Jones wants matters on the pitch to decide whether Luton stay up

Hatters boss Graeme Jones
Hatters boss Graeme Jones

Hatters boss Graeme Jones admitted he would rather stay up on merit rather than relying on points deductions for fellow Championship sides this term.

Tonight’s opponents Derby County, who could afford to sign England's record goalscorer Wayne Rooney recently, were hit with an FA charge earlier this month in relation to losses made in the three years up to June 2018, and could have points docked if found guilty.

The club had posted a pre-tax profit of £14.6m in 2017-18, but the three years under review by the EFL saw combined pre-tax losses of just over £8m, well below the £39m of allowable losses set out in the league's rules.

However, the sale of their Pride Park home to owner Mel Morris for £80m, has come under scrutiny, with the Rams now leasing back the ground.

If found guilty, the maximum potential deduction is 21 points, which would send the Rams to the bottom of the Championship, while there would also be a financial penalty incurred.

Another second tier side, Sheffield Wednesday, were also charged with misconduct by the EFL in December after selling their Hillsborough stadium to owner Dejphon Chansiri to try to avoid breaking spending rules.

The charges are to be considered by an independent disciplinary commission, with the Owls also facing the punishment of docked points should they be found guilty.

Meanwhile Birmingham City, deducted nine points in March 2019, are also in the same boat, awaiting the outcome after they were charged for a breach of EFL regulations in relation to a business plan imposed upon them in the 2018/19 season, which the club have denied.

With Town doing all they can to cut their cloth accordingly after winning promotion from League One last term, when asked if he felt it was unfair that other sides are taking advantage of such loopholes, Jones said: “I wish it was a level playing field as it would certainly make my job easier.

“To try and compete with Derby, the power of their money, just one team, is incredibly difficult.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen with the powers that be, I’d rather earn it on the football pitch and earn it over a season, so that’s all I’m concentrating on really.

“The financial fair play was brought in surely for that reason to make it a level playing field, there’s just been ways around certain situations.”

Although Town find themselves in a division when they have dwarfed by opposition budgets on a weekly basis, Jones insisted Luton had it in them to be able to compete at this level.

He continued: “Yes, I am from a school of anything can be achieved, because we did it at Swansea with a low budget.

“We finished eighth in the Championship, so we had one of the lowest budgets and managed to overachieve.

“We did it at Wigan, but more worrying is how much you spend has a got a direct correlation with where you finish in the league and that wasn’t the case 10 years ago.

“Such is the force and the power of the finance in the Championship and Premier League, it’s just dictating so much nowadays.

“The game has changed again because of that, there’s teams in this league really spending money and going for it.

“The one thing I’d say about Wigan was, we still had the same Premier League money as most, so you could still compete.

“The Championship isn’t that rich, in terms of the Premier League, it’s night and day, this has been privately financed by football clubs.

“You go to the Premier League and you get a pot of money, it’s up to you what you decide to do with it.

“I look back to our Swansea days, we were a really, really good side, we picked a lot of players up from abroad because knew that foreign market, it made us really, really competitive.

“I just think now, how much money you spend it has a real impact on where you finish in the league, but I genuinely choose to not think like that as what would be the point if I did?

“Derby, it’s 11 men against 11 men and we’re as capable of them as winning a football match.”

One thing Jones did reiterate was that despite finding themselves up against it financially this term, there was no way the Hatters would do anything to put the future of the club in jeopardy.

Town were on the brink of extinction themselves just over a decade ago, until the current 2020 board stepped in, while they had a money-spinning FA Cup tie with Liverpool as well.

The Luton boss added: “We have to remember our history and I know everybody, me included, wants to be competitive.

“We want to do nothing more than stay in this league, but trying to overextend ourselves by overachieving financially almost cost us a football club a long time ago.

“Trying to get that balance right is difficult, it’s challenging for everybody here, but we must protect the long term future of the club.

“I’m not going to lie, it’s tough, and everyone in the room could be great managers now if you had 30, 40, 50 million to spend.

“I’m sure you could select someone in the Championship you've seen who's a good player, get him for 10 million and give him 50 grand a week, that would be very, very easy.

"So it’s been challenging for us, certainly this season.”