Coventry v Luton: How two minnows ended up in football's most valuable match

Rob Edwards of Luton will face Mark Robins' Coventry at Wembley Stadium on Saturday in the play off final. Credit: PA

Two footballing minnows are about to do battle in the game's most valuable match as Luton Town and Coventry City fight for a fairytale foray into the Premier League.

Few could have predicted at the start of the season that these two teams, neither of which have played in the top flight for decades, would be competing in the play off final, and a place in the promised land of the Premier League.

For Luton the prospect of a relegation battle looked more likely at the start of the season, and when manager Nathan Jones quit for Premier League side Southampton (now relegated) in November, the premier league seemed a distant dream.

They now have a chance to make the likes of Manchester City's Erling Haaland and Liverpool's Mo Salah play at their home of Kenilworth Road, which will be the Premier League's smallest stadium with just 10,000 seats - if they are victorious over Coventry.

And for the midlanders, ceasing to exist seemed one of the more likely outcomes to their season after being served an eviction notice from their stadium owners.

Bottom of the league after seven matches, they had to postpone four games over a dodgy pitch before the collapse of rugby side the Wasps, with whom they share the stadium, meant they were told to leave.

But they turned it around. With their new owner signing a deal to keep them playing in the CBS Arena, and with a run of just one defeat in 19 games - they are on the verge of their first return to the Premier League since being relegated in 2001.

Luton, however, has never been in the Premier League and after losing in the play off semi final last year, their players and fans may feel like their time is now.

It would be the culmination of a journey which saw them drop out of the Football League in 2009 in the wake of a 30-point deduction for financial irregularities under previous ownership.

Following a five-year exile, the Bedfordshire club slowly worked their way back up the pyramid.

Luton Town legend Mick Harford told ITV News a promotion for the club would be a "dream come true"

Their ground, Kenilworth Road was built in 1905 and has a capacity of 10,356, meaning it would become the smallest ground in the Premier League next season, behind Bournemouth’s Vitality Stadium, which holds 11,379.

The stadium has not undergone any major developments since the conversion of the Kenilworth Stand in 2005, and would need significant improvements to its infrastructure should the team win promotion.

Luton’s owners have admitted it would cost in the region of £10 million to upgrade the stadium for the top flight, with most of the Bobbers Stand having to be rebuilt to comply with requirements on media facilities and camera positioning.

The multi-million pound injection the club will receive if they go up will naturally soften that blow, but it is the short turnaround between seasons which poses the biggest challenge.

Chief executive Gary Sweet said in a recent match programme: “If recruiting a new squad fit for top-tier football isn’t challenging enough, the rebuilding of the physical infrastructure in the shortest time imaginable is the hardest task on our hands should we be fortunate enough to get promoted.”

The future seems a little brighter for Coventry, whose new owner Doug King says his backing for the football club won't change whatever the result in the Championship play-off final.

He told ITV News: "The goal is we're trying to you break out of the Championship and head there. And obviously we've got a chance now, a really good chance this Saturday.

"It's coming in earlier than maybe I was anticipating. But we've done some really good things since January and we've built on obviously the foundations that were there before."

Asked if his backing for the club will remain the same whatever happens this weekend, he replied: "Of course. There's been very, very little money spent on infrastructure here and we're kicking off with the pitches but the training site at Ryton needs to be totally transformed, the academy needs a proper look.

"We need to get ourselves where we need to be for a city of the stature of Coventry. So that will continue whatever happens.

"You know, I've committed to doing that so that when I leave here, everybody will go, 'At least we got some great stuff."

The winners of Saturday's play-off final will make around £170m, which could rise to £290m, according to financial experts at Deloitte.

The winners will receive a minimum of £100m in TV money alone, as well as an extra £3m for every place higher they finish in the Premier League table the following season.

So, the team which finishes 17th will earn £12m more than the club which ends up propping up the division.

It's a huge jump compared to the Championship TV contract where clubs like Luton and Coventry are given around £10m a year.

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