19 March 2014

Public Image Limited: Reasons to Trust in Luton

Since last we spoke current custodians of the Football Club Luton Town 2020 have broken new ground by entrusting its image rights to Trust in Luton. But what’s in a name?

What are the worst things that you can imagine happening to your football club?

For some uncultured swines higher up the pyramid it may be finishing outside of the top four and missing a season of Andy Townsend commenting on your every move on ITV like a dead-eyed, pockmarked Catchphrase contestant aimlessly belching some of the words he knows at a massive screen.

What about losing in a cup final, or your local derby? Or relegation? Or having to sell your best player at cut-price just to get through the month financially? What about becoming a feeder club whose owners treat you like a proving ground for bigger, better things elsewhere?

All of these things would be tough to take. Even tougher perhaps than finally losing a match (ONE) in 6 months and still being 11 points clear (ELEVEN) at the top of the league. But I put it to you happy band of Lutonians that owners come and go, as do players. Relegation, local derbies and cup finals can all be avenged in good time. Even the ground; the wonderful wooden boards and the bricks and mortar, however special, are transient in the historical record of a football club. The two things that matter most in the long run, the only things that really exist, are a club’s identity and its supporters.

Now there’s much more to the identity of a club than just its image rights. It’s the songs, the family and the memories: Frenchy’s greatest goal we never saw, Pleaty’s jig, Morecambe’s smile. These things are part of our makeup. They are things we already control. But as a wiser man than you once said “You can only control the controllables...”

If we were to lose that name that flickers occasionally across the history books and is etched onto the trophies; lose the colours, the crests and the nickname; take those away, or sell them out for some imagined distant market, then we’re no more a football club than a Snickers bar or those shallow Milton Keynes Dons.

There are countless good and bad examples across football of the experiences of supporters' trusts and it’s by no means an easy option, but one thing seems certain to me: that while fiercely independent groups such as Loyal Luton Supporters Club can be radical and vital in holding our owners to account (as well as brightening up the old ground with flags on that gloomy Monday night just gone) and other groups like the Luton Town Supporters Club and The Bobbers continue to play their part, a strong unified umbrella group like TiL is absolutely crucial if supporters are ever going to realise the power that we already have in the terraces and at the turnstiles, in the boardroom. It may not be needed right now, but 2020 will not be around forever.

With greater membership numbers, the first stages of a fan ownership scheme are also on the table. No room for Gurneys or Allams, Winkelmans or Tans then. What a Cardiff Red Dragon or a Hull City Tiger might give to be in our shoes.

So why not take that £10 you’ve saved on “booking fees” for play-off tickets this year and join the Trust, eh? Go on. They don’t make you wear those ties you know...

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