Luton Town currently won't be allowed to play Premier League football if they get promoted
Luton Town could be promoted in next week – but it'll take a small fortune for them to be fit for the Premier League, according to its rules
Luton Town are on the cusp of completing the Football Manager dream, having worked their way up from non-league to the Championship play-off final. The promised land of the Barclays glitters in the distance like a mirage in the desert.
But while most owners think primarily about what Premier League football can offer them, Luton will have to pay to join the top table. Kenilworth Road desperately needs a makeover – and granted, the Hatters started exploring ways to leave their old home as long ago as 1955 – but competing at the very top of the English footballing pyramid would enforce this long-overdue stadium renovation.
The alternative would be Luton leaving their ground altogether. Surely things can't be so bad that they'd have to play in Milton Keynes, right?
Luton Town have to pay £10m in stadium refurbishments to abide by Premier League rules
Luton have played at Kenilworth Road since 1905. It's a classic stadium in the mould of many at the time that seem to flummox foreigners when they see them for the first time: it's wedged tightly between terraced houses, can't be expanded without serious disruption to the neighbourhood and not much has architecturally changed over decades.
"There's rather a lot of work to do," chairman and chief executive Gary Sweet understated of the ground, which would become the smallest-ever in the Premier League – yes, even smaller than Bournemouth's Vitality Stadium. At the start of 2008, both teams were docked points in League Two – Luton -30, Bournemouth -17 – facing expulsion from the Football League altogether. Now, they could both be playing each other in the very stadiums in the top tier of English football.
But while Dean Court in Bournemouth complies with regulations, essentially, the Hatters would have to invest up to £10 million in rebuilding one of the stands in less than three months, should they go up, in order to meet with the Prem's broadcasting and facility requirements.
Luton are actually in the process of moving
Luton are preparing to move ground anyway – so whatever updates they give to Kenilworth Road would be extremely temporary. The proposed Power Court ground is actually closer to the town centre, too, rather than dragging the club out to the middle of nowhere, like some new stadiums unfortunately do.
But the new ground isn't far enough along that Luton could move in early. Luckily, the club are looking at raking in £100m, should they make it up to the big time – so money won't be a problem – the bigger issue concerning fans is whether or not Kenilworth Road would get to host the biggest clubs in English football. It's an atmosphere and an experience unique to English football – and certainly unlike anything that the top flight has seen since the turn of the century.
It's possible that the Premier League could defer home games from the opening few weeks of the season if building work needs to be completed – the alternative would be a groundshare while Luton are in the top flight. It's safe to say that Premier League money would certainly help with the construction of the new ground, however, which was delayed due to COVID-19.
"It's quite a heavy investment for football at that level for us and will firmly put us into the Premier League bracket," chairman Sweet said about doing up Kenilworth Road. "But just to be able to get [the ground] ready now, just for maybe two or three years, is maybe more of a gargantuan task than building a new stadium."
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Mark White has been a staff writer on FourFourTwo since joining in January 2020, writing pieces for both online and the magazine. An encyclopedia of football shirts and boots knowledge – both past and present – Mark has also been to the FA Cup and League Cup finals for FFT and has written pieces for the mag ranging on subjects from Bobby Robson's season at Barcelona to Robinho's career. He once saw Tyrone Mings at a petrol station in Bournemouth but felt far too short to ask for a photo.
By Conor Pope