Read David Wilkinson's programme notes

Good afternoon everyone. Here we are again for another enticing Premier League game at an irritatingly inconvenient time on a Sunday.


As a fan who always watches our games live I fully appreciate how difficult it can be for supporters to fit in with times set by broadcasters. This is particularly the case when train travel is so erratic and largely unavailable for returning after evening games. If you live abroad every game is broadcast live which is not the case here.

This is nothing new, I remember as we came up the leagues we often had the longest away trip on a Tuesday night. It is a regular complaint from supporters, who I’m sure would like to know they are being considered when fixture lists are drawn up and televised games are chosen.

Clubs are also affected because lack of visiting supporters can blunt the competitive edge. I’m sure this won’t be the case today as we welcome Manchester United to Kenilworth Road.

The visit of course brings back memories of iconic players from the past gracing our turf, or perhaps mostly mud in those days. Bobby Charlton, Denis Law and my personal favourite George Best, the best footballer I have ever seen live.

We have played each other only 41 times since 1897 and have won only four times. The wins came in the first ever game away when they were Newton Heath, once in the 1930s and twice in the 80s all at home.

They are, of course, a massive football club and it is an honour and privilege to be able to pit our wits against them here in the league for the first time since a 1-1 draw in 1992 – our last season in the top-flight and the season before the inception of the Premier League.

Their visit also brings to mind some of the players to have served both clubs and I particularly remember Don Givens, John Aston and Jimmy Ryan from the early 70s and we can’t fail to mention Teden Mengi, Tahith Chong and Kevin Pilkington from today. Les Sealey and Mal Donaghy were two notable moves in the other direction, earning their moves to Old Trafford from here.

My last notes were written for the Brighton game, so I hope we can today produce a performance as exhilarating as that.

Last week was very much about the Premier League. Gary took part in a meeting between Premier League and Championship clubs to discuss the future of football, the New Deal for football and the proposed new regulator. Subsequently Gary and I attended the Premier League shareholders’ meeting predominantly to discuss similar subjects.

There is a strong desire to reach a deal to support the pyramid and to bring in new rules to try to ensure long term stability and sustainability. However, it is not a simple exercise and the disparity is so great that it is impossible for it to be achieved overnight.

Everyone is aware that the Premier League is the richest in the world – and has been for some time. However, that has led to a significant rise in costs and future liabilities, which need to be covered by future revenues. The current discussions revolve around limiting cost inflation and finding a way for all clubs in the pyramid to live within their means. This, actually, means limiting wage costs to a percentage of turnover leaving a balance with which to operate and grow.

Once this has been negotiated and approved, the Premier League will put more money in the EFL pot, which will reduce the disparity to some extent with further to come from cost controls.

Having been the big brother for 20 years with the benefit of broadcasting revenue for all that time, it is no surprise that the gap is so big, but it’s also true that the success of the Premier League is what has generated the revenue to enable these discussions to take place – and hopefully be implemented – in the near future, for the benefit of all.

We also understand that the Government is close to the introduction of the Football Governance Bill, which is intended to set the rules for the way the football industry runs and to protect the pyramid.

Football is a highly complex business with such a wide cross section of participants and there can never be a one size fits all scenario, so let’s hope that the authorities exercise patience and time in their deliberations.

One of the things that causes so much discussion are the penalties for non-compliance with the rules. This obviously rankles with us more than most because of the way we were treated 15 years ago. We weren’t able to appeal our sentence and had summary justice, but circumstances have now changed. All we ask for is a fair system where all those guilty of breaking the rules are brought to task and punished proportionately in a timely manner.

I’m pleased to report that today you will see our players wearing the Utilita Charity logo on their shirts. Utilita Giving offers food , fuel and general support to vulnerable families throughout Bedfordshire, who are in financial distress. The shirts will be auctioned after the game and there will be a collection by Utilita representatives today. Their tireless work in the community is much admired and appreciated.

Finally, can I take this opportunity to congratulate Gary, on behalf of the Board, on receiving an honorary MBA from the University of Bedfordshire. A fitting reward for all his hard work on behalf of the club and our local community.

“Justice delayed is justice denied.” William Gladstone.

Enjoy the game.



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