Sweet doesn’t believe April 30 is a ‘realistic’ date for Luton to return to action

Town CEO still wants to see the football season reach a conclusion

By Mike Simmonds
Sunday, 29th March 2020, 10:11 am
Town CEO Gary Sweet
Town CEO Gary Sweet

Hatters chief executive Gary Sweet doesn’t think it is ‘realistic’ to expect the football season to restart on April 30.

The Football League took the decision to extend their suspension until such a date recently after initially hoping they could resume on April 3.

However, with the country now in a three week lockdown set by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday, then Sweet can’t see any matches beginning again in the current timeframe.

He said: “We are having some frequent communications from the league, and we’ve got another remote meeting on Friday, so let’s see what that holds.

“But I don’t really see the 30th April being a realistic schedule to a return at all.

“I think that was just a placeholder if I’m honest, I don’t think that was really ever the intention.

“It’s just a case of putting things back, bearing in mind that the Football League and the Premier League and the FA will need some time to restructure some of those rules to make sure that the football season can go beyond the first of June, which currently it can’t in normal rules.

“And bearing in mind that the Football League is made up of 72 members, it’s not an executive body that makes the decision, it’s the football clubs who make the decisions. 

“So how do football clubs vote on that without meeting?

“There are quite a few things that having to be done at the moment just to make sure that the clubs are engaged and can take part in those discussions.”

There is now a growing concern that with the growing spread of the virurs, the 2019-20 season could be cancelled completely, with no promotion or relegation.

Although Town were sitting in the Championship drop zone when the campaign was postponed, Sweet would still like to see a natural conclusion reached.

He continued: “There’s two things. I think we’ve got to include two seasons in that discussion.

“We’ve got to look at the long-term prospects of coronavirus having an impact on us, it’s not going to go away in April or May. it’s going to have a much more long-term effect on the football club and the football business.

“So in terms of the calendar, I’ll have to caveat that by saying much of the calendar is really ruled by UEFA and FIFA and international fixtures that leagues have to fit around, but I think there has to be some flexibility into next season.

“To enable it to maybe start late and ensure that fixtures are put into that calendar to make sure that we can play each other twice, with a potential break in the winter, that is one of the first things.

“I think you’ve got to look a little bit more forward than that, and then you can see the feasibility of when we can actually complete this season, and I do believe that we should try and complete this season.

“Clearly we don’t want to risk anybody’s health or safety, and that won’t be done certainly from Luton Town’s point of view but within that framework, we really have to complete the season whenever we possibly can.

“Whilst it’s really disappointing for supporters, even if that is behind closed doors – and a lot of the focus and attention on that at the moment is how we can get those game distributed remotely via iFollow or any other means to those supporters.

“But it surely must be better to play those games behind closed doors when we see that that is safe to do so, rather than not play them at all if we cancel the season.

“Rather than having a six, five, four week run at it, we might only be given a two week run at it, and so be it.

“It means the finished product might not be quite as polished as it would be otherwise, but lets play games, lets just get 22 players on a pitch and play games.

The Hatters’ players have now been kicking their heels for almost a month, their last match a 0-0 draw at Wigan on Saturday, March 7.

Despite their period of prolonged inactivity, Sweet didn’t also think they would need too long to prepare if and when football returns.

He added: “Players don’t get too rusty, I said to Graeme (Jones) the other day, this isn’t a time where we’re really look for perfection, over the next phase, this is just really when we need to start getting those players playing competitive games again.

“What we’re doing in terms of keeping our players ticked over at the moment from a fitness point of view is purely that, so they’re ready to go within two weeks.

“They’re going to be working hard, ready to go within two weeks and playing as a team again, but I think after some consultation with the government, the Football League are potentially looking to start to play games at the end of May earliest, maybe June afterwards.

“Now I know nobody can really tell, but that’s kind of where we’re thinking with one eye, although officially we’re back on the 30th of April.”