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FROM THE BOARDROOM: GARY SWEET'S IPSWICH NOTES

Chief executive's programme notes from Tuesday night

10 August 2017

The following 'From The Boardroom' notes from chief executive Gary Sweet appeared in the programme for Tuesday night's Carabao Cup first round tie against Ipswich Town...

Wow! What a summer that was! So much for calling it a break!

I’ll be happy once the transfer window closes so we can have a break and move forwards into the season without the uncertainty surrounding the stability of the squad.

As I warmly welcome Ipswich – their players, staff, directors and, most importantly their supporters – to tonight’s exciting Carabao Cup tie, my attentions are turned towards yet another summer of restructure on and off the pitch.

This is my first chance to welcome our seven new permanent signings; Marek, Alan, Jack, Elliot, Harry and the two James’, plus Andrew Shinnie on loan from Birmingham City. I am sure you were all more than impressed with the contribution made by all on Saturday with no fewer than five of our eight goals coming from players making their debuts (or re-debuts, in Elliott’s case). It was a great way to start the new season – to be the team everyone was talking about over the weekend and to be featured so heavily in the media – let’s hope for more of the same throughout the season ahead, but it’s vitally important we do not get ahead of ourselves.

As well as those eight new players we were also pleased to award Kavan Cotter his first professional contract and to agree extended deals with several existing players including Dan, James Justin and Pelly, all of which adds to the strength and stability within Nathan’s squad.

Inevitably, we have said goodbye to players who have moved on – some having provided some great memories during their time with us. Cam, Smudge, Jack, Stephen, Jake, Craig, Danny and Zane all played their part over the course of the last few seasons and I would like to thank them for their contribution and wish them well at their respective new clubs.

I cannot also fail to mention Craig King’s departure from Kenilworth Road. Craig had been with us for nine years and we offered him a new contract for this current season. However, bravely, he took a big personal decision to step away from professional football, publicly declaring his problems with depression and his desire to try and enjoy his life again. I really respect him for his choice and wish him well in his life away from Luton Town – we hope to see him back here as a fan during the season.

There has been some comment about why we do not announce transfer fees paid or received with ‘undisclosed’ sums being given for each transaction. Technically, it is against EFL rules to disclose transfer fees, but more importantly it is about doing what is best for Luton Town Football Club. Not only should we never wish to give other clubs a clear picture of our financial capability, but the complexity of transaction in the way we structure them doesn’t allow for a single figure to be meaningful at all.

To example this, if we are seeking to buy a player the day after bragging about receiving £1m for the transfer of one of our players from another club, the fee of any incoming player we are then looking at then inflates significantly. Additionally, it can be possible that a transfer with a ‘published’ initial fee of £100,000 could be worth more to us than another transfer published at £1m.

That said, as an assurance, we are very pleased with our business this summer so far and you can be proud to learn that any excess in transfer fees received over fees paid will be re-invested towards our overriding aim to win promotion this season and our football ambitions longer-term.

Hopefully you will believe, as we do, that we have improved the overall quality of the squad and, not only that, we continue to support Nathan and his staff with the best of equipment, facilities and technology behind the scenes, seeking to achieve those marginal gains which, when added together do improve our chances.

And I would also like to address some commentators who have labelled us as ‘big spenders’ splashing the cash to buy promotion. I am pleased to say that after our busy transfer window, so far, our overall monthly player wage bill has reduced from the end of last season; we are operating with fewer professional players; we have received more transfer fees than we have expended; and we have negotiated better future contingent payments and sell-on fees than we have offered.

Away from football the summer months have seen the usual hive of activity around the stadium and training ground. Pitches have been relaid; walls have been painted; sterling work has continued at The Brache and Ely Way; and commercially the summer months are traditionally the busiest time of the year.

I would like to thank our Main Sponsor, SsangYong, for their continued support as they enter their second season as our shirt sponsor. We enjoyed our first season with them and hope that they too enjoyed the relationship with their local club and the extra exposure four live televised matches brought them. In fact, I should thank all our sponsors for their continuing support – I can assure them that it very much appreciated.

Many of you will have seen and may already have joined LutonLotto, and for those of you who have not yet done so, then I urge you to join. It is a fantastic way to support our Academy and help us continue to develop young local talent – all of the proceeds from this fantastic scheme will go straight to Andy Awford’s budget and you have the chance to win some serious prize money too. Give it a try – visit lutontownlotto.com

Season ticket sales are currently running ahead of last season’s figures and only a handful short of last season’s final tally, which included all sales up to Christmas – your support is vital and we will never take it for granted. Other clubs in our division are envious of both the quantity and quality of our support. Not only are you very sensible people (if Saturday was anything to go by) but you can and do make the difference – thank you from all the Board for your faith and unswerving support.

In the Boardroom, you will all have seen by now that Nick Owen has stepped down from his role as non-executive Chairman after nine years. Nick has been fantastic for Luton Town Football Club 2020 Ltd since we took over, providing a familiar and reassuring profile for the club during what was an incredibly difficult period in our history. His contribution has been immense and whilst he is no longer Chairman, he has become a Vice-President and we will still see him at Kenilworth Road on a regular basis.

At the same time we have taken the opportunity to fully recognise the long-time support of Richard Banks and he has taken up the title of Life Vice-President. Richard, a former long-standing Director of the club, has been unstinting in his support since 2020 took over in 2008, and the Board felt it only correct that his efforts should be recognised in this way. On a personal level, I have greatly appreciated the sage advice and generosity offered to me and others during this time.

We are also delighted to announce that Ben and Emma Banks have become Vice-Presidents, further enhancing the Banks family presence in the Boardroom. Both Ben and Emma have been visiting Kenilworth Road with Richard since they were children and it’s a pleasure to be able to add their immense commercial capability to our extended list of advisors.

With such a wealth of knowledge, experience and capability we now have in our boardroom on a matchday we’ll look to provide more of an insight into the people who are vice presidents and what their ambassadorial functions include in future programmes.

Our planning applications remain with Luton Borough Council and we are patiently awaiting what we all hope will be a positive determination over the course of the next two or three months. We were requested to supply some additional information regarding certain aspects of the application at the back end of last season – which we duly supplied – and the Planning Officer is currently writing his report to present to the full committee. It is hard to be patient, but we have no choice and if we do receive a positive determination, whenever that may be, then we can all look forward to truly exciting times for Luton Town.

I was asked to attend a Supporters Trust event back in June and the overwhelming message sent from fans to Capital & Regional (Operators of the Mall) who were in attendance was very loud and very clear. The event was broadcast by BBC Three Counties Radio and the clamour for a removal of the Mall’s objections was made eloquently by our two MPs, Gavin Shuker and Kelvin Hopkins, by senior members of Luton Borough Council, local residents and also by supporters themselves. I was pleased to be able to attend and contribute – it made me proud to be a Lutonian to see everyone, well nearly everyone, united in such a common and common-sense cause.

Looking forward to tonight and beyond, we have achieved some excellent League Cup results in recent seasons and hopefully we will be in Thursday night’s draw for the second round by beating the Tractor Boys. Thank you for your support if you’ve travelled from the east and let’s hope you all contribute to a spectacle this evening.

Clearly, as you would all wish, our aim for the season is simply to win promotion to League One and we will do everything in our power to achieve exactly that. But cup success is always welcome and any financial benefits from such success adds further to the pot in support of our primary objective – promotion!

Enjoy the game – COYH!

 


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