David Kohler

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David Kohler was chairman of Luton Town Football Club from 1992 until 1999.

Kohler was a property developer when he took joint ownership of Luton Town on 22 May 1990, in partnership with Peter Nelkin.[1] Nelkin was appointed chairman, and Kohler the managing director. One of the new regime's first actions was to lift a ban on visiting supporters; Luton's Kenilworth Road ground had been for "members only" since 1986.[2]

In 1992, Kohler and Nelkin considered selling Luton Town to boxing promoter Frank Warren, and building a new 25,000-seat stadium to the south of the town.[3] Luton Town was sold in June 1992 to Mike and Sheila Watson-Challis, and Kohler moved up to chairman.[4] The team was losing money quickly, sold many of their best players, and was relegated from Division I in 1992, missing out on the new FA Premier League. A group of supporters took to chanting "Kohler out" behind the main stands.[5] Kohler said that he was prepared to sell at the right price, but a deal headed by the former Fulham player John Mitchell fell through.[6]

In October 1994, Kohler told Mihir Bose of The Sunday Times about his plan for a new stadium.[7] The multi-purpose indoor stadium would seat 20,000, and feature a moveable grass pitch. Kohler dubbed the plan the "Kohlerdome", and compared it to the Pontiac Silverdome, which had hosted matches at that summer's World Cup. Kohler had only just applied for planning permission for the development, and had yet to purchase the land.[7]

After a public inquiry in 1996, outline consent for the plan was given, contingent on widening of the adjacent M1 motorway.[8] In 1997, the new Labour government confirmed that it would not be widening the M1, and consent for the stadium was withdrawn. An appeal to the Department of the Environment in 1998 was turned down on grounds of traffic congestion.[9] A request to review the stadium decision at the High Court was declined three days after Kohler left the club.[10]

By this time, Luton Town was playing in the third-level Division Two, and continued to have to sell their best players. Kohler had already had his house vandalised.[11] He stepped down as Chairman in February 1999, after a petrol bomb and matches were posted through the letterbox of his home.[12] Luton Town went into receivership a month later, while Kohler sought to sell his controlling stake in the club.[13] He sold the club to Cliff Bassett just minutes before the start of the new season in August 1999.[14]

References[edit]

  1. ^ A new regime at Luton, The Times, 23 May 1990
  2. ^ Luton may end its ban on supporters, The Times, 24 May 1990
  3. ^ Warren constructs Luton takeover bid, The Guardian, 21 March 1992
  4. ^ Luton to be rescued by takeover, The Guardian, 4 June 1992
  5. ^ Soccer Diary, The Guardian, 21 November 1992 p23
  6. ^ Mitchell gives up bid to take over control at Luton, The Guardian, 8 January 1994 p19
  7. ^ a b Luton chairman ready for a stretch inside, The Sunday Times, 23 Oct 1994 Sport p22
  8. ^ No tea party for sad Hatters, The Guardian, 24 February 1999 p26
  9. ^ Lawrence counts cost of progress, The Sunday Times, 29 November 1998 Sport p5
  10. ^ Luton's proposed stadium blocked, The Times, 23 February 1999 p49
  11. ^ Kohler home hit by vandals, The Observer, 8 March 1998 Sport p2
  12. ^ Kohler goes after bomb in letterbox, The Guardian, 20 February 1999 Sport p3
  13. ^ World Cup bids tainted by bitter squabble, Birmingham Post, 24 March 1999 p30. Available online at the Free Online Library
  14. ^ Luton chairman Bassett in hunt for new stadium, Daily Mail, 9 August 1999 p61. Available online at the Free Online Library