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PORTSMOUTH PROGRAMME NOTES: FROM THE BOARDROOM WITH GARY SWEET

7 November 2017

These programme notes were written by Chief Executive Gary Sweet for last Saturday's edition of This Is Our Town, when we took on Portsmouth in the first round of the Emirates FA Cup.

A warm welcome back to Kenilworth Road to our League One opposition today; to their supporters, officials, staff and players for what promises to be a big occasion and an exciting game.

I'm especially looking forward to catching up with Mark Catlin and Tony Brown today – Pompey's CEO and FD, respectively. Two decent football guys who have become friends over recent times, and who have steadied their ship in not a dissimilar way to us over recent years, as they fell on challenging times.

Pompey's recent story is an interesting and, in some ways, a familiar one. Their supporters' trust wrestled custodianship of their Club from the series of poor and selfindulgent operators preceding them. They are subsequently being faced with a huge moral dilemma – whether to relinquish control to a new ownership model in the form of Mr Eisner, or whether to test itself in an attempt to become the highest placed English trust-owned Club.

It's a thought-provoking predicament for any supporter. Particularly one with our history of apparently unwittingly attracting unhealthy (and unwealthy in some cases) owners who we, as supporters, rely on to stabilise our respective Club's finances, create a befitting and representative culture of our communities, and deliver the ambition we all expect (or not, as the case has often been proved!).

Retaining control within a supporter-based ownership model may allow you to retain a greater sense of attachment and pride but will – more often than not – place a ceiling on the Club's footballing ambitions. Whilst, on the other hand, allowing a relatively random, more fiscally mobile individual or company to take the reins introduces risks which could result in a distancing of your emotional relationship with the Club you love and belong to, amidst its aim to climb the pyramid hunting for success, whatever that may look like.

It's a question that is very relevant to our current position as we continue to seek greater stability in a new home and look at the even longer term future for Luton Town. Indeed, it is a question we should all ask ourselves; from our board members through to supporters.

I'm sure it won't have gone unnoticed to many that the rapidly changing nature and increasing industrialisation of the football business – led by higher risk ownership models – means the challenge of breaking through the leagues (without taking a high-risk gamble) is becoming more difficult year on year. It's a challenge we're determined to meet and ever eager to try to unravel in a way that doesn't mean 2020 selling up or taking such risks that compromise who and what we are!

The Pompey Supporters' Trust themselves voted on its Club's future direction – which was exactly the right way for them to decide – and opted to welcome the Eisner family into its fold. I have faith in their ability to make the right choice and wish them well, including Mr Eisner, in their quest – and genuinely hope they are successful. Most importantly, as too many of our fantastic football clubs sell their souls to compete at the highest level, I hope the culture and spirit of the Club is retained and evolves in the right manner; as their supporters wish it to be.

Talking of loyalty, it was fabulous to be a part of Loyal Luton Supporters' Club's reunion for the late (and great) Bob Bates in the Eric at last week's Coventry game. After a disappointing result the buoyant spirit in the room was simply astounding and so positive, showing that there is more to life than the misery of defeat, occasionally. A massive thanks to all who organised it and attended.

Of course, the big question on everyone's lips was surrounding our progress on Power Court and Newlands Park. We're now in our 16th month of having our applications reviewed by Luton Council and the delay in seeing a determination is a real frustration for us, naturally, as it will be for you; especially as we see other largescale applications submitted and determined within this period.

However, it has been necessary for the Council to ensure that our applications have been reviewed more than robustly to avoid a successful challenge from those parties who seem happy for Luton to stagnate. I can report that after being asked to jump high hurdles we are in the final throes of the process and still hope to hear of a successful determination by the end of the calendar year.

Thank you for your patience on this vital development.

Meanwhile, aside from fending off further incursions of travellers onto our Power Court site all week, by the time you read this our new car parks on site should be finished and ready for public use. Usage of the site is important to us – we could never understand why more hasn't been done to bring some life to Power Court, even if it is temporary (until we start constructing more permanent and exciting features, of course!).

As of next week we will have around 500 car park spaces available for use on a newly laid and illuminated surface for town centre users. RCP will be our operating partner on a day-to-day basis and introductory charges will start at just 50p per hour and £4 per day. Please use it when you can as all income will go towards the stadium development.

Hopefully, further developments will continue to unlock Power Court in the short term too, so keep your eyes peeled. The more activity we put on site the less it will be seen as an eyesore.

Meanwhile, on the football front, when the FA Cup gets going you know the season is fully underway. I'm sure most of you will be happy with our progress so far. Having had a good run, scoring goals for fun and a handful of clean sheets it's crucial, after a disappointing single point from the last two games, that we use these two cup games as a springboard for the start of another League run. A good win at Wimbledon with a young team set us up nicely for today's more serious battle.

Recent games against Pompey haven't quite gone our way, despite playing well in most, so today is a great chance to set that record straight too. Enjoy the game and make your voices heard today so we're in the hat for Monday's second round draw!

COYH!


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