Hatters chairman calls for supporters to show patience

Hatters chairman David Wilkinson with the League One trophy last season
Hatters chairman David Wilkinson with the League One trophy last season

Town chairman David Wilkinson has appealed for patience from supporters over matters on the pitch this season, after getting the final go-ahead for their plans off it last week.

On Monday, the High Court announced there would be no Judicial Review into the mixed use scheme at Newlands Park, after Mall owners Capital & Regional opted against challenging the original decision.

That now means that the Hatters can begin plans to build on that site, plus the new stadium at Power Court, as they look to finally move away from Kenilworth Road in the future.

With Town currently bottom of the Championship, after suffering their 18th defeat of the season when beaten 2-1 by Birmingham City on Saturday, they face a huge battle on their hands to stay in the second tier of English football.

Manager Graeme Jones was booed off at the full time whistle, but writing in his programme notes prior to the game, Wilkinson had hoped supporters would remain behind the boss and his players over the course of the campaign.

He said: “It can be argued that such progress (winning promotion) may have come too quickly and that we didn’t have time to adjust to the enormous and growing gap between League One and the Championship.

"However, we all know that momentum can carry you beyond your expectations.

We are Luton Town so we can’t expect an easy ride all the time, and I for one wouldn’t want one.

“Gary (Sweet) asked for patience regarding the stadium and associated developments and I, on behalf of the board, ask the same for football.

“We are all fans, mostly Lutonians, and the club is deeply embedded in our hearts. We are not short-term players and have gained some valuable experience over the past 11 years making us one of the most experienced operational boards in football.

“We will get where we want to be, but maybe not as quick as some may hope for because of the nonsensical delays to planning permissions caused by Capital and Regional, amongst other things out of our control."

With Jones currently trying to call in reinforcements to help Luton in their battle to stay up, Wilkinson warned fans once more that they wouldn’t get drawn into spending above their means just to boost their chances of avoiding relegation.

He also gave an idea of just what the club have found themselves up against since promotion from League One, adding: “Even before we were promoted the management were advising the board as to our ability to compete in the Championship, a division which has changed markedly since we were last here.

"We have the smallest budget in the league by some margin.

"Financial Fair Play, which governs clubs' spending, allows clubs to lose £39 million over three seasons and, of course, some clubs are helped by having parachute payments when they are relegated from the Premier League amounting to eye-watering proportions.

"To give an idea, the value of Premier League parachute payments to Championship clubs would completely fund the player budgets of Leagues One and Two for well over two seasons.

"This though, is further complicated by them having to pay Premier League wages in the Championship.

"It is trickle down economics and the monstrous wages paid in the Premier League are affecting almost every level of the game.

"We cannot and will not compete with these losses so it follows that we simply cannot compete with salaries or transfer fees.

"With a new stadium and other sources of income and a thriving academy all on the horizon, we will much more able to be competitive and, by then, the effects of less prudent clubs over-spending in the Championship will be being felt quite hard if the authorities implement the rules as they should be.

"Remember we have been in those shoes too often before and probably wouldn’t survive another.

"Having said all this, reality is only just beginning to filter into the system and clubs are still trying to find ways around the current rules so to hope for wage caps, limits to agent fees and break-even accounts could be some way off.”