Trust in Luton
|Type||Football Supporters' Trust, industrial and provident society|
|Headquarters||Bedford, Bedfordshire, England|
|Website||Trust in Luton website|
Trust in Luton was established in June 2003 by a group of supporters following the highly controversial takeover of Luton Town by John Gurney. Luton's current Managing Director, Gary Sweet, was a founding member and former director of the Trust, and was part of the movement that successfully forced Gurney out by deliberately placing the club into administrative receivership.
The Trust owns 50,000 shares in the club's holding company, Luton Town Football Club 2020 Limited, and currently holds the right of veto over any changes to the club's identity – the only such organisation that has this right in English professional football. The Trust is also a member of Supporters Direct, a government-led trust initiative.
In May 2003, businessman John Gurney and his consortium bought Luton Town for £4 from owner Mike Watson-Challis. One of Gurney's first acts was to sack Luton manager Joe Kinnear and his assistant, Mick Harford – both popular figures with Luton's supporters. Gurney outlined his vision to, among other things, build a Formula 1 track around a 70,000-capacity stadium, share the ground with NFL and NBA franchises, and to change the club's name to London-Luton Football Club to tie in with the local airport and make it more accessible to "customers" living outside of Luton. Gurney also raised the possibility of Luton merging with Wimbledon, a club located over 40 miles away, in order to secure a position in the league above. This proposed destruction of the club's history and philosophy led to a group of supporters establishing Trust in Luton to protect the future of Luton Town and provide a unified voice to protest against Gurney's involvement. The Trust successfully convinced many supporters and local sponsors to vote with their feet and refuse to buy season tickets or invest in the club for the 2003–04 campaign, with the money (totalling almost £300,000) instead pledged towards the Trust. The club was later revealed to be losing £500,000 a month and, by July 2003, the players and staff had not been paid for two months. Combined with the The Football League withholding television and league sponsorship money due to the ongoing uncertainty, there was a very real threat that the club would be bankrupted by Gurney's actions within a few weeks.
The Trust devised a strategy and began to acquire shares in the club's major creditor, Hatters Holdings, an offshore company that was owed several million pounds by the club. Hatters Holdings, now majority-owned by a combination of Trust in Luton and prominent supporter spokesman Gary Sweet, deliberately placed the club into administrative receivership on 14 July 2003 to successfully force out John Gurney after a turbulent 55 days in charge.
As a shareholder in the club's major creditor, the Trust was part of the group of creditors who agreed to sell the club to a consortium headed by Bill Tomlins in December 2003, with the sale completed in May 2004. The Trust was provided with a place on Luton's board and initial success followed, as the club won promotion to the Championship under the new owners during the 2004–05 season. In June 2005, the Trust led calls for the cancellation of a planned friendly match between Luton and Milton Keynes Dons. The match was called off, with the "franchise" nature of MK Dons, which went against much of what the Trust stands for, cited as the primary reason for supporter disaffection.
In April 2007, Tomlins resigned his position as chairman following an investigation by the Football Association into irregular payments made by the club's parent company, Jayten Stadium Limited, and confirmed that illegal payments had been made to incoming players' agents. The Trust's board representative remained unaware of any illegal payments, leading to other board members at the club to apologise to Trust in Luton, stating that they had "mislead" them as to the serious nature of the investigation and the club's financial situation. The Trust, having since sold its share in Hatters Holdings, was powerless to act as David Pinkney was confirmed as new chairman two days after Tomlins' resignation. Relegation to League One followed a week later. In October 2007, the Trust had its seat on the board withdrawn and, a few weeks later, the club was deducted ten points after entering administration. The administrators ultimately sold the club in February 2008 to the fan-backed Luton Town Football Club 2020 consortium, who had agreed a deal with the Trust for them to buy, when in a position to, 50,000 shares to ensure the club would have a greater level of fan ownership and involvement. Luton were relegated to League Two at the end of the season and then, following a 30-point deduction for financial irregularities, to the Conference Premier during the 2008–09 season.
Trust in Luton formalised the ownership of its 50,000 shares in October 2012 during a meeting with the club's officials. The same meeting led the Trust to begin stepping up its involvement with the club, including an agreement to hold quarterly meetings with Luton directors and for the establishment of a scheme where shares could be sold to fans via the Trust. This also saw Trust in Luton start campaigning for answers from the footballing authorities for why other clubs, such as Watford, Queens Park Rangers and Portsmouth, had received lighter punishments than Luton (who had been deducted 40 points in two seasons, and had large fines imposed) for comparative financial misdemeanours.
In March 2014, it was confirmed that Trust in Luton had been given the legal right to veto any future changes to Luton's identity, no matter who owns the club, including its name, nickname, colours, club crest and mascot. This step to empower Luton fans led to the Trust's membership tripling in one day.
- As of 17 March 2014.
- Chairman: Tony Murray
- Secretary: Steve Townsend
- Treasurer: Les Miller
- Membership Secretary: Allan Kirk
- Board Members: Chris Lavey, Terry Hopper, Alisdair MacLean
- Luton Town club liaison: Mike Hooker
President and patrons
- As of 17 March 2014.
Like similar societies and organisations, Trust in Luton have a president and patrons:
- John Moore (former Luton manager who led the club to their highest-ever league finish, and later became the club's youth coach)
- Joan Bartholomew (widow of comedian Eric Morecambe, a prominent supporter of Luton Town and former president of the club)
- "Trouble at the Top: Luton Kicks Off". BBC Three Counties. 29 October 2004. Retrieved 17 March 2014.
- "How Gurney lost control of Hatters". Luton News. Johnston Publishing Ltd. 1 August 2003. Retrieved 17 March 2014.
- "Exclusive: Trusting in Luton". Luton Town F.C. 13 March 2014. Retrieved 17 March 2014.
- White, Jim (30 October 2004). "Luton served as a warning to all would-be football profiteers: never underestimate the fans". The Daily Telegraph (Telegraph Media Group Limited). Retrieved 17 March 2014.
- Harrison, Lindsay (24 May 2003). "Kinnear parts company with Luton". The Independent (Independent News & Media). Retrieved 17 March 2014.
- "Hatter Madness". When Saturday Comes. 10 September 2003. Retrieved 17 March 2014.
- "Luton directors quit as far-fetched merger is mooted". The Guardian. 10 June 2003. Retrieved 17 March 2014.
- "Gurney loses control of Luton". BBC Sport. 14 July 2003. Retrieved 17 March 2014.
- "Hatters takeover go-ahead". Luton News. Johnston Publishing Ltd. 5 December 2003. Retrieved 17 March 2014.
- Heller, Ivor (1 September 2002). "Wombles are on their way". The Guardian (London: Guardian News and Media). Retrieved 17 March 2014.
- "Tomlins Resigns". BBC Three Counties. 11 April 2007. Retrieved 17 March 2014.
- "Mitchell's invitation to view club accounts". Luton News. Johnston Publishing Ltd. 31 May 2007. Retrieved 17 March 2014.
- "Pinkney named new Luton chairman". BBC Sport. 13 April 2007. Retrieved 17 March 2014.
- "Club Withdraw Trust's Seat on the Board". Clubs in Crisis. 19 October 2007. Retrieved 17 March 2014.
- "Luton suffer 10-point deduction". BBC Sport. 22 November 2007. Retrieved 17 March 2014.
- "FDC findings on Watford FC". Trust in Luton. 24 March 2013. Retrieved 17 March 2014.
- "Pompey start with a clean slate next season – we got slammed for 20 points". Trust in Luton. 26 April 2013. Retrieved 17 March 2014.
- "Trust membership has TRIPLED...". Trust in Luton official Twitter account. 14 March 2014. Retrieved 17 March 2014.
- "About us". Trust in Luton. Retrieved 17 March 2014.