SEAG­ULLS BLOOMIN’ LUCKY AS TONY HAS FOR­TUNE

The Football League Paper - - CHRIS DUNLAVY -

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.

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