Supporters of Luton Youth Development (SoLYD) is to be entrusted to the Luton Town Supporters’ Trust to help reinvigorate what has been a fantastic fundraiser for the Hatters’ youth academy in the last decade.
SoLYD has played a huge role in the continued development of the academy and youth players since 2009, donating over £100,000 since the club went into the Conference and began climbing back up the leagues.
Funding from the league was halved from £180,000 in League Two following relegation, before being reduced to nothing after two years in Non-League.
Supporters signed up to donate monthly via direct debit and over the years, money was raised via race nights, summer BBQs at the Bricklayers Arms, quiz nights, tending the bar at Venue Central 2 and a SoLYD beer amongst many other things.
When budgets were really stretched during the Conference years, SoLYD stepped in and funded three part-time coaches for a season. On another occasion, goal posts and other essential equipment was paid for by the generosity of the supporters.
SoLYD was launched and has been run by a group of volunteers – Kevin Barrett, Yvonne Fletcher, Gill Hicks Helen Gatward, Simon Gibbs, Paul King and Ben Terrett – but hope that by entrusting the running of SoLYD to the Supporters’ Trust, it will give it a big boost coverage wise in the future.
Town’s academy manager Andy Awford has watched the academy benefit from the link and hopes to see it continue for a long time, having seen the funding help youth players flourish.
He said: “Since I have been at the club, SoLYD has contributed to various different things that we have tried to do to improve the academy. I remember the FA Youth Cup run a couple of years ago, where we asked SoLYD for a little bit of help with overnight stays and hotels and things like that.
“SoLYD has become a place where I can go as an academy manager, to try and get funds for things that are outside of the box. The club have been on a stable footing for a while now and obviously provides the level of support that the academy needs to function well on a daily basis.
“But there are the odd things that are ‘nice to haves’ as we all know. So there are certain things that I pick up the phone to SoLYD for and I ask for and they have been absolutely fantastic over the years in doing that.
“The best part about it is that it all comes from our supporters – all the money they donate is ringfenced. So they are directly making a big impact on the academy. James Justin has come through the academy recently and other lads have gone on to other football clubs.
“The academy has always thrived, long before I was here. It’s something that we are trying to continue. SoLYD needs a reignition in the right direction and the right way and that’s what the Trust are trying to do, they’ve been fantastic. They’re taking it under their wing and I am sure it will go from strength-to-strength. We want supporters to know SoLYD is still very much an important part of the academy, it’s a key element to the success we have had in recent years.”
The £100,000 mark was topped during our promotion winning season of 2018/19, with LTST Chairman Tony Murray praising the fantastic work SoLYD have done for an academy that has historically produced fantastic talent.
Murray said: “SoLYD is a good fit with the trust. It has been incredibly worthwhile and has run for quite a while. It has helped to provide a lot of extra equipment for the youth team and the players individually and it’s something we want to see continue and progress. Being a part of the LTST will give it that little more scope. It’s a great way for the Trust to help support youth development at the club.
“If you look at the history of Luton Town, we have always produced young, exciting talent. It’s something that Luton is renowned for and something that we want to continue. When the club was relegated to the conference, funding stopped for the academy, and it was absolutely vital to the club and the future development that it kept going in some way, shape or form.”
If you would like to contribute to SoLYD or join the Supporters' Trust, please get in contact with Tony Murray, which you can do by clicking here.