Our new finance director's notes from Doncaster
This latest 'From The Boardroom' dispatch from Saturday's matchday programme comes from Simon Gibb, who joined the Town this summer as Finance Director...
Good afternoon everyone and welcome to Kenilworth Road for the visit of Doncaster Rovers for our League Two encounter.
We welcome everyone who has travelled south with our opponents today, from the boardroom to the dressing room. I’m sure they will have journeyed in anticipation of adding to their recent run of six wins in seven matches, but we hope that we will be sitting level with them again on 16 points by the time the final whistle is blown.
I am a fairly recent arrival at Luton Town having joined the Club in May from Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) based at Lord’s Cricket Ground, where I was the Assistant Secretary (Finance) for 15 years.
The finances of a League Two football club relative to those of the most prestigious ground in cricket are of course vastly different and the relative upsides and downsides of the numbers, heavily driven by performance on the pitch and transfer income, make football a vibrant, and sometimes challenging, arena in which to work.
It is nice to return to Luton having worked previously in the town with Whitbread, one of the major employers in Luton at the time. Indeed I was there at the time when the old Brache recreation ground (partly now called Venue 360), opened for the exclusive use of employees of Vauxhall and Whitbread. It was slightly déjà vu then when one of my first jobs here was to pay for our lease and purchase of part of the site for our new training academy. Luton is also the nearest major town to where I have lived for many years and it is really exciting to feel I could do my part in creating a better future for both the town and this historical Club.
Since joining I have been very impressed with the people here. The Club has a very strong and visionary Chief Executive and existing Board, all of whom are die hard Luton fans. The Board, rightly, want to deliver the highest quality football team, facilities and support infrastructure to put us back in the top echelons of football but also, importantly, want the financial model on which these foundations are based to be a long term, sustainable, one. Given some of the history of the Club’s financial woes in the early 2000’s, that has to be the right approach!
You will all now be aware of the exciting plans we have for the Club in addition to the stadium and training facilities that will add huge enhancements to the town around the new stadium site (currently derelict), and Junction 10 (designated for development) with significant, good quality, residential, office, hotel, as well as shops, cafes, bars and restaurants and other leisure/community facilities, all of which are essential to support the new developments.
The combined impact of the proposals has been independently estimated at 10,000 additional jobs for the town and annual incremental revenue of £250m. They will, of course, also provide a significant funding contribution towards the construction of our new stadium and facilities, but importantly also a longer term guaranteed income stream for the club, making it immune from the financial implications of performances on the field. This should give us long term advantages over many of our rival clubs.
We still need your support though, so if you haven’t given your support to the council please do so in writing or electronically, and I would also please encourage you to talk to friends and neighbours about our plans and hopefully persuade them to sign up to support them too! With your help we can make the dream a reality!
As FD, it becomes my responsibility to assess risk – not the most interesting of topics to be discussing on a matchday, maybe! In this case, not only the risk of proceeding with these plans but also the risk, for whatever reason, of not proceeding. Frankly, the stark thought of this possibility is not something I want to consider.
Should these plans not be successful, resulting in Luton Town remaining at Kenilworth Road, from my perspective, the future would look very bleak – not just for the sporting ambitions of the football club but also for the finances of the football club. It would certainly cap our ability to climb the leagues. Our generous shareholders simply cannot be expected to continue to contribute millions to keep the club afloat and without a more aspirational destination at the end of it, who could honestly blame them?
However, we are all firmly focussed on succeeding with our applications and with over £2m now spent pulling together all the detailed and professional work that is being considered by the Council’s planning officers, we remain reasonably self-assured, as long as the public shows its unity and shows its support.
With all the excitement over the bigger vision and the additional costs related to a major planning application, it is also good to report that the Board have been keen to ensure we also continue to invest in enhancing our squad. Despite considerable interest and offers up to deadline day for both our senior and up and coming youth talent, we were able to resist these advances and strengthen further our squad and cover in key positions. This is essential if we are to sustain a promotion push to the end of the season. I hope this strong base provided by the Board, coupled with the commitment and passion of the squad and our young, talented manager and his hugely experienced support team including Paul Hart, Joaquin Gomez and Mick Harford, will provide the right mix to deliver success this season and in seasons to come.
We, as a Board, also believe passionately in the importance of bringing through young talent and the recent investment in new, high quality facilities at the Brache, can only enhance our already burgeoning reputation in this area and attract even more talent. Andy Awford and his team should be rightly proud of the youngsters they have produced that are now in or on the verge of the first team squad. Long may these successes continue!
Financially we are very grateful to our key sponsors and our long term hospitality and advertising clients, who continue to provide the club with vital funds. I have been really heartened and grateful since I joined to see so many businesses and individuals who have supported the Club in this way for many consecutive years. This has to bode well for our future plans.
Finally, as the finance side of the Club, I would like to say thanks to you, the fans. This Club has a phenomenal fan base with regular attendances over 8,000. Your support every week both through tickets, and also in the bars, food areas and the shop, give us the strong financial platform on which to support a strong squad in this league.
So with your help let’s cheer the boys on to victory today whilst looking forward to a hopefully successful season and an exciting future for the Club!
Come on the Hatters! Let’s make Luton proud!