Brighton’s promotion will not lead to reckless spending, says Tony Bloom
The Brighton & Hove Albion owner Tony Bloom will resist the temptation to make lavish changes to the playing staff following the club’s return to the top flight and will instead use the sudden influx of revenue to encourage further evolution.
Bloom, a fan of 40 years, has invested around £250m in the club since 2009, building the Amex Stadium and Albion’s excellent new training facility at Lancing as well as improving the squad to take them from the third tier into the Premier League. Promotion to the top flight could be worth up to £200m given increased media and commercial revenues, catapulting Brighton to a new level virtually overnight. Yet the chairman hopes to maintain “gradual” progress as they prepare for a first campaign in the elite in 34 years.
The club’s wage structure will shift, with Brighton able to offer significantly more competitive salaries following promotion, but they are likely to follow the models implemented by Bournemouth and Burnley than offer huge contracts to potential new recruits.
“The amounts of money in the Premier League does equalise things a bit,” said Bloom, who has already discussed potential targets for the summer with his manager, Chris Hughton. “We have to strengthen, that goes without saying, but we’re not looking to spend huge amounts. We’ll do things on a gradual basis as we have done. We have good players already, and we want to strengthen from that position.”
Elevation is reward, too, for Bloom’s reluctance to sanction the sale of key players last summer after Brighton had secured 89 points in the second tier and still missed out on automatic promotion on goal difference. Offers totalling around £20m were submitted for Lewis Dunk, Dale Stephens and Anthony Knockaert – the latter had attracted interest from Newcastle who are currently traipsing in behind Albion in the Championship – but all were resisted, despite losses of £26m recorded for the 2015-16 financial year.
“It was really important we kept together those main players who had gone so close last season,” said Bloom. “You can’t guarantee anything, but we did as much as we could. We kept all our main players, we strengthened, helped all the players believe this was going to be our season, and so it has proved. It is 11 months since I went into the changing-room at the end of the play-off semi-final against Sheffield Wednesday and the players were on the floor. I was on the floor.
Brighton & Hove Albion seal promotion to the Premier League – video report
“But I looked around and just said: ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and we will come back from this and do it next season’. They’ve done it. It’s just an amazing performance. What will Brighton bring to the Premier League? A great city, a great fan base, an amazing stadium which will be sold out every game, and hopefully, on the pitch, we will do the city and our supporters proud.”
The leader of Brighton and Hove City Council, Warren Morgan, has already suggested both Bloom and Hughton should be granted freedom of the city in honour of taking the team back into the top flight. That achievement comes 20 years after the club fought off the threat of relegation into non-league, and potential liquidation, and were rendered homeless by the sale of the Goldstone Ground to property developers.
“What would the future have held if we were in the Conference without a ground?” added Bloom. “Words can’t describe what Chris and all the players have done this season. The teamwork, the camaraderie … it really is fantastic.”