Sweet: Pay cuts have to happen if Luton are to survive coronavirus pandemic

Town CEO insists club has little choice but to reduce their cost base

By Mike Simmonds
Wednesday, 15th April 2020, 7:15 am
Hatters chief executive Gary Sweet
Hatters chief executive Gary Sweet

Luton chief executive Gary Sweet has confirmed that asking players to take pay-cuts during the coronavirus pandemic is now inevitable if the club wants to avoid going out of business.

Town took the decision to furlough a number of match-day staff recently, like most clubs have done, and with no end in sight to the lockdown measures in place, or a resumption of the football season, postponed indefinitely last week, Sweet knows the players are next to be affected.

The Hatters are yet to ask their squad to take a drop in wages, but speaking to the press on Tuesday, Sweet admitted he was left with little other option to ensure the club remains afloat.

He said: “We are in this awkward position where unless we cut that cost base, then Luton Town is going to suffer badly going forward and actually if we can’t cut it at all, it won’t survive – quite simply.

“So we have to do that. I think we will come to an agreement, however that may look.

“Clearly footballers, players on the whole, everybody thinks of them as being wealthy young lads with lots of surplus expenditure.

“I think that might be the case with a few, but our lads are generally quite grounded.

“Whilst they probably earn good levels of income that many of us could only dream of, their careers are very short and they do tend to invest or, let’s say, spend their money in a certain way that gives them certain commitments.

“So actually we can’t just take huge amounts of money away from them.

“I am aware of other clubs that are taking huge amounts of money from players down to a base of 6k a week in the Championship.

“Well, that’s where our cost-base ends, so it’s all relative.

“We do need to do something and we will do something.

“Player wages comprises over half of our cost base, so we are in a situation where a very significant proportion of our annual income – especially with associated costs, not just games – will be lost permanently, not just saved for another day.

“We absolutely need to reduce our cost base, and therefore footballers have to help in that.

“Every single member of staff probably needs to help in that in some form, every supplier probably needs to help in that in some form.

“If we are to continue healthily after this, then we absolutely have to reduce our cost base.”

Sweet had hoped that the PFA and EFL would have offered some guidance going forward, but it now appears clubs must take the decisions into cost-cutting measures by themselves after those talks were concluded with no compromise reached.

He added: “With regards to players and the PFA, the PFA and the EFL have not come to an agreement.

“I think the principal idea was that they were going to provide effectively a Championship-wide, and maybe League One and Two-wide, decision between the two as to what clubs should be recommending to their players, with the PFA’s support.

“The PFA did not agree with that.

“They felt that clubs should be negotiating that independently.

“Of course they have to, because they are on individual contracts.

“It’s not just about the squad either, it’s about individual players.

“So it’s up to us now to negotiate that with our squad.

“We will need to do that with our squad, and we are doing that with our squad currently.

“We’ve got a good bunch of lads actually, and they’ve connected with the club here, so I can see that we will have fewer problems than any other club in the Championship, certainly.

“But they are on a lower wage base and I really feel for them.

“I feel for anyone who is having to contribute in this, because this situation is no fault of anybody’s.”