Good evening and welcome one and all to Kenilworth Road for tonight’s match with old adversaries, Arsenal.
There will be many inside the ground for whom this fixture will be their first, yet over the course of our long and rich history, we have enjoyed many encounters against Arsenal. Supporters of an older generation will remember the times Arsenal were humbled; either here, like in our last league meeting in December 1991, or at Wembley, on our greatest of all days in 1988.
Today, the Gunners arrive top of the table and I wish warm greetings to our colleagues joining us from North London in the boardroom tonight, as well as the football staff who have worked wonders to give their fans a realistic hope of winning the Premier League title again.
Tonight then, we enter arguably the toughest pair of home fixtures in recent memory on the back of a wonderful home performance against Crystal Palace. After a steep learning curve, our home advantage really is starting to show where new players are feeling at home and our confidence is growing in front of an incredibly rapturous support.
Saturday’s defeat at Brentford, however, was somewhat disappointing in contrast. A very disciplined performance in the first half did exactly what it was intended to do only to be let down by a slow start to the second half. It’s evidently clear where we need to improve and the staff and lads will be working hard to improve in those areas.
Of course, as newcomers to this league, the mountain is very steep and it will take time for us to find our footing on our ascent. Stepping back to observe our progress so far, it has to be acknowledged that our development in our physical outputs, our performances and our self-belief is all very encouraging as we remain firmly focussed on the very specific apex we need to reach this season.
Naturally, we remain obsessed with picking up points, and felt Saturday was a missed opportunity, certainly ahead of this coming week. But there is no reason why we can’t sit here this time next week having accumulated more points than we have now, just as our home performance versus Liverpool proved.
At the end of the season, any new club surviving this league will have done so by picking up the odd point against opposition teams occupying the top five or six positions and our target shouldn’t be any different.
These past few weeks and months have been a very important time for English football, which will hopefully all become increasingly evident to all over the next month or so.
You should all know that after the government’s white paper and recent King’s speech, the new regulator for football will become a reality with a phased introduction through parliament over the next year to 18 months.
Opinions within the game on the impact of the regulator are unsurprisingly mixed, polarising between some believing football in their world shouldn’t require one, to a majority believing the football pyramid is becoming increasingly fragile without some form of overseeing authoritative protection.
Our view is that the involvement of a national regulator is a good thing as long as it doesn’t become intrusion, which appears to be how it is shaping up.
Any regulator should be structured to protect the fabric of the game, any licensing criterion for clubs to adhere to in order for them to gain future protection and to oversee a more potent owners and directors qualification for clubs where, frankly, the current football authorities have always been legally powerless.
However, the line between authoritative supervision and intrusion will be fine. The Premier League, the FA and the EFL must be permitted to run the game – its operations, its rules and its own finances.
To demonstrate to the regulator that football can keep its own house in order a renegotiation between those three football authorities in this country has been taking place over the last couple of years to restructure financial distributions together with controls to prevent overspending. This agreement, once executed, will pass more money down the leagues but with spending caps to ensure that all clubs should be more sustainable going forward.
This may appear to be a dry topic for some, but it is possibly the biggest structural reform to our national game since we voted in favour of a Premier League breakaway almost 33 years ago.
Once made public we will share more of our thoughts on the matter. In the meantime, with our own sustainable rise over the last few years, we will be well-positioned to take advantage of this transition, if managed carefully, to ensure that our progress continues soundly.
Turning attention back to tonight, this evening’s game forms part of the Premier League’s Rainbow Laces campaign, an initiative which is celebrating its ten year anniversary this season. It is important for us as a family club to make sure that Kenilworth Road and all of our club environments are those which feel welcome for anybody, and it’s why we stand proudly alongside Stonewell in promoting equality and diversity.
Football has the power to bring us together, but the actions of a minority can also make life unbearable for others. As you may have read, we were fined £120,000 by the Football Association and warned to our future conduct after we accepted a charge following abusive, offensive, homophobic and discriminatory chanting by our supporters at Brighton on the opening day of the season.
As we mentioned in our statement, we abhor abusive chanting and adopt a zero-tolerance policy towards discrimination of all kinds. It is not acceptable towards anyone in football or wider society, either in person or online, and it is sad that our determined efforts on the pitch have been overshadowed by a minute minority watching from the stands.
We have worked with supporters in recent seasons to help form the Rainbow Hatters supporters’ group for members of the LGBTQ+ community, who meet regularly to share their experiences of watching the Hatters, and you can read more about their work elsewhere in tonight’s programme.
Tonight promises to be a special occasion and I am sure will bring a raucous, old fashioned atmosphere – one rarely seen in the Premier League.
So join me in wishing Rob and the lads all the best and get ready to raise the roof and show the watching world what we’re all about for the right reasons.
Come on Luton!