Luton Town's CEO says mocking of his club's stadium annoys him
‘Erling Haaland’s not going to walk through that entrance… he’s going in the OTHER s*** entrance we’ve got!’: Luton Town’s CEO says mocking of his club’s stadium annoys him as they eye Premier League promotion
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Luton Town chief executive Gary Sweet shared that the widespread mockery of his side’s storied Kenilworth Road ‘annoys’ him, and namechecked Premier League star Erling Haaland as he vented his spleen.
The CEO – who won Championship Chief Executive of the Year at this year’s Football Business Awards in March – will have to invest close to £10million into upgrading the ground to Premier League standards should the Hatters win their play-off final against Coventry on Saturday.
As revealed by Mail Sport, the renovations would see the Bobbers Stand knocked down to provide new facilities including a media centre, TV and data analysis studios, toilets, and a canteen.
But Sweet remains fiercely protective of the stadium, which he said was a ‘cauldron’ that Premier League teams should feel intimated when they visit, should they get the chance next season.
‘This is real life, real football, history, tradition right here,’ Sweet said. ‘This isn’t a sterile bowl. This is lively. This is emotion. This is white knuckles, tears and joy in this stadium. This is a cauldron. If you can’t embrace it you don’t love football.’
Criticism of Luton Town’s Kenilworth Road stadium annoys CEO Gary Sweet – but also gives him ‘the giggles’
The Oak Stand entrance for away fans catches the eye amid the street’s terraced houses
CEO Gary Sweet (left) namechecked Erling Haaland as he urged Premier League teams to ’embrace’ the ground
‘We might have a lick of paint and new signage every so often but let’s embrace this. It annoys me and makes me giggle when you get the social media content about an away end going through gardens.
It’s been like that since World War II or even before. Why is it raised now, just because we might be going into the Premier League?
‘Erling Haaland’s not going to walk through that entrance, he’s going to walk through the other s*** entrance we’ve got. Embrace it.’
But Sweet insisted the criticism doesn’t bother the club or its fans, adding: ‘We’ve got thick skins and it just shows you don’t necessarily need lavish surroundings to succeed.
‘You can do it with hard work and guile, with intelligence and sensible financial management and absolute determination and commitment.
‘You can do all that without having a beautiful stadium. It is beautiful though. The old girl is beautiful.’
As per the Premier League handbook, Luton will need to provide at least 50 seats for members of the media and build a media conference room that can fit up to 70 people.
The stadium’s floodlights are in need of an upgrade, and improvements would need to be made to the television gantry.
There will need to be provision for VAR too, which has never been in use at the ground before.
Luton reached Saturday’s final after achieving a third-place finish in the Championship – although some way behind runaway leaders Burnley and Sheffield United who secured automatic promotion – and dispatching Sunderland in the semi-finals.
The Black Cats posted a 2-1 victory at home in the first leg but Luton’s 2-0 comeback in the second started the party at Kenilworth Road, with fans flooding the pitch to celebrate moving one step closer to the top flight.
Beating Sunderland at home in the second leg sent through to the play-off finals for the first time since 1995
Fans flooded the pitch as they celebrated getting one step closer to Premier League glory
Should the Hatters reach the Premier League, they would be in line for the staggering £180m windfall that promotion is worth.
Beyond the last-minute preparations necessary should Luton claim victory at Wembley, plans have long been in the works to upgrade their playing facilities and move from the site they have occupied since 1905.
The club received planning permission for a new ground at Power Court in Luton town centre since 2019, with a detailed design of the proposed stadium completed in March of this year.
In an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today, Sweet shared that the budget for the project was approaching close to a £100m, with the club hoping to break ground ‘at the end of this year or early next’.
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