Luton Town has been forced to postpone its first home match in the Premier League as Kenilworth Road undergoes a range of improvements to meet top-flight requirements.
Luton had been due to host Burnley on Saturday, August 19 but the extent of the upgrades means that the club could not “absolutely guarantee” that any future unforeseen issues would not cause any delay that would potentially impact the fixture.
In a statement released on Friday, Luton said that it had “reluctantly requested” the postponement of the Burnley match. A new date will be shared by both clubs at the earliest available opportunity.
Luton’s first home match of the Premier League season will now be against West Ham United on Friday, September 1.
Kenilworth Road has a capacity of 10,300, making it the smallest stadium in the Premier League. The club secured promotion back in May after defeating Coventry City in the Championship play-off final at Wembley, and before the game chief executive Gary Sweet said that Kenilworth Road would require roughly £10m (€11.6m/$13.1m) of improvements to meet Premier League standards.
The ongoing works include the construction of a new stand to meet broadcast and media requirements. Luton said the work is progressing “extremely well” and is currently ahead of schedule, but the Burnley match has been postponed to give the club more time to complete the upgrades.
Sweet said: “The joint decision to delay this fixture is regrettable, especially given the amazing progress that continues to be made on our construction works; our current programme is indeed on time, but there is no additional contingency and therefore we can’t give a cast-iron guarantee at this stage that a problem outside of our control, however minor, wouldn’t force a postponement further down the line and inconveniencing supporters of both clubs.
“Although this news will be a disappointment, this will make the matchday experience even greater for fans when they do get to come back. We would like to thank the Premier League and Burnley for their help in arriving at this practical decision.”
Sweet added: “As I have mentioned before, the challenge for our relatively small business has to scale up so quickly is a such gargantuan task in every aspect that is taking every minute of our day and every ounce of our energy but, together with our excellent team of specialist contractors, we know the end result will all be worthwhile.
“Looking positively, as well as the required work to make our stadium compliant, which the Premier League are being so supportive of, we are also making a number of non-mandatory improvements to Kenilworth Road in both home and away areas that will that will improve the matchday experience for everyone, particularly for home and away disabled supporters, broadcasters, journalists and supporters in certain areas of the ground, and this does mean these works should also be complete in time for the new date.”
The upcoming season will mark Luton’s first in the Premier League, and the first time it has been in the top division of English football since the 1991-92 season.
Luton has played at Kenilworth Road stadium since 1905 but the club has been engaged in a long-running effort to deliver a new stadium under the Power Court masterplan. Ahead of the play-off final in May, the club said that groundworks for the new 19,500-capacity stadium should begin by the turn of the year, with the construction period for the stadium itself estimated at around 24-30 months.