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FROM THE BOARDROOM: GARY SWEET'S PROGRAMME NOTES

2 December 2014

The following boardroom notes appeared in Saturday's programme

Good afternoon and welcome one and all back to Kenilworth Road for what promises to be yet another exciting fixture here in Sky Bet League 2.
 
I extend a warm welcome to our visitors from Mansfield Town, their directors, management, players and supporters. We meet again after one season apart. Together, we and the Stags are the two previous winners of the Football Conference following successful campaigns and I am sure those visiting supporters can remember, as do we, the relief and excitement of a title-winning campaign. The Stags’ last visit saw them secure a 90th-minute winner that gave them further momentum in their push for promotion. It goes without saying that we hope to turn the tables on that result today.
 
Talking of momentum, our campaign so far this term has been fantastic to witness, both on and off the pitch. That has cumulated in a place in the automatic promotion positions in the league table and a home and away following which I am sure has been the envy of many clubs.
 
Our visit to Burton last week gave me, and other directors, immense pride to be representing Luton Town at the Pirelli Stadium, even despite our loss. It was truly incredible to have 2,000 Hatters fans – almost half of the crowd – present, squeezed in and in full voice too, which made for a big game atmosphere in a tidy if compact stadium.
 
This past week we have received many messages of heart-felt thanks from those associated with Burton Albion in the wake of the tributes made to Lydia Bennett, a 17-year-old player from their Ladies team, who sadly died on 4th November. The minute’s silence before the game was impeccably observed by everybody inside the stadium, for which we thank you. Once the referee signalled the end of that 60 seconds, our attention was quickly drawn to the gracious actions of firstly, our captain, Stephen McNulty, and then manager, John Still, who both offered words of condolence to Lydia’s parents as they left the pitch. It was a magnificent gesture of humility and their small touch gave us all in the directors’ box a wonderful feeling of pride and perspective. Thank you Steve and John!
 
That same emotion was summoned in our hearts again in the 29th minute, as our hordes of supporters then instigated a minute’s applause for Lydia. 2,000 Luton Town supporters, with no previous relationship with Burton Albion, stood and clapped in recognition of a young girl sadly taken from us way too soon.
 
One of our most popular chants from the terraces is “We are Luton Town.” All of us in the boardroom have proudly either chanted or hummed it (often under our breath when we’re stuck in a stuffy environment).
 
We are all Luton Town. Our individual behaviour, regardless of our background and apparent status, defines precisely who we are. Our collective behaviour, as united Luton supporters, defines who we are and forms our institutional culture. 2,000 Luton supporters joining together to applaud the life of a talented young girl not only brought tears to our eyes but the display epitomised our character.
 
Well, almost. Imagine our dismay and disgust when we received, in amongst the kind words and tweets from those at Burton, a letter from the Football Association which informed us that an investigation into missile throwing is under way. Whilst it may have been an isolated incident borne out of frustration, it came at a time when we should have been celebrating the acts of kindness and togetherness and a feel-good milieu at our Club. Now our respect has been disappointingly called into question.
 
As football supporters, the last thing we want to do is impose a sterile atmosphere and we can understand how frustrations can evolve – particularly when we may feel the spirit of fairness is seemingly compromised by officials during the course of a game – but it is our individual responsibility to ensure that we act as law abiding citizens and, above all, as proud Luton supporters. This behaviour is neither law abiding nor is it ‘Luton behaviour’ which is the reason why we are working with Burton to isolate the source. Any guilty party, either on this occasion or in future, shall receive a ban from entering Kenilworth Road for six years.
 
Despite this incident, the optimism that surrounds the Club at present is magical to see and it seems to be growing; perhaps for good reason too. We are climbing the ladder under the stewardship of a management team who are totally plugged in to our Luton culture and are in complete control of our progress – not to mention the terrific (and ever improving) squad they’ve put together.
 
The pressure and expectation upon us, as directors and custodians, to elevate our standing and realise our potential, is very apparent – but it isn’t a challenge we intend to shirk. A fly on the wall would tell you that any pressure we feel from the support-base at large is only half as great as the pressure we apply upon ourselves; such is the determination we have to accomplish this colossal development project.
 
Those of you who are registered on our database will have received an email asking you to complete a questionnaire relating to your habits in accessing Kenilworth Road on a matchday. It is important you complete this survey as it is the start of a bigger, broader and more detailed study of how we travel to games and what we do when we’re in or around the stadium. Thank you to the 2,500 of you who have completed the questionnaire so promptly, which is a fabulous response and for which we’re most grateful.
 
It is also important this survey is completed by as many of you as possible to establish accuracy. This is the start of our consultation with you, the Club’s supporters and key stakeholders, on all matters “relocation”. We, 2020, may be the legal owners taking custodianship of the Club during this important phase of its history, but you are the emotional owners; you ARE the Club and always shall be. Therefore, it is vital you take the opportunity to feed into the objective process which will ultimately drive the decisions where we move, what we build, when and how.
 
The first questionnaire is all about traffic behaviour. Others to follow, which will occur on a much more frequent basis from now, will consult you with regard to a variety of issues; collating objective data (such as traffic flow and spending) and subjective data (such as stadium location, expectations of the Club’s ambition and capacity) which will help us form a complete understanding of how to meet your desires.
 
Naturally, in due course, we shall also hold meetings with supporters’ groups and open forums to communicate our findings and progress. This will also present an opportunity to introduce you to the team of specialists and consultants who have been working with me to deliver the project of, not just a new stadium for Luton Town but also a scheme that the whole of Luton should be proud of.
 
This operational group, (not insignificant in size or cost, I should add) includes senior representatives from first class firms and encompasses specialities of project management, planning, architecture, engineering, valuation surveying, quantity surveying, technical surveying and economic viability consulting, not to mention legal and financial specialities. All are now are fully cognisant on our objectives and the local landscape, focused on delivery.
 
Of course, nothing could be achieved without the support of senior members and officers at Luton Borough Council, whom have been immensely helpful – which we hope and trust will continue and for which we are extremely grateful.
 
If, for some reason, you haven’t received a questionnaire via email, please make sure you let us know, either by dropping into the Club, our Mall shop or by emailing us at info@lutontown.co.uk. For those without email, we shall be also conducting a face-to-face survey at one or more future games.
 
But back to matters on the pitch and today’s match. Get behind the team, sing up, and sing loud and proud. Come on you Hatters!

Gary


Limited copies of our 14th issue of Talk of the Town are on sale in our two club shops priced £3.

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