Hatters chairman puts the record straight over 'criticisms' of Luton's transfer policy

Wilkinson eager to address ‘ill-informed’ social media comments
Hatters chairman David WilkinsonHatters chairman David Wilkinson
Hatters chairman David Wilkinson

Luton chairman David Wilkinson has hit back to put the record straight over what he felt were ‘criticisms’ and ‘ill-formed comments’ regarding the Hatters transfer policy during the recent transfer window.

Town were forced to sell both James Bree and Harry Cornick last month, with Bree joining former boss Nathan Jones at Premier League side Southampton and Cornick moving to fellow Championship side Bristol City.

The pair were due to be free agents in the summer, which meant that Luton accepted undisclosed fees for the long-serving duo, Cornick having racked up 235 appearances and Bree 143, instead of losing them for free in the summer.

There were some questions marks raised by supporters in how the club had found themselves in this position, but responding to them in his programme notes ahead of last night’s 1-0 win over Cardiff City, Wilkinson said: “I was disappointed to notice various criticisms and ill-informed comments on social media about our transfer policy, and think it might be time to put the facts straight.

“Firstly, we have one of the lowest budgets in the Championship.

“There are many reasons for this, which include the capacity and inefficiency of Kenilworth Road, our unwillingness to spend money we don’t have and/or borrow to put the future of the club at risk.

“We are, and I suggest always will be, a selling club, which is why we have continued to invest heavily in the academy and more recently development football.

“The inevitable consequence of this is that if players become perceived to be good enough for the Premier League, or even richer Championship clubs benefiting from parachute payments, the financial gulf is so great that we cannot meet it.

“In time we hope that the Fan Led review will lead to fairer distribution, but must live with what exists today.”

Going into more detail over what happens when agreeing new deals with their squad, and what happens when top flight clubs come calling, Wilkinson continued: “When we sign a player, we are incurring a 100% liability for the length of his contract.

“So, say for example, we sign a player on a three-year contract at £5,000 a week, if you include add-ons, bonuses, national insurance, etc, the commitment will be well over £1m.

“There was so much uncertainty as to what the future might hold during the pandemic and lockdown that it would have been irresponsible madness to enter into long-term commitments.

“However, we are now getting back to some sort of normality.

“Contracts are negotiated when players join the club with agreement from the player, his agent and the club, and in normal circumstances if all parties agree, an extension will be included on revised terms during its term.

“It goes without saying that if the player or the club do not want an extension it won't happen.

“The only way the club can get the player to agree to extend is to meet their demands, which may not be feasible or sensible.

“Our philosophy depends upon scouting and coaching efforts being able to find players with potential and improve them to increase their value, and should we not be able to satisfy their ambitions, to allow them to move on.

“This means that players know that we will not stand in their way should they attract interest from a higher level, so to some extent we are a stepping stone.

“We would rather have the ability to choose who leaves us and who doesn't, but until we have a more sustainable income, we are likely to have to continue in the same vein.

“Our approach has now changed in this regard, but obviously gets more difficult the higher we go.

“If an offer comes from a Premier League club there is virtually no chance of competing, it's just an economic fact of life.”

Meanwhile, with Town's next generation starting to flourish again, the Hatters in the FA Youth Cup fifth round and winning the EFL Youth Alliance South-East division, Wilkinson added: “As far as the academy is concerned, we are only just recovering from our years in the Conference when we had zero protection and zero funding.

"But we won’t be satisfied until we get Cat S2 status and are in the EPPP games programme.”