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GARY SWEET | "THIS IS AN UNPRECEDENTED SITUATION"

All elite football fixtures have been postponed until at least 3rd April

14 March 2020

Hatters chief executive Gary Sweet described the current postponement of all EFL fixtures as ‘an unprecedented situation’, following on from the governing body’s statement yesterday.

All elite football across the country has been postponed until at least Friday 3rd April, with tomorrow’s game against Preston North End the first fixture the Town will miss in the upcoming period.

The constantly developing situation is expected to have both a profound knock-on effect on football as well as the economy – with Sweet expecting clubs, including the Hatters, to have some form of cash flow problems.

Conducting interviews with both BBC Look East and Sky Sports News in the Kenilworth Road boardroom yesterday, Sweet said: “We’re dealing with an unprecedented situation and we’re all learning every minute of the day, but we know this is going to be pretty catastrophic, not just for football, but for the global economy and certainly here locally in Luton too.

“For ourselves personally, Luton Town, we’re in a good financial position but, despite that we’re going to suffer from the lack of income from the next few games and whatever might ensue afterwards.

“For the last three weeks this situation has pretty much been the dominating thing. This week it’s been pretty much every minute of my day and everybody else’s day.

“We have just been to the training ground and spoken to the players, the staff, speaking about training regimes going forward, to the players about their behaviour going forward and things they should do and shouldn’t do, which we started doing some time ago.

“If such a situation as this continues then obviously we are going to have cashflow problems, I am sure we will have some cash flow problems to face, but that’s something we have to deal with between now and then. But currently it gives us the opportunity to improve the things we always wanted to improve.

“We actually invoked a few policies over a week ago which have stood us in good stead. We have got no symptoms [of the virus] at the training ground at the moment, so we’ve got a good environment; a good, clean environment that will continue over the next week in terms of training.

“But before the announcement was made this morning, we were having meetings about what action we should take for tomorrow’s what was ‘business as usual’ football game. We didn’t feel comfortable with the game going ahead and we were taking actions with the Football League.

“There are Football League clubs that have issues and we heard about Callum Hudson-Odoi this morning, who had already been in isolation for three days, so how many clubs are in that position? I think there are a number.

“But this is an impossible situation for everyone including the Football League. It’s a really difficult position and you could argue that no decision they make is the right one.

"There is always going to be somebody that it affects and I think for that reason we have to look at this as individuals, as members of the public, the population, the supporters and think of this as being much bigger than football and have some patience and have a little bit of compliance with the decision that clubs make.”

Along with a lot of other EFL clubs, the Hatters are encouraging their staff to work from home where possible, but for some this isn’t possible.

“I think there’s a physical shut-down,” the chief executive continued. “There’s still things here that need to go ahead, for example Dickie our head groundsman, can’t really mow the stadium pitch from home, so somebody has to be here.

“There is also this community, that we are affectively leaders of and we want to keep that community entertained and connected. We will try and continue to do that whilst people are in isolation.”

Going forward, Sweet explained that in the club’s view, continuing the season behind closed doors to ensure that the season finishes as close to the planned final day as possible, with contracts and other situations possibly throwing a spanner in the works further down the line.

“In our view, the least-worst option is to play the season behind closed doors and get the season done as quickly as possible – that’s our view.

“Our view is that because we don’t want a void season, regardless of what the outcome is, this issue is bigger than Luton’s position in the pyramid. We want players to play.

“We want the season to be over and I think any suspension or deferral creates a whole load of new problems – player contracts, transfer windows, Euro 2020. So I really can't see that being a workable solution when you have got to take into consideration it’s a 10-14 week period before the virus peaks.”


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