Hatters CEO reveals all in meeting with fans' groups
Hatters chief executive John Mitchell has moved to address the confusion and suspicion surrounding Luton Town Football Club by talking with representatives of fans' groups this evening.
In a four-hour meeting arranged by and attended by Luton Today, Mitchell spoke openly with Loyal Luton Supporters Club chairman Kevin Lennon and Trust in Luton chairman Liam Day on a range of issues at Kenilworth Road.
Among the topics covered, Mitchell:
•Informed that 2006 financial accounts for Luton Town Football Club Ltd and its holding company Jayten Stadium Ltd would be published in June and invited all parties present to thoroughly dissect the figures.
•Explained the use of Jayten for the running of the club's affairs, but admitted he was 'open to change' over the possibility of disbanding the outside company.
•Revealed that incoming chairman David Pinkney's period of due diligence had not yet been completed, but said that it was expected to be finalised by tomorrow in time for the new owner to hopefully be in place by Monday of next week.
•Told how chairman-to-be Pinkney had been held up by two particular issues, which he revealed to those present, and also detailed how two further ongoing issues – again explained to those present – had further complicated the deal.
•Spoke of Pinkney's aims of bringing in further businesspeople to a new board of directors.
•Conceded that he himself would move aside if he was asked to do so when the club changed hands, if it was seen to be in the best interests of Luton Town.
•Apologised to Loyal Luton Supporters Club and Trust in Luton for misleading both groups into believing the FA was only due to investigate three issues of irregular payments made by former chairman Bill Tomlins.
•Emphasised how he had yesterday made representations to the FA over issues of fairness to the club and supporters in its eventual choice of punishment to the Hatters, and said he would continue to keep that stance.
He also swore that other directors were unaware of Tomlins' actions and also stated that no board members had taken any money out of the club.
On other issues of finances, Mitchell confirmed that Pinkney had recently paid money into the club to cover a cash shortfall and that Town had agreed to reduce the sell-on fee for Curtis Davies from 15 per cent to 12.5 per cent in order to bring forward the date of the final instalment of the defender's 3million transfer to West Brom.
The 55-year-old also categorically denied that former manager Mike Newell and coach Brian Stein had been forced to sell Rowan Vine to Birmingham in January.
Explaining cash flow problems, he said that loans had been consistently going in and out of the football club since the new board took over.
But he said that that was expected practice in the football industry, particularly during the period from December to the renewal of season tickets in the summer, and that overall the balance sheets had remained under control.
He also addressed a question previously raised by ex-director Martin King of the whereabouts of a figure of 3.7million, reportedly needed to take the club out of administration back in May 2004.
Mitchell said that was the figure originally given to the Football League on first submission of a three-year business plan for the club, but said that the figure had dropped to 1.4million under a revised plan, which had subsequently been met.
On the footballing side, the CEO said manager Kevin Blackwell had today been given details of a revised transfer budget, which Mitchell admitted had been slightly reduced from a first budget given to the manager on his arrival.
However, he said Blackwell had been happy with what he had been presented with and that a couple of moves had already been made to add to the squad.
He answered questions on deals tied in with the club's move to Junction 12 of the M1 and listened to concerns raised by fans' groups on a range of other issues including merchandising and marketing problems and a lack of communication to supporters.
He said the club was holding an investigation into ticketing problems on the last day of the season against Sunderland and said findings from that would be available soon.
Mitchell also stressed the difficulty of having to work with conditions imposed upon the club due to decisions made by previous regimes at Kenilworth Road.
A full report from the meeting will be included in next week's The Luton News and The Dunstable Gazette newspapers.