’s still work ongoing as we have used this opportunity to facelift a few tired areas of our old ground. We hope you see the improvements, particularly to seating, hospitality areas and disabled facilities.

One major benefit of us being so ‘hands-on’ during this project was that it served an excellent opportunity to be a valuable ‘dry run’ ahead of the next big push on Power Court, which, in the meantime, didn’t get ignored – more on that next time.

I would like to extend an apology to anyone who has been, in any way, disadvantaged by any of the changes we’ve made. Some have been impossible to avoid as we have had no choice but to implement 50 new cameras and other spectator obstructions.

However, in other operational areas, we are confident that many of these slight challenges we’ve observed over the last couple of games will eventually settle, as we iron out some new idiosyncrasies in crowd movement and use of different entrances. Meanwhile, we thank you for your patience.

So far, your support has been nothing short of magnificent. It is greatly appreciated by each and every member on the board and you can see on the pitch after each game how much it means to the players and coaching staff. The ovation the players have received after each game, particularly at Chelsea, gave me goosebumps.

We’re all in this together. We knew it wouldn’t be easy. But we don’t do things that easy way, do we? That’s what makes this club, and you, the supporters, so special. That’s something you can’t buy. We know you will stick with us like you always have, whether it’s West Ham, Wolves, Wrexham or Woking.

Keep it up today. It DOES make a difference.

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