SEAGULLS BLOOMIN’ LUCKY AS TONY HAS FORTUNE
BRIGHTON’S inevitable ascent to the Premier League is simultaneously heartening and depressing.
Two decades ago, the Seagulls were on the brink of extinction. Skint, homeless and exiled to Gillingham, fans faced a three-hour round trip just to watch home games.
Six years ago, they were a League One side playing to sopping wet crowds at a dilapidated athletics stadium.
For owner Tony Bloom and the supporters who endured those miserable days – not to mention three subsequent playoff failures – this moment is richly deserved. For the neutral, it is refreshing to see a new face crash the Premier League party, a stirring testament to the power of hope and loyalty.
Yet amid the euphoria lies a bleak reality. According to Brighton’s last set of accounts, Bloom has sunk £251m into the club he bought in 2009. That’s a quarter of a billion pounds.
Where did that money go? A new stadium. A modern training complex. Subsiding operating losses to the tune of some £88m. When Premier League teams descend with £160m stuffed in their back pockets, that is the kind of eye-watering outlay required for a ticket to the party.
This week’s admission from Lady Sasima Srivikorn, the Reading owner, that running the club had become “too costly” was met with scorn by some fans. After all, majority shareholder Narin Niruttinanon boasts a bank balance north of £400m.
But set against the combined might of parachute payments and investors like Bloom, that kind of cash is like pitching a Rolls-Royce into an F1 race.
Once, businessmen like John Madejski were the high rollers of the Championship. Now, thanks to the vast sums spilling down from above, the multi-millionaire is obsolete.
That leaves a very small pool of people capable of funding promotion and fewer still from local communities.
Brighton are the Championship’s lottery winners. Their owner is a lifelong fan whose fortune – a closely guarded secret – is rumoured to run into billions. His loans to the club are all interest free and he has publicly stated a desire to stay long-term. Good for them – nobody should begrudge their luck.
But for the rest, faced with a financial chasm and no means to bridge it, these are dispiriting days.