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Luton case highlights need for change

Paul Fletcher | 12:11 UK time, Saturday, 12 July 2008

To people of a certain age, the memory of David Pleat charging across Maine Road delirious with joy while wearing a beige suit that belonged firmly in 1983 cannot fail to induce a wry smile.

And who could blame him? Raddy Antic had scored a late goal to secure the Hatters' top-flight survival and send Man City down.

The 1980s was a great decade for the Kenilworth Road outfit. Luton, part of the plastic pitch brigade, spent 10 seasons in the old First Division after winning promotion in 1982.

In 1988 they won the League Cup and lost in the final of the long forgotten Simod Cup the same year. The following season they reached the League Cup final again but lost out to Nottingham Forest. Had it not been for Heysel they would have played in Europe.

Fast forward to the present day and the club now face a major fight for their Football League survival.

kenilworthroad446.jpg

After being docked 20 points by the Football League last week in addition to an earlier 10 points by the Football Association, the Hatters will start the season with minus 30 points.

All this has happened against a background of a takeover at the club, led by broadcaster Nick Owen, who has described the latest penalty as "being flattened by a mallett" and a "kick in the face".

Owen is a member of the Luton Town Football Club Ltd 2020 consortium - a consortium that is paying a heavy price for the indiscretions and mismanagement of the club's previous owners.

The 10-point penalty came after the club approached the FA once it realised rules regarding transfers had been broken. An appeal will take place on Tuesday.

The 20-point penalty is a result of Luton failing to comply with the Football League's rules regarding a club coming out of administration.

The Football League insists the club must pay in full its 'football creditors' and agree a Company Voluntary Agreement with 75% of its creditors. But Luton were unable to satisfy the second part.

Who were the only creditors who failed to agree a CVA with Luton? Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs. Why? HMRC has now decided against agreeing a CVA with clubs in administration, presumably because they are not happy with the fact that 'football creditors' - principally players - are paid in full, while they, often the largest single creditor, are offered much less. And in those terms who can blame them?

So Luton have been hit with the 20-point penalty and have no right of appeal against this latest deduction.

It is a messy and regrettable situation.

Yes, the Football League is surely right to punish clubs who have been mismanaged, gone bust and then reformed without paying any penalty for living beyond their means and, therefore, enjoying an unfair financial advantage.

But it is the new consortium at Luton which is now picking up the pieces of poor decisions made before their arrival.

Owen is adamant the new consortium is working incredibly hard to stabilise and save the club - hence his assertion that the latest penalty is a "kick in the teeth".

And if HMRC is going to stick to its current policy then surely the Football League needs to have a long hard look at its rules or we face the prospect of every season starting with a cockeyed league table.

Leeds United started last season in League One minus 15 points and the notion that a new campaign begins with all clubs equal is fast being consigned to the dustbin of history.

And how totally stupid is it to have a club so heavily handicapped from the start of the season that they are almost doomed before they have even kicked a ball?

Last season 43 points would have guaranteed you survival in League Two. To reach that mark Luton obviously need to acquire 73 points - a total that would have seen them just miss out of a play-off spot last season.

In other words, a team that has lost plenty of players after relegation last season must have a cracking campaign to stand a chance.

Yet all is not yet lost for Luton.

Manager Mick Harford has pledged to stay at the club and the Football League rules that have so damaged the Hatters might yet drag other clubs into the mire.

Bournemouth and Rotherham face Football League hearings after falling into administration last season and are also likely to be docked points.

They might not receive as harsh a deduction as Luton but only two teams are relegated from League Two.

And with three likely to start firmly in the red we might just see a mini-league of its own right at the bottom of the Football League.

And is that good for football?

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Fletch, while I have some sympathy in this case, it's important to recognise that this is now a regulated industry and rules need to be followed.

    While it appears harsh because emotion is involved, if it were any other industry, no one would blink an eye regarding the nature of this penalty.

    In addition, there are a number of clubs below and around Luton who are following the rules and they need to be protected against clubs who are failing to do so.

    It's heart wrenching and it could easily happen to my team, Sheffield Wednesday, but it's the new world we live in.

  • Comment number 2.

    NewYorkOwl,

    I fully agree that clubs do need to be punished if they have gained an unfair advantage by spending beyond their means to the point where they have been forced to enter administration.

    But if clubs are constantly going to fail to agree CVA's because HMRC have decided against accepting them while football creditors are paid in full then we are heading to a ridiculous situation where all clubs coming out of administration will be prone to a points penalty.

    I think the rules need overhauling in view of this or alot of league tables could end up with a very strange appearance before the start of every season.

  • Comment number 3.

    Surely, in a time when grass roots and lower league football needs encouraging and could be a base for finding good players who have missed the scouting network of the big clubs, condemning teams to history seems like a negative thing to do.
    Punishing the fans and new regimes for past indiscretions is harshly unfair. We've effectively seen the destruction of Leeds United and the end of their time as a top flight mainstay; Luton could well be consigned to the conference and Boston are so far out of the top flights sight now they probably play to 200 fans and a tea lady.
    When teams like Chelsea, Man U and Arsenal have massive debts, debts so big they could swallow Luton, Bournemouth and Rotherham without batting an eyelid, there must be double standards being set all the time.
    Surely a punishment that doesn't wreck football clubs and their fans is a better way. A year-long transfer ban, meaning a club can only sell and can only promote from youth academies. Banning previous members of boards from holding positions on football clubs for 5 years (Hey, Gerald Krasner and Peter Ridsdale). Banning teams from promotion or play-off places if they reach them - which is like a points punishment, but without the threat of doom hanging over your heads.
    Clubs like Rotherham, Luton and Bournemouth add tremendous amounts to local communities and economics. It also effectively puts people out of work, who may have had no idea that the board were doing wrong.
    The FA and FL are draconian in their methods, just so long as it doesn't affect the EPL. Football has looked corrupted by power for many years and this is the latest example.

  • Comment number 4.

    I disagree with the assertion that HMRC has voted against the CVA because it disagrees in principle with 'football creditors'. For many years HMRC was itself a preferential creditor, for all companies, and this was only changed when it's legality was referred to the high court. Unfortunately this is an example of the author writing about something he doesnt understand. It is usual for HMRC to vote against CVAs as usually they are over 25% of the creditor balance themselves and stand to lose the most. The stance is back up by government which attempts to protect the economy as a whole. There is no reason whatsoever that Luton should be given special treatment on this, it would grossly unfair to all the other compaines who have been forced into insolvency by HMRC, many of which no doubt would have had stronger trading terms than the mad-house business strategies most football clubs adopt.

  • Comment number 5.

    haydenqpr

    I'm not suggesting that HMRC should not accept the CVA. As you point out, they are often the people with the most to lose.

    But if they decide against a CVA then clubs are consistently going to fail to meet the Football League's stipulations on these matters and the situation becomes something of a nonsense.

  • Comment number 6.

    Many of the comments here are right: HMRC are not being unreasonable, football is a crazy industry (as most clubs are technically insolvent) and clubs are being destroyed. The problem is that the current rules punish the wrong people and provide no threat to future wrongdoers. The people who suffer are players, staff and above all fans. None of whom have done anything wrong. Their wishes and needs are wholly ignored by the system we have today. This is foolishly counterproductive: if the fans turn their back on the game as they tire of these injustices, so the game will whither and die.

    Punish the guilty! Ban directors of insolvent clubs or clubs that break the rules FOR LIFE. Only in this way will we get to the root cause of the problem: casual, sloppy, uncommercial decisions made by temporary chancers and profiteers. It is a scandal that directors can deliberately put a club into administration and be allowed to buy it back at a few pence in the pound. If they knew for certain that upon entering administration they, in particular, would never be allowed to run a football club ever again it would concentrate their minds wonderfully. Maybe then we would have directors who would become true custodians of the clubs we love.

  • Comment number 7.

    Luton may feel like their penalty is a 'kick in the teeth', but if they were let off, wouldn't that be a 'kick in the teeth' to all the clubs who have battled to keep themselves in the black?

    What would the incentive be to keep your club out of debt, if you didn't get punished for it?

    The current situation of clubs starting on minus 30 points is strange for sure, but to say it is bad for football is wrong, it prevents football going down the drain when all clubs decide to live beyond their means with no fear of retribution.

    Luton, Bournemouth and Rotherham have reaped the rewards of living beyond their means in recent years, and now they are getting what they deserve.

    What goes around comes around and it is important not to disrupt that cycle by letting them off the hook.

    The real solution would be to distribute the money from the Premier League more fairly around the country. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer, and within a few seasons the Football League will have no choice but to abolish the bottom tier, because there won't be enough clubs left to fill it.

  • Comment number 8.

    The HMRC, as much as it hurts to say it, have every right to demand their money, and if they feel denying a CVA is the way to go, then so be it.

    However, as you have said Paul, heeping penalty after penalty on a club that is already in the dark days seems to be rubbing salt in the wound.

    Surely if the object of a penalty is to protect those clubs that have played by the rules, then banning clubs from promotion that fail to get a CVA is a much better way of doing things.

    That way, if the club is relegated, it is through 'natural selection' rather than handicap.

  • Comment number 9.

    Can I just add to my comment at #7 that it is ludicrous that Ronaldo is moaning that he is a 'slave' whilst a week's wages for him would keep Luton solvent for half a season.

    Shame on the Premier League.

  • Comment number 10.

    "Luton, Bournemouth and Rotherham have reaped the rewards of living beyond their means in recent years, and now they are getting what they deserve."

    I'm sorry Count_G, but I fail to see how Luton have reaped the rewards. What rewards are those exactly?

    They have had players sold, and the millions generated disappear into a black-hole shaped remarkably like a dodgy director's pocket.

    They have had two successive relegations as a direct result of this mess, with a third now highly likely.

    They have had 10 points deducted last year which forced relegation. they have had 1o points deducted by the FA for 'technical breaches' to agents - not actual playing breches like Tevez and West Ham mind you - all for offences made by the previous board years ago.

    The people trying to sort this mess out tried to buy the club from the previous board, but they decided to put the club into admin with the aim to no doubt buy it back at a cut-price. All because of very dodgy land deal which I do not have the time and space to go into here.

    They have had ANOTHER 20 points deducted by the FL for not being able to come out of admin without a CVA, which as has been pointed out is nigh on impossible.

    That is 40 points in little over six months.


    They have been told they are not even allowed to appeal this decision, which, incidentally, the FL did not have the guts to mention when they handed out this latest draconian, out of touch dictat from on high. It's take it, or you're not playing.

    So, I would ask again. what rewards have Luton had exactly. I would be very interested in hearing your reply.

  • Comment number 11.

    I feel incredibly sorry for the supporters of Luton, also Bournemouth, Rotherham, Leeds, Gretna etc etc. But set against that are teams like my team Barnet who every summer sell their best players then struggle to replace them because they can't offer big wages - all because Barnet are making sure that they stay solvent. There are other teams like Barnet, they too don't "live the dream" but equally they usually miss out on success too. So what's the answer? Search me!

  • Comment number 12.

    "Luton may feel like their penalty is a 'kick in the teeth', but if they were let off, wouldn't that be a 'kick in the teeth' to all the clubs who have battled to keep themselves in the black?"

    Let off? We were deducted 10 points for going into admin last season, have been banned from signing or re-signing (loans ended or contracts expired) any players since October. We played half the season with only 1 reckonised centre back on the books. Our defence for 1 game was 3 left backs and a right back....

    My enjoyment of last season was entirely ruined by those punishments. So trust me, anything less than 20 points now would not be a let off.

    Everyone agreed that 10 points for going into administration was a good thing. Prevented clubs doing a Leicester and overspending then writing it off. Now all of a sudden, and with no public demand, Administration carries a minimum 25 point penalty.

    As for Barnet - whose chairman has just saved his own club from relegation by voting to kill Luton Town and Rotherham - do you actually believe they are run in the black?

    It's a complete matter of luck for every club in the land now. If your owners gets bored as the recession bites and you can't find new owners, kiss goodbye to 25 points

    There but for the grace of god in the case of virtually every club in the country without a doubt.

    Luton applied to get out of admin in April and confessed all to the FA on the agents thing 2 years ago - tell me how punishing us for either of those things in 08/09 is appropriate?

  • Comment number 13.

    I'm astonished there is even a small number of people who think this is reasonable. Our previous ownership were offered a way out of the losses by the 2020 consortium *before* we went into administration. They refused because they wanted to keep their hands on the possibility of a small fortune made out of the property deal for a new stadium. They tried, quite cynically, much like Leeds to wipe out the debts through administration.

    This attempt was thwarted by the 2020 consortium who have invested over a million already and who plan to build a true community club in the future.

    The League made us wait until after they dealt with the Leeds appeal costing Luton Town hundreds of thousands in fees from the administrator.

    Their cowardly and despicable insistence that Luton sign away their right of appeal which they kept very quiet about shows them completely out of step with being a modern adminsitrative organisation.

    Their panel consisted of a man who took Ipwich Town into administration without penalty plus several of Luton's local rivals who stand to gain from the club's demise. For heaven's sake one of them if from Barnet hence local rivals and standing directly to benefit from a heavy punishment. How can this panel possibly be allowed to sit in judgement?

    The Football League and the Football Association have launched a cowardly and vicious campaign against my team. We aren't going to let them kill us off though. We have the best owners we've had for many a year and despite Lord Haw Hawhinney and his cronies attempts we will come back stronger than ever!

  • Comment number 14.

    Has anybody ever considered the fans? They always pay and don't own a penny to anybody.

    What a kick in the nuts for those who religiously pay their dues and turn up to support their local team only to be dropped on from a great height, first by their dodgey owners and then by the League and FA.

    Unfair doesn't even begin to describe how fans are treated.

  • Comment number 15.

    The fans are clearly big losers in all of this. They will still pay their money and pass through the turnstiles points deduction or not.

    And lots of the points listed above illustrate just how complicated and how many different angles there are to the situation at Luton.

    Clubs must be punished if they gain an unfair advantage by overspending or breaking the rules but imposing penalties that effectively dooms a club to relegation but still sees them trudge through an entire league season is surely not the answer.

    And as JaytenWatch points out - why no right of appeal?

  • Comment number 16.

    I think it is unfair on Luton - 30 points?? that's ridiculous, especially when a new owner (and I mean new, Ken Bates) takes over to basically find themselves in a position that will only worsen - wrong was done, fine, and luton were duly punished with relegation and a point deduction, but to take them even further down over a technicality is of no use to anyone - 10 or 15 points would be fair, a club starting on -30 isn't justice and isn't doing football any good

  • Comment number 17.

    For an item entitled "Luton case highlights need for change", couldn't the author have made some suggestions for a change to the sanction that is there to stop clubs using administration to give them an advantage over other teams?
    While it might be unfair to punish a club for misdemeanours committed under a previous administration, they were committed in the name of the club, which bears corporate responsibility.
    Changing this would allow people to break all sorts of rules when running a club and sell up when they're worried they might get found out.

  • Comment number 18.

    Alliterative hornet - I very much take your point on board.

    The need for change that I'm talking about in the article is with regard to the Football League's rule that clubs failing to agree a CVA will be punished with a points deduction. If HMRC are unlikely to agree a CVA when they are being offered less than 'football creditors' than the League needs to look at this since most clubs are going to fail to agree a CVA.

    I see nothing wrong with point penalties and cash fines but as the Luton case illustrates the current rulebook is not working.

  • Comment number 19.

    Quick add to previous point - It would hardly be right to say that in this case Luton have used administration to gain an unfair advantage.

  • Comment number 20.

    The obvious answer is for the FL to recognise that HMRC are a unique type of creditor amd thus ahuld bw treated as such/

    Change the rules to 75% of creditors without the HMRC and it would be much fairer for all.

  • Comment number 21.

    Guys,

    A few points regarding Luton living beyond their means:

    1) Two of the previous three administrations were after immense pressure from LUTON FANS to force the directors of the club out... on one occassion the fans celebrated the admin because the shifty businessman left the club, after we forced it!

    2) Other directors / teams have gone into admin, cleared debts, and remained to start again... this has NEVER been the case at Luton.

    3) Luton have sold between £15 to £20million worth of player sales in the last 5 years or so, money which by and large was never re-invested in the club - at the time it was claimed this money was to pay off the tax men, yet somehow we still owe HMRC all this money... this poses the question, where has all this money gone?!

    In all cases, where have Luton benefited to the detriment of other teams?! When we won promotion from League 1, we did it largely thanks to Enoch Showumni, a striker we were paying train fares only for, for much of this time!!! So how we've been gaining an advantage is really questionable!

    Ill informed comments saying we the club and fans deserve this are only a further insult in my view

  • Comment number 22.

    It should also be pointed out that part of the Football League committee comprised one David Sheepshanks of Ipswich Town.

    The very same David Sheepshanks that took Ipswich town into admin back in 2001(?).

    The very same David Sheepshanks and Ipswich Town that did not suffer any points deductions because that 'rule' did not exist then.

    The very same Ipswich Town that had the benefit of the ludicrous Premiership 'parachute' payments and yet still went into admin.

    How does he now have the right to sit in judegement over Luton Town?

    As covhat rightly says, ill-informed comments are frankly insulting.

    Not as insulting however as the 'fine' that the former Luton Town CEO who was part of this fiasco received. That 'fine' comprised the princely sum of £250.

    £250 is less than the price of my season ticket this year to most likely watch my team get relegated before a ball is kicked.

    The whole situation stinks.

  • Comment number 23.

    Paul, you say you see 'nothing wrong with points penalties and cash fines'. I think you need to explain why to those of us who think they are inappropriate at best and dumb at worst. Points penalties? Points penalties hurt the fans, the players and the staff. Not the directors. Cash fines? Cash fines just makes thinks worse. These are clubs in the red. It's like curing starvation by demanding the food back.

    We need alternatives to this nonsense, not a debate about whether 10 or 15 or 20 points is valid. And we need to stop saying it's Luton's own fault. There but for the grace of God go all of us until the system punishes the guilty and not the innocent.

    It might help to have people who are not directors of football clubs sitting in judgement.

  • Comment number 24.

    Paul Fletcher - "It would hardly be right to say that in this case Luton have used administration to gain an unfair advantage."

    Isn't the point of administration that a company in administration has a breathing space during which it doesn't have to pay its creditors and it can reach arrangements with them not to pay the full amount owing, whilst at the same time, their competitors are paying what they're contractually required to?
    Then, after they've come out of administration, they're not paying their full debts.
    How can this not give them an advantage?

  • Comment number 25.

    In response to the alliterative hornet:

    If corporate responsibility should apply to a football club, then it has to be 100% wholly applied.

    That is to say, Directors should be held accountable for mistakes made...unfortunately football is different.

    LTFC 2020 presented a case to bring football clubs more into line with company law, yet the FL fail to recognise the argument ...

  • Comment number 26.

    Do we have any legal recourse to appeal? Best do it before its too late, à la l££ds

  • Comment number 27.

    in order to be allowed to be in the league for next season, we had to sign away our rights of appeal....

    Suing the football league is the only route we can possibly go down if we wanted any action - doubt that is possible.

    So all we can do is buy matchday and season tickets regardless of seeing the team fight against inevitable relegation, support a team in the conference next season and bounce back stronger in future on a business model based on financial security... or just watch Luton disappear much to the delight of the FL and many so called 'football supporters'

  • Comment number 28.

    When a company goes bust, there is a hiearchy of who gets the money - first in the list are preferential and statutory creditors like HMRC and the banks, with staff salaries ranking behind these, though higher than trade creditors. The League regulations are an attempt to shaft HMRC (which is effectively us tax payers) to benefit footballers.

    They should be more honest and relegate Luton immediately - at least that would give them a chance to get promoted back straight away. 30 points reduction will make it almost certain they will be relegated anyway and will have an effect on attendence and finance this year that will limit their ability to bounce back next year.

  • Comment number 29.

    Luton are doomed after their 30 point deduction looks like a woeful 3 straight years of relegation to the conference.

  • Comment number 30.

    as someone said, why bother take such a ridiculous amount of points away??

    why not just relegate them to the conference? where they will be equal with the other clubs and have a chance to have a decent season rather than just playing what now is probably 46 pointless games as relegation is virtually inevitable

    i know they deserved punishing but the FL has gone way over the top. give them a chance least they were honest and went to the league when they knew rules had been broken. how many other dishonest clubs would have tried their hardest to cover it up even if they were eventually found out.

    sack the chairman of clubs who were allowed to pass judgement on it aswell

  • Comment number 31.

    Ken Bates warned you all about this problem, you all thought it was ok to chastise and abuse us but his words are now coming back to haunt most football league clubs in the lower divisions, perhaps you should have had a different view last August. Leeds Till I Die

  • Comment number 32.

    Perhaps lovely Luton could try a little more creative approach. First, they could offer shirt sponsorship rights to HMRC in lieu of cash payment of debt. Such a valuable PIK should satisfy Luton's tax obligations for years to come. Next, they could invite Nick Leeson to become chairman, if he can be persuaded to leave Galway FC. Obviously today's football financial climate has attracted shrewd operator's like Leeson who know a good thing when they see it. And finally, instead of deducting 30 points, perhaps the Football League should ADD 300 points and promote Luton to Serie A. Luton and Leeson would fit right in there, where corruption is a way of life. Ah well, only 697 more days 'til the start of the World Cup and all this picayune club foolishness will be banished. from memory.

  • Comment number 33.

    luton broke the rules and got punished. the punishment is extremely harsh.

    however, it would appear that the rules do not apply across the board.

    chelsea are constantly running in the red season by season only for mr abramovich to underwrite the debts each end of business year.

    this is not acceptable either but no-one seems to be oblecting to it. i think it is grossly unfair on all teams in the EPL that have some kind of financial structure where they have to work within their means.

  • Comment number 34.

    With respect jd2804, when did I have any say in the matter regarding Leeds?

    I did not. It was all the self-serving club chairmen with vested interest - Luton's included.

    I also did not have any say in the matter regarding Luton Town or any further sanctions that may be given to Bournemouth or Rotheram.

    Nor did any football fan for that matter.

    As for Ken Bates, he very cynically put Leeds into admin when already relegated to take a meaningless 10 point hit, and wipe all the debts. And then buy the club back himself.

    As for the 15 point deduction the following year, I happen to think that is was ridiculous, like you.

    The current people attempting to buy Luton are different to the previous board who have rightly been given the boot, but are not rightly being given all the punishments. 10 points last year, forcing relegation, transfer embargo, no loans allowed, forced to sell, FL delaying a decision allowing the club to come out of admin because they were 'waiting for the outcome of Leeds situation' I might add, and a further -20 this year.

    Slightly harsh don't you think?

    And, Like Leeds, the FL require Luton to sign a 'no-appeal' waiver to enable them to play, words to describe with I will not be allowed to print here.

    Absolutley unbelievable arrogance from the FL.

  • Comment number 35.

    Childermass,

    As Nick Owen himself said: "All right, give us some sort of sanction but 20 points, plus the 10 from the FA, it's just beyond belief. How they think we can survive that, I do not know.

    "We knew we would get some sort of points deduction and we were hoping it might have been less than 15.

    "We were even hoping that, if it was 15, it might have been backdated. All this happened last season and we wanted to come out of administration then."

    Owen expected the club to be punished with a points penalty. And as several people have pointed out, to not punish at all clubs that are mismanaged sends out the wrong message.

    What really irks me is that with a 30-point penalty it is just a complete waste of a season, with a place in League Two occupied by a team who can hope for nothing more than trying to avoid the drop.

  • Comment number 36.

    Paul,

    It just seems as though clubs in this position are being punished many multiple times for the same thing.

    The FL really screwed up with the handling of the Leeds situation and delt with that all wrong.

    Despite that, they said it should not be seen as a precedent for any future cases.

    And yet, in the case relating to Luton they dished out their punishment pointing to precedent! And then increased it!

    It beggars belief.

    It just confirms to me that the football authorites in this country do not have the faintest clue about what they are doing from one day to the next, and have clearly no idea about the facts invloved behind each situation.

  • Comment number 37.

    There have been some decisions made by the FA and FL which in any other industry would surely be illegal here.

    As Dunstable Hatter says, why increase a points deduction which already had a 15 point precendent?

    Why did this punishment take 2 years to be decided? Given the amount of fingers there are in the FL pie, I can't believe that literally all of their resources were taken up with the Leeds situation last season. Surely any punishment should have been applied then?

    And why no acknowledgement that the current owners and employees of Luton have acted honourably in assisting openly with all enquiries, and without cynically playing the system as some other clubs have done in the past? It's like pleading guilty to a crime, which should be reflected in the sentence. This will only discourage clubs from being honest.

    I'm speaking as a Watford fan who's also a football fan, and very concerned about the people who make these decisions. Good luck next year Luton.

  • Comment number 38.

    Surely the only rule change required is to tweak the CVA rules? If the HMRC or another refuse to enter into any CVA at all, then they should be disregarded in such rulings.

    It hardly seems rocket science, but then I guess football and sense are rarely seen together.

  • Comment number 39.

    It's a sad situation, no doubt about that, but football in this country has been living in la-la land for years - and most guilty of all are probably the fans. Not those on here, who by and large understand the relationship between success and money in the modern game, but the silent majority.

    Not necessarily in their actions, but in being unable (understandably) to separate love from commerce. Because more than anything we want to see our clubs winning, and winning football matches costs money today, tomorrow and forever. It's money most league clubs don't have.

    How many Luton fans out there gave a toss about who was running the club when they got promoted to the Championship? And why would they? I defy any fan to forego the ecstasy of success when their struggling club has been starved of it for so long - and Luton are hardly the poster boys for perennial under performance.

    So no-one is going to sit there and look hard at how a club is being run if they are winning matches. But they should, because however you look at it football today is a 'how deep are your pockets?' competition.

    If you look at teams now in League 2 and below, there are a number of clubs who have spent to achieve success they are now paying for. Oxford United, Canvey Island, Notts County (my club), Cambridge, Luton, Scarborough and others. All punched well above their weight in the last twenty years. There will be others.

    So what's my point? Well, as long as fans want success, they want investment, and if they want investment they need rich businessmen, and rich businessmen aren't rich because they care about football, communities or fans first and foremost. They care about money, and sooner or later football clubs lose money, lots and lots of it. So sooner or later, directors cash in, bale out, bugger off or go bankrupt.

    That doesn't mean you can't survive if you're a small club, but it's hugely dangerous to get ideas above your station. I'm a Notts County fan for what it's worth, and every time I go on club message boards there are fans knocking the Trust and asking why we can't find this mythical beast that is a millionaire Notts County fan to bale us out and bring us success (again). Because in a few years we wouldn't have a club, that's why.

    As fans of smaller clubs we must reset our expectations. We cannot expect success, but we can survive. It's not an exciting proposition, but it is a realistic one. Ask any Rochdale fan.

    Yes, the FL rules on CVAs need changing, but we also need those rules as they protect all clubs from extinction. Yes, the previous owners of LTFC were businessmen, and not fans, but football clubs need investment if you don't want to lose every game. You can't have your cake and eat it.

    So let fans run clubs (sensibly, via the Trust movement) and accept survival, or don't and see where we end up.

    I wish Luton, Bournemouth and Rotherham well in the coming season and I would sooner see them relegated and survive than disappear. That is the real equation here.

  • Comment number 40.

    As has been alluded to, but not stated specifically, Leeds got their 15 pts penalty for exactly the same reason as Luton - failure to exit administration with a CVA.

    In Leeds case we did actually have a CVA, but we had to abandon it because of legal action from HMRC.

    So Leeds and Luton have suffered because of a conflict between the Football League and HMRC. The FL insist a club has a CVA and HMRC have a stated policy of legally challenging any CVA from a football club where HMRC does not get repaid in full.

    If some commentators had had as much sympathy for Leeds last year as they are (rightly) showing for Luton now, then maybe more pressure would have been put on the FL to act reasonably in the Leeds case - and we would not have this ridiculous precedent.

    Good luck Luton - you'll need it.

  • Comment number 41.

    That thrilling Fa Cup tie with Liverpool a few years back, seems a long time ago now

  • Comment number 42.

    "You can't have your cake and eat it."

    Yes you can.

    If you are the former directors of LTFC at any rate.

    They presided over milions of pounds worth of player sales, the revenue of which did not end up back in the club, but elsewhere through some very shady dealings.

    They then put the club into admin when there was no need to, as the current prospective owners wanted to buy the club from them.

    But they put the club into admin anyway., with all the sanctions that brings because they wanted to buy it back at a cut price.

    They were ONLY interested in the money and dodgy land deals from the start.

    They got outsmarted by genuine fans who are now trying their damdest to pull this club up from the floor, and yet it is now these people who get hammered back into the ground by the 'authorities', while the original fools get away scot free and with millions in their back pocket.

    Is that justice?

    You tell me.


  • Comment number 43.

    Several posts keep saying that Clubs that enter admin should be punished - agreed, but what we are talking about here and with Leeds last year, is that Clubs can't get out of Admin without contravening FL rules because HMRC won't let them.

    So from now on ALL clubs will get -10 plus -15 (at least) which for most clubs will mean 2 relegations (Leeds were the first club to avoid relegation after a points penalty)

    Why? Well HMRC and the FL are in conflict, and its the clubs (and especially the fans) who will suffer.

    Yes, as Belfastgingerleeds says, this should have been sorted out last year with Leeds - too many people were happy to stick the boot into a big club on a slide, but this will send several smaller clubs out of the league,

    The real villians are the chairmen and boards who caused the damage (not Bates for Leeds - the damage goes back a couple of years before) and the FL management who, frankly, are too stubbon to admit that they have got it wrong with Leeds, and Luton, Bounemouth et. al. will suffer for it!

  • Comment number 44.

    Luton's deduction isn't lunacy. Clubs who spend beyond their means, and then get let off repaying their debt, are both cheating other clubs in the league, as well as other businesses. If they can get away with it, then why should other clubs make an effort to be prudent? The only thing I would agree with is that a 30 point deduction is too harsh, 20 would be reasonable.

  • Comment number 45.

    Here we go.... Semper_fidelis dosen't get it...... *Sigh*

    Luton and Leeds were not penalised for going in to Admin, they were penalised because HMRC would not let them get out of Admin, and the FL are too stubbon to change the rules.

    If spending money you 'aint got is wrong, then the top 4 in the PL should get a penalty

  • Comment number 46.

    There appears to be differing rules operating around the football pyramid. The penalty for not agreeing the necessary CVA

    The Football league appear to opt for a points deduction, increasing a massive points penalty resulting in probable relegation,

    The Conference however exercise an even more sever penalty as two clubs can testify this summer.

    Boston have been thrown out of Conference North and found themselves in the Unibond Premier. Halifax suffered an even worse fate, Thrown out of the Conference Premier and finally finding a place in the Unibond North, effectively a 3 division demotion.

    I think we all agree that wrong doing should be punished, it should be in a framework that all understand and is laid out in advance by regulation. These should be consistent through the English football pyramid.

    As the major creditor in all cases appears to be HMG for taxes perhaps we should expect the tax authorities to adopt a more diligent approach in collecting the tax due. Why not require all clubs to only have tax liabilities equal to 25% of the annual tax bill.

    This would negate directors using tax payer’s money ensuring they run the business of the club in a responsible manner, ultimately for the long term benefit of the fans.

  • Comment number 47.

    "If spending money you 'aint got is wrong, then the top 4 in the PL should get a penalty"

    Spending money you 'aint got isn't wrong, but not being able to keep up with repayments is. Man U, Chelski et al are massively in debt, but they can keep up with the repayments. If they CAN'T afford to keep up with them, then they'll go bust, and enter administration, and incur the usual 5000 point penalty.

    Post #10 - you say you can't see how Luton have reaped the rewards, then list the consequences. The REWARDS are that they had successful seasons in the Championship, and the CONSEQUENCES that you listed are exactly that, consequences, not rewards.

    I'm sure that, say, Brentford, would love to spend money they haven't got to catapult themselves up to the Championship, but if they do, they should be prepared to take the inevitable hit when they realise they've gone too far.

    Post 12 - obviously the punishment is very harsh, but the fact is that, if the rules were there beforehand and everyone knew them, including Luton, then they can hardly complain about them.

    Did the League make up these punishments as they went along? If so, you have a case there.

    ALSO - I was under the impression that the reason Luton are in this mess is because they spent too much on players and wages when they shouldn't've - bought artificial success, in other words, like Chelsea.

    IF you are in this mess because of scumbag fraudsters running your club and hoovering up your money, then my apologies and commiserations - former directors of my club, Derby, are currently in court after finally being brought to justice for the way they nearly annihilated our club a few years ago. We came back and reached the Premier League, so there's no reason why Luton can't become a League club again, or even retain their League status. I guess it depends on whether you can keep your players.

    Post 11 - well put.




  • Comment number 48.

    "IF you are in this mess because of scumbag fraudsters running your club and hoovering up your money, then my apologies and commiserations"


    Count_G, that is precisley the reason.


    Nail on head.

  • Comment number 49.

    Each and every case of administration is different and should be treated differently. Leeds for example is different to Luton in regard to the fact that the people that took them into admin reagined control with a reduced debt despite offers that were better for the creditors being ignored by the administrator.

    In the case of Luton a group of men had control of the club and the only objective they had was personal gain via the pot of gold at the end of the Junction 12 new stadium rainbow. There is no doubt that there intention was to use the new stadium as an enabler for a huge warehouse development on greenbelt land, this would have netted the individuals concerned millions in profit. This would have left the club in an even deeper financial mess than they are now.

    There is no doubt in my mind that these people tried to do a Bates and use admin to wipe out the debts with no thought for the consequences on the FC. This was thwarted by the 2020 group, a group formed by fans to protect the club from the clutches of the people that were only interested in personal gain.

    2020 have been totally open and honest with both the FL and the FA and for this they have been kicked in the teeth. Perhaps the FL and FA are not used to football folk being honest and open. Well they better get used to it as despite all of the doom and glom around we are witnessing the rebirth of Luton Town Football Club.

    Forza 2020.

  • Comment number 50.

    Thats a one sided view of the facts you have posted Orange Salopian, For a start there is no evidence to show that the old board was making any profit from the J12 proposal unlike the land owner and there is also no evidence to show that the J12 proposal would have left the club in an even deeper financial mess, And I fail to see how much worse it could have got than it already was.

    Then you claim that the board was planning to do a "Bates" ? do you have any evidence of that as I have seen none, You then go on to claim that 2929 saved the club from the clutches of the old board when they did no such thing but were simply the best bidder in the eyes of the receiver appointed to run the club.

    How many rebirths do Luton need the FA and the FL to allow them ? Going into receivership 3 times in 10 years is far beyond a simple case of bad luck and an insult to every small club that works hard week in week out to keep going on a limited budget, You need to take off the rose tinted spectacles and ask yourself why does this keep happening to Luton rather than trying to pass the buck.

  • Comment number 51.

    It seems to me that the first thing to change should be the part of the rules that gives the preference to "football creditors". Get rid of this and then HMRC will start accepting CVA's again.

    Why should these football creditors (eg very well paid players and managers) get better treatment than the public purse via HMRC or small suppliers like food suppliers or cleaners. It is a self-serving rule that no other industry enjoys - get rid of that and let football operate in the same financial world as other businesses.

  • Comment number 52.

    good article. lots of stupid, ignorrant comments. as a luton fan i have to sit and hope other clubs get punished in a similar way so that we can keep our league status. How is this good for football???

  • Comment number 53.

    The element that I don't understand is that Luton already lost 10 points last season and then for the same issue appear to have lost even more points. Surely all of the points deductions related to going into administration should be added to last years league table

  • Comment number 54.

    You know, we've heard every side of things except one; whilst everyone feels sorry for a club relegated from the league, the flipside is that another club is promoted. The Football League isn't a monopoly for the first 92 teams in the country who decided to enter; as demographics change and populations shift around the country, different teams will enjoy greater or lesser success.

    So, with apologies to Luton fans, whilst for their club it is a calamity, for football as a whole it is neutral. (Well, ignoring the negative effects of a badly run FL.)

    One thing that interests me, though, is that as a young-ish Arsenal fan I don't really understand what it's like to support an unsuccessful team - all my life they've enjoyed a very good run. If you're not challenging for the Champions League, does it make much difference if you're in the third or fourth division? Surely what matters is that you have a competition to take part in, and the ebb and flow of that? If so, the deduction of 30 points is completely indefensible because it means the prospects of success stay exactly the same all season.

    So in that case, it's not the fact that Luton are punished that is so wrong; just the way they're punished. Fair?

  • Comment number 55.

    Before i say anything i have to admit to being a life long Luton supporter, my comments may therefore be biased.

    I am astonished by Josh_23's comments. In fact i am so astonished i have registered just to reply.

    The idea that the Premiership and the Champions league are the only things that matter in football is becoming unfortunatly common these days. It may surprsie people to learn that LTFC means just as much to Luton fans as Arsenal means to Arsenal fans.

    Supporting an unsuccessful team is exactly the same as a succesfull one Josh. We love our team and feel every success and failure in the same way as you do.

    The difference is that our club is being punished, in mine and alot of other peoples minds unfairly, and this regardless of what division you are in is sickening.

    How would you feel for example if you were penalised 10 points (unfairly in your opinion) which meant that although you wouldn't get relegated you wouldn't qualify for the Champions league. Would you grin and bear it and accept the ebb and flow of a mid table Premiership finish, or would you feel sick that events outside your control meant you couldn't suceed no matter how well you played. Imagine further being deducted 30 points (again unfairly in your opinion) would you be happy to accept the ebb and flow of a seaon in the Championship without most of your top players. I doubt it.

    Of course it matters what division we're in, we want to play in the highest division which we are able to. We are just as proud of our shirts as you are.

    I'm sorry if this isn't particularly well worded or coherent, its difficult to write about something which makes you feel as upset as this subject.

    Josh, please remember that we are fans too, and that being relegated from any division can be just as upsetting as loosing a major cup final.

    I mean no offense and would be interested to hear your reply.

  • Comment number 56.

    RichVAT>

    I'm sorry, I didn't mean to suggest that the CL is the only thing which matters. What I was trying to say is that, as an Arsenal fan, I would normally watch my team try and win the big prize. If they were deducted ten points, I'd be annoyed that they couldn't challenge for one season, but at least I'd still have the interest of seeing whether Arsenal would come 3rd or 5th in the league. The whole way through the season, I'd watch the team, and as the results came in, I'd celebrate or be unhappy depending on how well the team was doing - because, like all footy fans, I'd adjust my expectations at the start of the season, and then see how things go from there.

    If Arsenal are deducted some ridiculous number of points - say 300, just to make things really obvious) - then it doesn't make any difference how many games Arsenal win or lose - they're still stuck to the bottom of the table. There's just nothing of greater interest than individual matches happening.

    So, whilst obviously, all other things being equal, you'd prefer your team to be in the highest division possible, doesn't there come a point when you'd rather be relegated straight away than condemned to a boring season resulting in certain relegation?

  • Comment number 57.

    Josh_23.

    Just re-read your origingal post, sorry for going off on one there, it just goes to show how annoyed me and other LTFC fans are.

    I stick by my point that from a general potint of view it sometimes seems that the Premiership and CL are all important and lower leagues don't matter, they certainly matter to us!

    I see your point, now and the worst thing is that 30 points isn't a complete end to the season. Its enough to make survival almost impossible but not enough to be able to write the season off (at this stage anyway).

    I suspect that unless we get off to a flying start (like Leeds) we'll be writing the season off before Xmas though.

    If we have a good to average seaon we'll be at the end of the season gettign relegated despite playing well enough to have deserved to survive. That really will be upsetting.

    Unfortunately I think that going to the conference will finally finish the club. The FA must think this as well which makes their punishment and forcing us to forgo appeal even more callous.

    Still if we do stay up it will it will be such an acheivement it'll feel like we've won the Premiership and CL!


  • Comment number 58.

    I am saddened but not remotely surprised by the fate of my home town club, as the writing has been on the wall for Luton for at least ten years. When Cliff Bassett forced Luton into receivership seven years ago there were two rival consortia bidding to buy the club. One had an excellent long-term sustainable business plan to save the club and finance a move to a new stadium – with agreement already reached with the local council and the owners, at that time, of the land at junction 10. In this deal, Cliff would not necessarily have received full repayment of the loans he had made to the club. The second offer repaid Cliff in full, gave him a sizeable profit, and held the promise of many millions of pounds of investment from the new owners. Perhaps not surprisingly Cliff ignored the relative merits of a serious business plan and took the cash instead. The new owners did indeed spend millions on the club but it was appallingly wasted money and showed total disregard for anything resembling a sensible business plan. The plan that will save Luton Town and virtually all other clubs in the lower leagues in the future is the same plan that would have saved them then, namely: abandon the concept of full-time professionals; develop local talent with passion and aggression; give players a total career opportunity - a skill or education that will allow them to prosper outside of football; and abandon all silly talk of making it to the Premiership and beyond. The very least that fans like me can then look forward to is matches played by passionate locals who are in it for the long haul and who may just surprise us by winning a few things. And there will be no danger of us going bust in the process. Sadly, it will probably require Luton to go out of business before the sense of this is appreciated.

  • Comment number 59.

    All this means is that we are giving the rest of the teams in league 2 a ten game head start.

    If we stay up then the League will probably feel that they should have given them a 15 game head start instead!

  • Comment number 60.

    If HMRC are always going to oppose football club CVAs then clearly these rules need to be looked at because it will be impossible for a club to exit Administration within the Football League's rules. That being the case, perhaps a 15 point penalty for entering Administration in the first place, and no penalties at the other end would be the way to go.

    Beyond that, the carping about the fact that it was the previous regime that perpetrated the crime and yet the current one is being punished is either extremely naive or missing the point.

    It is well established in company law that a company take responsibility for the activities of its employees on its behalf. That is why if I make a mistake that disadvantages a client the company is liable for compensation, even if I have left their service several years before.

    Or, if a doctor makes a mistake in dealing with a patient it is the Health Trust, not the individual doctor, who picks up the tab for compensation.

    If you allow clubs to "get away with" things because they were committed by departed owners/boards, then how long would it be before someone committed massive rule breaches to their clubs advantage, secure in the knowledge that they could just walk away and the club would avoid any punishment?

    However, if you change the rules to make the individuals themselves liable, how many club owners would just walk away because they were not prepared, or able, to carry that potential liability on their own shoulders?

  • Comment number 61.

    As a season ticket holder for the past 11 seasons I am obviously gutted with the recent rulings from both the FA and football league. How some people can say we deserve this is unreal!

    I think someone mentioned this earlier but concidering this issue has arrised due to iregularites with money, why on earth have the FA/football league chased up our previous owners for the £10-15million from sold players. Its obviosly quicker and easier to punish than solve the problem.

    Anyhow, I've got my season ticket and look forward to a hell of a battle to stay up. If we do, it will probably be one of the best seasons ever!

  • Comment number 62.

    Of the -30 we were given a 'bonus -5' for being in administration three times in 10 years. Couldn't those points have been suspended over the next three years?
    Similarly the -10 corruption was over a two year period and equally couldn't they be suspended over two years?
    We could atleast get on with the season with -15 and opt for the next points deductions depending on the situation.
    Maybe even have deadlines like the transfer window whereby we can choose whether to or whether not to take the deductions (and not be allowed to leave it to when/if we are already relegated).
    Up the Hatters

  • Comment number 63.

    Perhaps rather than just having a large points deduction clubs could have the option of accepting relegation without a deduction so that at least they would have a sporting chance of competing fairly the following season.

    In Luton's case, surely it would be better for them to start this season in the Conference, relegate Altrincham who have lived a charmed life in that League through other clubs' financial problems and perhaps promote Cambridge, the losing Conference play-off club to take their place in L2?

    For those who say that Luton haven't reaped the rewards, well, prior to the last couple of seasons where they have suffered successive relegations, didn't they manage to climb up the leagues? Or are Luton fans saying that their previous owners can only be blamed for the current problems and not given credit for their on-field successes. Rotherham too went up the leagues, rather than bob around in L2. When Leeds lived the dream, they got to the Champion's League Semi Finals. Sure they could have drifted down to be a PL non-entity with occasional trips to the Championship but they and their fans gambled on success.

    That said, there is some justification for bringing in a "whistleblower's leniency" programme whereby clubs which have brought in an investigation in order to come clean about past misdemeanours get lower penalties than those who stumble straight into them.

  • Comment number 64.

    There surely needs to be some kind of leniency for clubs who openly admit their mistakes. Luton approached the FA to inform them that the previous management had made illeagal payments and the FA gave them the maximum punishment.

    The same happened to Bury a few years back when they admitted that an illegible player had played in a FA Cup second round match and they were kicked out of the competition.

    To break the rules is to break the rules but if clubs who admit they have done so then get the full punishment, what incentive will their be in the future for clubs to own up?

    If you do own up you get the full punishment or if you keep quiet you might get either the full punishment if found out, or get off scott free if not.

  • Comment number 65.

    As a lifelong (35 years) ex-Pat Luton supporter i've been following the situation from Australia with a mixture of anger and bemusement.

    A friendly Watford supporter I met recently had a lot of sympathy on the issue, which surely proves beyond reasonable doubt the injustice of it all :-)

    Key points for me are :

    1. Football as a business.
    -
    This is very complex as football is not a normal business. The local football club is a key part of community life / culture in the UK and therefore should be treated slightly differently from a pure profit making concern. This obviously applies mainly to smaller clubs who are struggling to make ends meet.

    Why does a 30 year old crappy waiting room in West Hampstead have listed / heritage status, but a 100+ year old football club have nothing ?

    2. Unreasonable punishment for past mistakes.

    Whilst I appreciate the rules exist for a reason to protect other clubs , I just think the "kick em whilst they are down" nature of a 30 deduction is totally unreasonable.

    Surely there is some sort of compromise available , ie spread deduction across several seasons to allow the club and supporters to get back on track.

    When you default on your mortgage most banks will do what they can to ease the pain - what the FA / League have done is similar to raising your mortgage rate to 20% ..

    3. Do Something.

    I'm going to be writing to the FA / League expressing my disatisfaction with their behaviour and ccing Prime Minister / Culture Secretary / Local MP and the club .

    Don't expect it to achieve anything but it will make me feel better.

    Come on you Hatters

    Andy.




  • Comment number 66.

    As a Leeds fan my sympathy lies firmly with Luton. In effect they have chucked them out of the league. Premiership clubs get away with murder but the little boys who brng the fun to football get clobbered. Good luck Luton - seems impossible but stay up!!!!!

  • Comment number 67.

    I am an open-mineded single girl and I love sports.
    I want to end my single life by meeting a guy who likes sports too. Let's mingle at the club
    (((((==== Mixed mingle.c o m====))))where love is color blind.(sexysophia there)

 

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