FOOTBALL TONY Bloom has hit the jackpot again after leading Brighton & Hove Albion into the Premier League.
The Seagulls missed out on automatic promotion on goal difference 12 months ago, but a 2-1 win over Wigan Athletic confirmed their place in the top-flight next season.
Brighton chairman Bloom, 45, insists he will adopt a cautious approach in the transfer market. “We have to strengthen, that goes without saying, but we’re not looking to spend huge amounts,” he said.
Brighton are expected to earn up to £200m in television, sponsorship and prize money as they will be rubbing shoulders with the likes of Chelsea, Spurs, Liverpool, Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United.
Bloom said: “The amounts of money in the Premier League does equal- ise things a bit. 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.”
A Brighton fan for 40 years, Bloom made his riches via a combination of setting up an online bookmaker and poker website, together with a portfolio of private equity and property investments.
He explained how his reluctance to sell key players last summer was rewarded at the Amex Stadium on Monday when supporters invaded the pitch at the final whistle. Bloom has invested £250m in the club since 2009, building the Amex as well as the new training facility at Lancing. But taking the team from the third tier into the Premier League is his greatest achievement.
And promotion was confirmed after Huddersfield Town conceded a late equaliser at Derby County.
“It was really important we kept together those main players who had gone so close last season,” Bloom said. “You can’t guarantee anything but we did as much as we could. We kept our main players, we strengthened, helped all the players believe this was going to be our season, and so it has proved.” Recalling the heartache of last season, Bloom said: “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 but I looked around and 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.”
Asked what Brighton will bring to the Premier League, Bloom replied: “A great city, a great fan-base, an amazing stadium, which will be sold out every game, and hopefully we will do the city and our supporters proud.
“Words can’t describe what our manager Chris Hughton and all the players have done this season. The teamwork, the camaraderie … it really is fantastic.”
Striker Tomer Hemed has also been a key figure for Brighton this season. The Israeli top-scored with 17 goals in 40 appearances last year and has added another 11 in a successful campaign.
“This is a huge moment for all of us,” said Hemed. “I came here to go to the Premier League with Brighton. It’s what everyone has been thinking about every day and we worked hard to achieve it.
“We’re a great team and we’ve shown it week after week. Missing out last year helped us mentally and made us stronger and I think we all saw how our experience contributed to our game this season.” Hemed has a contract through to 2018 but hopes to improve the terms under an extended new deal. He said: “We will discuss things at the end of the season. Of course, I want to stay here. This club is very special for me.
“As a kid, I was a very big supporter of Manchester United. I’m very excited about the prospect of playing against these kinds of teams next season.”
Fellow Israeli Beram Kayal described promotion as “the greatest moment of my career”.
He commented: “After the final whistle went, I didn’t know what I was doing. I was so happy.
“We were drunk and not from wine. Since I was 17 at Maccabi Haifa my dream has been to play in the Premier League.
“I know I’m going to have to work very hard if I want to succeed in the best league in the world.”
We have to strengthen but won’t spend huge amounts’
Bring on the big boys: Tony Bloom is relishing the challenge of the Premier