Sweet warns Luton face a state of 'financial oblivion' if relegated from the Championship
Luton chief executive Gary Sweet has warned that the club could face 'financial oblivion' should they be relegated out of the Championship this season.
With news that the Premier League is due to begin again on June 17 breaking yesterday, there is every chance the second tier will follow suit and a start date should be announced shortly.
Town find themselves in a precarious position going into the latter stages of the campaign, sitting second bottom with just nine games left, six points from safety, although that is really seven with an inferior goal difference.
Relegation could end up costing Town £6m in income, and with no crowds expected to be in attendance for the foreseeable future due to the coronavirus pandemic, should the 2020-21 campaign begin behind closed doors, then it will massively hamper the Hatters' income streams.
Speaking to the press, Sweet said: “If the season didn’t play out for some reason as of now, we would be relegated and relegation isn’t something we want to face, I’ll be honest.
“I can confirm to you financially, but also from a status perspective and a progress perspective, League One is not where we want to be.
“It would put us into a certain state of financial oblivion, with the Championship or Championship debt being taken down to League One with League One financial reward, is not something we are willing to accept and it’s something we have to avoid at all costs, so we’ve got to first of all deal with the bigger picture.
“We have to get through those nine games.
"The next two, three months is going to be really testing for us but the difference between funding for example between the Championship and League One is really stark.
“To give you an idea in terms of broadcast and sponsorship rights, from the Football League and the money that is filtering down from the Premier League, there is around about a £6 million difference between the two, which actually constitutes about five-fold amount of money.
“So when you have a squad that you are trying to build for the Championship and you take them down to League One, whilst the salaries do drop, you have that issue to deal with but also as coronavirus is effectively into all cash reserve and forcing clubs to take on debt, that debt is effectively Championship level.
“When you take that down into League One and you are only rewarded with League One financial rewards, that becomes such an impossible situation to deal with.
“Financially, the football club will be in two completely different places come August, we just need to make sure it’s the right one.”
The man charged with leading Luton to Championship and financial safety is Nathan Jones, who returned to the club yesterday for his second spell at the helm, with head of recruitment Mick Harford named as his assistant.
Although he left in such controversial and acrimonious circumstances back in January 2019, Sweet believes he was the perfect fit to give Hatters the best chance of staying up.
He continued: "As was planned, the Championship is going to play the rest of the season in the order that it was structured in terms of fixtures and we as a club have to get going, we’ve got to hit the ground sprinting,
"These are such challenging times and we’re going through such unpredictable times and we need prediction, we need to know what we’re doing.
"So with nine games to go and us being in the relegation spot, we need somebody to take us out of that situation.
"We need a manager who can hit that ground sprinting, someone who knows us, knows our players, knows our environment, helped create that environment, and somebody who knows the league.
"There’s only one person who befits that description and those characteristics and that’s Nathan Jones.
“The difference I can tell you between being in League One next season, not just financially, but in the Championship next season when we can be more competitive is so stark, so from that point of view, let's put any of those differences behind us.
“One week of madness shouldn't just detract from those three fantastic years that Nathan gave us before and we’ve got a marvellous opportunity to put this club back on track with Nathan at the helm.
"For the sake of the club, all I'm asking is for supporters is to get behind the club for the next nine games, whatever your views are.
"But I'm also asking for you to have the support of the board, this is a board decision, they’re fully behind it, behind Nathan and Mick’s appointment at this time and it does excite us and fill is with confidence for those nine games remaining in the season.
“What is important is that it becomes a lot easier if we are a Championship club next season, so we have to give ourselves the best opportunity to do that.
"If we just focus on these nine games and become a Championship team next season then many, many of our problems, not all, will go away.”
Although aware of the financial consequences that the club face should they go down, Jones didn’t feel under any extra pressure personally going into the run-in.
He added: "For me it’s the right thing to do.
"I could have waited and taken a job far less complex than this one in November, in December, in January and February but I wanted to wait for the right one,
"If this job ever came up, I knew that I wanted it because I never really forgot about it, I never really left in terms of the love, the affiliation, everything I have about the club.
"It’s not cliché, it’s not empty, it’s true.
"Anyone who knows me will know deep down this is my club and yes there is pressure on it but I’m excited by it.
"With the financials, we have always known the higher league we’re in, the better it will be.
"We have come up quite fast but safely.
"The pandemic has put everyone on the back foot but now it’s time to guide us through that.
"There are good people in good positions at the club because now it’s a time to be guided through it to come out stronger the other side.”