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Club News

GARY SWEET'S BOARDROOM NOTES

29 September 2014

Read the chief executive notes that appeared in Saturday's programme

Well, what a fantastic last fortnight we’ve enjoyed since we were last at Kenilworth Road!
 
After seven points and not a single goal conceded from the past three matches, it gives me great pleasure in welcoming you all back here to our spiritual home for this eagerly-anticipated League 2 clash against Oxford United.

It gives me particular satisfaction to welcome the directors, staff, supporters, players and management of our visitors from the Kassam Stadium today. We are two clubs which share a similar history; who have endured the agony of Football League exile, but the exhalation of lifting a major trophy in the League Cup final.

During our time in the Conference we were often reminded of Oxford’s struggles to recapture their League status, and their return – the season we first suffered that gut-wrenching experience of losing in the Play-Offs – only served us to continue to strive for that similar feeling, which we gratefully and delightfully experienced last term.

Similarly, on the pitch this season, both ourselves and our visitors have overcome difficult starts to the campaign and will be defending small but gratifying unbeaten sequences here this afternoon.

Having achieved that one promotion that, without question, provides more security to the Club than any other – getting back into the Football League – many supporters are asking what our plans and ambitions are now.

On the pitch our plans, long and short term, are prospering. From the first team to the development squad, the youth team and not forgetting those out on loan, we are in the best possible, and in certainly the most envious hands of other clubs, with John Still and his staff at the helm.

Off the field, meanwhile, we remain committed to improving all aspects of the business and on that note, I'm delighted to announce one example of the delivery of these plans by welcoming a new member of staff to Kenilworth Road in June Walsh, who joined us two weeks ago to head up our retail and merchandising operations. June has a wealth of experience in sports retail and marketing with over a decade of knowledge from working with Premier League football and rugby clubs.

June’s arrival coincides with a rather exciting development that we will be opening a brand new club shop in the Mall in Luton town centre next month. The outlet, which will be adjacent to the Body Shop, and just around the corner from Marks & Spencers, is due to open its doors on 11th October.

Having successfully trialled the use of retail stalls in the shopping centre before (at Christmas, and in the lead-up to Play-Off finals, and such like) we have always believed that a permanent presence in the centre of Luton was of huge importance and a necessity, especially to supporters who cannot always make the trip up to Kenilworth Road during their short, midweek lunch breaks!

Not only will you be able to pick-up merchandise from this new store but also tickets too, and we’ll be communicating further details of the new shop’s open date online, so please do keep your eyes peeled.

Of course the mammoth item on the big ‘to-do’ list, one which is on everyone's lips, is the new stadium.
 
I’ve mentioned previously that a large share of my time, along with other directors and consultants, has been shifted onto this project as it dominates our focus of attention.
 
When we’re approached by supporters we are greatly encouraged by the passion of your appeals to renovate or relocate. It’s a move which we understand would attract more support and push the Club on to the next level.
 
I happily welcome that enthusiasm and pressure as we share your eagerness – a new stadium for Luton Town would certainly heighten the ceiling of our ambitions. Quite simply, we would prefer not to remain a Club probably requiring an operating loss (covered by benevolent investors) merely to survive in the lower leagues with little hope of competing at the highest level.
 
Having said that – and while reassuring you that we are and will continue to be doing everything in our powers to achieve our common aims – I would ask you to please understand that we are unable to discuss the project in any detail at this stage. As I’m sure you all realise, everyone involved in the project is fully obliged to adhere to strict commercial confidentiality in order to make progress. Any disclosure of commercially confidential information would be unprofessional, and could well be damaging to our ambitions.
 
Supporters groups are being consulted with some aspects of our progress, just to ensure that we’re in tune with our fans want (and don’t forget we, too, are all supporters!) We know that any such scheme won’t please everybody – no development does, there are always objections – but supporter group consultation should ensure that your voice is heard and that you’ll be happy with the potential end result. Should we progress further down the line, we’ll of course be happy to consult more widely in connection with the personalisation and other aspects of the project.
 
Our relationships with the councils are in good health and blossoming, though we acknowledge that there’s still work to be done on both sides to understand the massive benefits a thriving Luton Town in a new stadium can bring to the broader community.
 
It is important to understand that the challenge ahead is no less than gargantuan. If relocation was easy to deliver, it would have been delivered on one of the numerous occasions it had been attempted since first being mentioned in 1957. We share your frustrations! Without doubt, it is far more difficult to achieve today than it ever has been with the global economy still in recession, less land being available within the desired boundaries and less grant assistance being made available to us.
 
To accomplish a modest relocation could cost well in excess of £50 million with a good proportion of this cost needing to be laid out before we know for certain the project can be delivered. I’m sure you’ll forgive us if we admit to not being able to fund £50 million as investors of the Club, so the objective would be to ensure that the delivery of the stadium is met with facilitating development works – which makes the task even more complex.
 
While we’ve been working tirelessly to reach some of the key initial milestones, the scheme will need to be planned, which will take some time alone. The stadium and surrounding areas need to be designed – at which point everyone; from town planner to young supporter, will be able to see what the end result will look like. Relevant permissions will need to be granted (hopefully) and then building commenced. 2020 is still very much in focus but this is inevitably subject to decisions, influences and obstacles outside of our control.
 
Meanwhile, we would please ask for your patience and for you to have faith in us to get the job done. We are keen to grasp the opportunity that we’re working so hard for. But this is a project which cannot be rushed in any way – especially when too many examples of other clubs’ poor relocations are obvious for all to see. We are determined to do it, and do it right.

There’s never been a more exciting time to be involved with this club of ours. Remember, your passion from our loveable, aging stands is shared in the boardroom, by the manager and his staff, by those in the offices and by the players on the pitch.

Enjoy your day!

#COYH

Gary.

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