These programme notes were written by Hatters director Stephen Browne for the Derby County edition of Our Town.
Good evening everyone and welcome to this rearranged Championship game due to Derby County getting through to the next round of the Cup last Saturday.
We welcome our guests today – Phillip Cocu and his staff and players, and the Derby County fans who will no doubt make their voices heard. I know you will too, to welcome home one of our own, Curtis Davies, whose top level career we have followed with pride since he came through our academy before being sold to West Brom in 2005.
And of course, Jack Marriott, who flourished here as a young striker after being let go by Ipswich. Both players served us so well and deserve the respect I know you’ll show them tonight. As ever, we have so much anticipation about a huge game under floodlights and we just know the atmosphere will be electric – remember the corresponding fixture last year was Portsmouth!
We also offer a huge welcome to Peter Kioso (Pelly’s cousin!) who joined us last week from Hartlepool United. He’s a young, hungry, and versatile defender, previously at Dunstable Town, and a really exciting prospect that will not only play his part this season, but will also go on to get better and better. We wish Peter all the best.
It was the four-year anniversary for our Club Captain Alan Sheehan last week. Alan has played a huge role, especially in our promotion seasons. On the pitch he has given us moments to savour, but also off the pitch he has been an enormous influence on new arrivals and younger lads feeling their way. Thank you Alan for all you have done for us.
It’s that time of the season when a variety of clubs lose track of their senses and we enter the wild west that is the transfer window. However you look at it – anecdotally, statistically or disruption-wise – it’s simply not a window that yields rewards for most. For a number of reasons – panic buys where objectives are compromised; the time it can take for players to settle and contribute; rushed and unplanned recruiting focussed on the short term rather than the long term.
As a Board, we want to develop and encourage talent from a young age. Players like Pelly, JJ and Andre are obvious examples, but we also have the academy group that came through just after we got the academy on an even keel, and they are just one or two years away from breaking through. And below that age group in the academy we have some really exciting prospects.
As is well known, we control our budgets very tightly and we will not make knee-jerk reactions. We prefer to ‘buy rather than rent’ because we want to develop our talent for Luton’s reward, not another club. There has been some worry that if we end up in League One next season, we will struggle, financially. The simple fact is that by the way we operate, despite a fall in broadcast income, it is not the case at all. Financially, we will remain stable so there is nothing to worry about wherever we are plying our trade (and it also makes zilch difference to our stadium progress).
Transfer fees are being talked about that makes the eyes water. Some of this is bravado – indeed some clubs need to sell assets in order to meet the Financial Fair Play rules, that you’ll read about in the news at the moment. This unjustly increases the cost of all players down the ladder.
However, it is highly unlikely that those clubs that are comfortable with huge debts and wages that exceed their income season after season will curb their habits without some sort of action.
No one at Luton Town thinks that there should be any sort of ‘level playing field’. The simple fact is that some clubs get higher attendances, can do better commercial deals, or have an appeal that can generate income. Those clubs – which hopefully will include us in the not too distant future – should be able to spend those extra funds on footballing ambition. That means that some clubs will always have more income, and thereby greater spending power, than others.
In fact, as a club where the heart of our culture is winning against the odds, punching above our weight, the underdog that succeeds, we have no problem with a degree of disparity in spending levels according to a club’s natural size. We’re confident we can punch above our weight under these circumstances.
What we think breaks the integrity of the game is when values are inflated by clubs spending beyond their regular means, taking it away from being a sporting endeavour towards a competition of brute financial muscle.
We acknowledge that there are clubs in this league and even below who are naturally able to pay double what we would consider sustainably prudent.
That is fine and we are happy to compete by doing it the ‘Luton Way’. Sadly, we cannot compete against wage bills that are ten or 15 times bigger than ours and much bigger squads or multi-million pound benches – values that are simply unsustainable for the club’s natural resting position.
If this skewed situation the game finds itself in continues it will kill football as we know it.
Indeed we are already witnessing it as certain clubs self-combust under impudence – à la Bury or Bolton – but what about those that are following the rules? A senior director of a fellow Championship club remarked recently that a club that disrespects the rules or integrity of the game causes innocent clubs massive issues because supporters become naturally concerned, which will then affect attendances as they become falsely uncompetitive and create false expectations. As it stands innocent clubs that adhere to the rules and integrity are being punished.
More and more clubs are on the brink, bending the rules, or completely reliant on one person for its financial clout. In some cases fans are literally losing their clubs as facilities are sold off in questionable fashion in a final attempt to chase a mythical dream.
Owners like this are seen in the short term as ambitious and wonderful, but how often have we seen it go sour? Ask Saracens supporters! The Football League has a Golden Share in every member club, so it’s time for them to step up to the plate, use the rules to stop this madness, and protect the integrity of the game. Support supporters.
Enjoy the game!
Come on, give that extra ten per cent as you always do and sing up for the BOYS!