Thursday, July 10, 2008

Luton Town Docked 30 Points..What’s the Point?

The Football League decided today to deduct an additional 20 points from Luton Town, who will be in League Two this season after finishing dead last in League One a year ago. The club was unable to agree to a company voluntary agreement to get out of adminstration, and according to the BBC and the Football League, this is the third such instance in the last 10 years for Luton Town.

The club had already been docked 10 points and fined $100,000, a lot of money for a lower-league club, by the Football Association after they were found to have paid agents via a third party, which is illegal in England and grounds for a charge of misconduct.

Combined, the 30-point penalty is the largest in Football League history, and it just makes life that much more difficult for a side that has been relegated in three consecutive seasons, a far cry from their glory days in the 1980’s.

As a fan of the game in general and not of Luton Town specifically, I could really care less about the financial situations and board room troubles of any team. The only thing that matters to me is the product on the field, and while the two are obviously related, that doesn’t mean I have to spend my time thinking about how the front office is run. I’m no economic genius or money wizard or anything else; that’s just not my cup of tea.

What I am interested in, however, is competition and what I see week-in and week-out on game days. I don’t pretend to know anything more than what I’ve read about Luton Town and their backroom troubles, but what do I know is this: It makes no sense for the club to start next season 30 points in the hole, no matter what has gone wrong behind the scenes.

Last year in League Two, 60 points was good for a tie for 11th place out of 24, a respectable, mid-table finish. Even if Luton Town was able to gain the equivalent of 60 points, which is highly unlikely given the sheer fact that they’ve been free-falling down the Football League in recent years, that would only give them 30 points with this penalty, and 30 points is 10 points fewer than what 24th-place Wrexham earned last season. Luton would need to win 10 games just to break even, and that’s no guarantee seeing as the bottom seven teams last year in League Two won anywhere between 10-13 matches.

Suffice it to say that this point deduction confirms, for all intents and purposes, another demotion for Luton Town. It’s going to be nearly impossible to climb out of this hole even with the best of runs, rendering Luton’s whole season virtually meaningless. There will be no incentive to sign or play for a club that has had its fate already sealed, and opposing teams will gladly come to town and pick up what should be a relatively easy result, or at least a positive result of some kind.

As I said, I can’t sit here and tell you that the punishment does or doesn’t fit the crime because I don’t know enough about the specific situation. I can tell you that taking 30 points away from Luton before they even step on the field for their first game gives them very little chance to do anything positive this season. The club is appealing the original 10-point deduction and the case will be heard next week, but even if the penalty was fully reversed, sitting at -20 points isn’t much better, and as we all know, appeals are rarely won by the defendant anyway.

I have a solution. Maybe this debacle, at least from the Luton Town point of view, was warranted, maybe the club deserved everything they got. Fine, I can live with that. But I wouldn’t take a lump sum of 30 points away, I’d spread it out like we do with car payments or house payments. I could live with a 10-point deduction to start the next three seasons, that way the punishment is still the same, but Luton still has a chance to save themselves and actually field a fairly competitive team with something to play for. At -30 points, they’d basically be slogging through a 46-game season just to play out the string, knowing that they’ll be in the Blue Square Premier division next year anyway barring an unforeseen miracle of epic proportions.

Will my proposal or one like it, perhaps a 15-point deduction in each of the next two seasons, come to fruition? Probably not, but from a fan’s standpoint, I think it should, and I hope it does.


Aravind said...

Can't agree with you more man. A 30 point deduction plus a financial burden is very harsh on Luton. They should pay for their mistake but not to an extent where they have no reason to play. They must be shattered. The points penalty in installments you suggested, seem to be a ideal solution.

Luton fan til the end said...

I'm a fan of luton town who goes to most of the home games. I think that this penalty is outrageous. I will stand by luton town through thick and thin, but the FA have gone over the top with this points deduction, so I hope small clubs in a similar sort of problem such as rotherham and bournemouth do not suffer such as luton have.