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Club News

From The Boardroom | Sheffield United

28 August 2022

Club News

From The Boardroom | Sheffield United

28 August 2022

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Hatters CEO Gary Sweet penned the boardroom notes for the Sheffield United edition of 'Our Town'. Have a read of them here...

Good evening one and all and welcome to Kenilworth Road for another exciting game in the Championship.

It doesn’t get much better than two of the previous season’s play-off competitors meeting early on in the following campaign, and that’s what we have here under the lights tonight.

Sheffield United arrive as league leaders after their impressive start, having overcome the disappointment we both shared of being beaten at the semi-final stage with the Premier League in sight.

We welcome the players, officials and, most importantly, the supporters who have made the 254-mile round trip from Bramall Lane, as well as the Sky Sports cameras for the first time this season and wish everyone a safe and swift journey back up the M1.

Anyone who has watched our opening matches knows that, aside from one poor performance and despite a couple of early defeats, we haven’t been playing badly at all and can consider ourselves somewhat unlucky that we haven’t yielded an additional two, three or even four points.

After three solid seasons of progress in the Championship it finally appears that we’ve been fully accepted by our counterparts. Some teams now visit Kenilworth Road paying us respect, setting up defensively, sitting behind the ball and even time-wasting ten minutes in. Whilst we have to adapt to this slightly surprising challenge, it’s great to see we’ve come of age and face a very familiar challenge – of having to cope with the same tactical conundrum as we’ve risen via three lower leagues.

Now we are off and running following a third win in four years at Swansea, there is a real sense of anticipation ahead of this one tonight. Our excellent win in West Glamorgan came about by every one of the 14 contributing players remembering the character that makes us competitive and performances such as that make every Hatter a proud Hatter.

We can all be guilty of raising our expectations, myself included, especially after so many seasons of relentless evolution. It wasn’t so long ago we were considered as a top-dog and now we’re underdogs punching well above our financial weight. Whilst that shouldn’t halt our ambitious sights, we should all take a step back and humbly remember where we’ve recently risen from and how much more difficult the job becomes the higher-up we climb.

From player to fan; from manager to kitman; from steward to director; we are all the same team here at Luton. Let’s put ambition above expectation and pull together respectfully.

I mention this whilst having to cope with a few policing and stewarding issues so far this season, which we are now fully aware of. You won’t be blind to the fact that these post-covid times are presenting new challenges to us all with new laws being implemented, new compliance rules, a huge churn in stewarding staff and the continued process of training still being conducted. All of this has led to a sub-standard operation, as far as I am concerned and for which I apologise.

We can and will correct the more obvious issues immediately and will work at getting back to ‘being us’ (as the players have brilliantly demonstrated). However, given that we’re all on the same side, I would urge for some patience and tolerance while we correct these management matters.

Unfortunately, we have witnessed a slight increase in a certain misbehaviour, which must be strictly dealt with when it occurs. So, may I ask everyone to politely respect each other, our stewards and staff, the players and even respect the banter with the opposition, and if we can do that we will all be hugely thankful.

With so many societal challenges we’ve had to endure and continue to witness, let’s make Kenilworth Road a haven from those frustrations without adding to them and I promise, we’ll contribute our part in that.

It hasn’t gone unnoticed that many supporters are waiting anxiously on news of Power Court’s progress and, as these are my first notes of the season, I can bring you up to speed.

Most importantly, I can confirm we are absolutely pressing forward with our new stadium as quickly as we possibly can. In these times, with the widespread challenges we have and continue to face, it is never going to be a quick and easy project to manage.

Arguably, if a paid economic or political specialist could possibly pick the worst decade to carry out the task of planning and building a new stadium and regenerating a town centre, without the need of a contribution from the public purse, it would certainly be the ten-year period from our outline submission.

The wide-ranging, unprecedented obstacles we have in front of us – escalating materials costs, supply chain delays, labour shortage, interest rate rises, energy shortages – have certainly tested our resolve and most would have given up by now. But as long as we can avoid any further unforeseen major catastrophes, we will be submitting a detailed planning permission this Autumn.

Admittedly, this is later than we wanted and later than I’ve previously indicated. There have been issues completely outside of our control that have mainly led to this delay. Additionally, we have needed to complete another re-design of the stadium and infrastructure, which has taken time, to save some cost, navigate our way around wildly erratic material pricing, carbon reduction compliance and the phasing of the build.

The first major step towards seeing proper activity on Power Court is the moving of the sub-station and I can confirm that after a prolonged period of negotiation and design we have just handed UKPN with a multi-million-pound binding commitment to start that process to their earliest schedule.

To assist with this, ground works in certain areas will commence when our detailed application is being considered and we have just started to engage informally with potential contractors. Once again, I am making a plea for patience and understanding given that the programme of works will be a long one which also has to deal with the River Lea opening and a huge ground levelling schedule.

All of this will naturally require the support from the Council, our neighbours and those important statutory consultees, which, of course, we are currently progressing.

Meanwhile, I’ll continue to provide updates as we progress.

On the topic of building football stadia. Today is a very special day – it’s the 100th anniversary of the official opening of our wonderful Main Stand. Our club historian Roger Wash has written in detail further on in this programme about how the stand came to be here, as a result of a fire that burnt the old one to the ground in March 1922.

Interestingly there was no F and G Block until promotion to our current level was secured (what a quiet place it must have been until 1937!) and the new stand cost a mere £8,227 – the equivalent of just £500,000 today. And you’ll also note how quickly it was built – two months from start to finish.

Oh, how I wish we could work with that budget and those timescales for Power Court. By stark contrast, the West Stand won’t be far off multiplying the cost by a century and the timescale by well over tenfold.

Finally, a joyous journey home from south Wales last Saturday was dampened when we discovered the sad news that Mat Westwood had passed away at the age of 35. It was a real highlight of the opening day to have Mat and his family here for the Birmingham match, with his son Alfie as mascot. As you did that day, please join in a minute’s applause in the 35th minute to pay tribute to Mat’s tragically short life.

Mat really was one of us, working in the ticket office as a young man, and watching his team from Box 8 in recent seasons as his illness took hold. His dad Mel would like to thank every supporter here for the Luton love they have shown Mat and his family, and he hopes to so personally at half-time tonight.

Do Mat proud with your tribute, let’s give him the kind of send off he deserves and hopefully we’ll be able to dedicate a second successive win to him tonight.

Enjoy the game and Come on you Hatters!



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