Devil’s Advocate Vol I: Luton Town

by Dexy Longshot

Wednesday, July 16th, 2008
 

In a new monthly series, James Farrier presents two sides to the same arguement to stoke the fires on the comments boards. Today, The Hatters have been confined to start their new season in the basement league an unprecedented 30 points adrift. They were already deducted an initial set of points for going in to administration, only to lose even more points for ‘financial irregularities’. The question is:

 

Is it unfair to deduct Luton Town 30 points?

Yes

You bet it’s unfair. First things first; please leave all your resentfulness for any other football club other than your own at the door. It’s easy to want to see Luton fall in to such a miserable decline purely for the comedy factor of seeing the League Two table, clocking the novelty of seeing a club not only with a negative points total, but the large one at that. Have a heart, it might be your club one day.

Luton being punished for crimes committed by crooks and tosspots long since departed from Kenilworth Road. The luckless LT2020 consortium, which has a promising strategy for the club, has to take the reprimands on their behalf. Because of that, they’re now in charge of a club which is virtually non-league in all but name.

How many point deductions can a club sustain in a season? Is it possible for a club to be relegated by Christmas? As it is, The Hatters are already odds-on favourite to move down to the doldrums of Blue Square division – which could possibly spell the end for the club altogether. Do we really wish such ill for a club steeped in footballing history and who, right up until the inception of the Premier League in the early nineties, held a place in football’s top flight?

And the punishment just keeps on coming. Like a vicious circle, Luton Town can only escape from re-entering administration if they start doing something right in the league and keep the turnstiles whirring away on match day. But fans don’t want to see a club in such abysmal decline and having to sell their players in the name of cutting the wage bill, and as a result the club slink deeper in to the red. The Football League penalise clubs who go in to administration for having an ‘unfair advantage’ over other clubs, but given Luton’s plight, it’s hard to see exactly what their advantage is any more.

Instead, wipe the slate clean and let LT2020 go about their business. They shouldn’t be facing such a menacingly uphill struggle to rescue a football club.

 

NO

Let’s get something straight – football, like any other sport, is governed by set rules and regulations. Without these rules, we have anarchy. Granted, the men in black sometimes have a great amount of difficulty enforcing these laws on the pitch, but play the game by the book: if you’re offside, it’s not a goal. Commit a foul, expect a booking. And if you take bungs and purposefully enter administration in order to have your club rescued, then by all means be prepared to feel the long arm of the law, courtesy of the Football League police.

Luton Town deserve everything they get. And the warning signs were there. An example has been made of Leeds and their board’s spectacular self-destruct operation, who effortlessly snatched defeat from the jaws of victory after sacking the manager that steered them towards a Champion’s League semi-final (and a chance to become one of the Big Four), made a monkey’s backside out of an esteemed club’s finances, and left 40,000 Yorkshire folk watching a League One game every week and feeling very, very aggrieved.

Now the same plight hath befallen The Hatters. And it sends out a strong signal to any dipstick chairmen who take unviable and inexcusable risks with a football club, treating it as some enterprising business experiment. If only somebody had the balls to pipe up and say no, Mr. Gurney, it certainly isn’t a grand old wheeze to build a new stadium over and around a motorway, install a dirt track for a bit of speedway action, and rename the club London Luton, because the fans won’t like it and there’s better things to spend your money on. And like it they didn’t. And better things to spend his money there most certainly was. Gurney wasn’t around for much longer.

Thirty points does indeed sound very harsh. But you can’t really complain about it – points off for going in to administration, that’s a given. And if you fiddle the cash and have an ever-ready supply of brown paper envelopes with agent’s names on them, there’s bound to be trouble afoot. Luton Town have a long way back from here.

The Devil's Advocate

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  • http://www.ukfootballfinder.co.uk Darren

    only problem being we are talking about little Luton here, not Juventus or AC Milan. I fear this could be the end for them. It does serve them right I guess, but docking them 30 points is a complete waste of time for everyone involved in the club, just relegate them. That way at least they will have some hope.

  • James Webb

    Problem with relegating them is that due to Blue Square Conference rules they wouldnt allow a team with their financial issues into any of their 3 divisions meaning they would go down to the Ryman Premier. That would effectively be the end of Luton as we know them. Ground would have to be sold, players would leave and sponsors pull out. A similar thing happened to Scarborough recently and it took Aldershot years to recover.

  • James Webb

    Thinking about it Boston United were relegated from Div 3 straight to the Unibond Premier for similar financial issues. Smaller clubs like Margate and Canvey Island were also demoted 2 leagues recently.

  • http://www.ukfootballfinder.co.uk Darren

    surely having a club like Luton in the Blue Square would raise the leagues profile? But there and again they’d all be moaning. Leeds took their punishment and got on with it, as did Arsenal in 1991, and we still won the league!!!!!!

  • Jackie Emu

    absolute disgrace my example although not present day is pertinant… I still don’t understand why Boro got 3 points docked in ’97 for missing a fixture! and West Ham (World Cup and sir trevor brooking’s west ham) didn’t get anything like the same punishment a fine! big deal and no points deducted for fielding two ineligible players!

    men in grey suits out of touch unless a big fat envelope lands in their lap!

    an arguement for another day but…here goes

    Luton fans you’re a proper team i’d talk to a luton fan 100x more than a manure fan…

  • James Farrier

    I was going to include Middlesbrough in the article but I chose not to, the Leeds example was more relevant.

    I think there’s always going to be a shroud of mystery over the whole Tevez/Mascherano/West Ham/ownership affair, so we can never really know whether or not a large fine was justifiable over a points deduction.

    I can’t argue with Boro’s points deduction though. Unknowingly fielding 2 ineligible players is one thing, but knowingly failing to provide an entire starting XI is disgraceful. Boro could’ve fielded a youth team, lost the game 10-0 and still stayed up. And a lovely two fingers up to their fans who travelled to see their team play only to find out they didn’t fancy it.

  • Jackie Emu

    The facts are however we (Middlesbrough) were told that we could call off the fixture the day before…not by the main man at the FA but someone high up, high enough up to grant the descision. Had Boro known the punishment then of course they would have fielded 11 youth teamers…I do still believe had it a more fashionable club the punishment would have been a fine.

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