Promotion for Brighton and Hove Albion would earn millions – but it’s the dream and the glory that really matters
In a season where clinging on to one-goal leads has seemed the norm, the Albion’s five-goal thrashing of Fulham last week and the 4-0 win this week are a welcome celebration of just how well the club has done this season.
A record-breaking unbeaten run, with long stretches at the top of the table. Now, with two games to go, Albion are locked in a tight race for automatic promotion and at the very least have secured a place in the play-offs.
Ninety years before our two towns became a city, they were joined under one sporting banner at the Goldstone Ground as Brighton and Hove Albion.
Some of my earliest memories are from Albion players renting our spare room not far from the Goldstone, and my family has long ties with the club.
My grandfather took up his place in the sea of flat caps on the East Terrace in the Thirties, a place he occupied for 60 years. I occupy an equivalent vantage point today at the Amex.
I’m ancient enough to remember the last, and only time, the Albion gained promotion to the top flight in 1979, and the long trip to Newcastle where it was secured.
The First Division, as it was then, bore little resemblance to what the Premier League is now, a global sports arena where hundreds of millions change hands in transfer fees and TV contracts for a worldwide audience.
According to Total Football, last year teams earned between £40 million and £60 million each for TV rights and this year it could be around £60 million to £100 million.
The league contributes almost £2.5 billion in tax revenue and £3.4 billion to the nation’s GDP according to Ernst and Young.
It is big business, and I’ve shared the frustration when fixtures have been changed for Sky coverage.
But the club is much more than that, backing charities, tackling racism and homophobia and winning awards for the work it does through Albion In The Community.
The club motto this season is “Together” and it does bring people of all backgrounds and different politics together as a football family, who mourn the loss of their own as we saw after the Shoreham air crash or the tragic death of a fan at Falmer Station last week.
Promotion to the Premier League could bring hundreds of millions of pounds into the club, the city and the local economy, reaping the rewards of the vision, investment and commitment of Dick Knight, Martin Perry, Paul Barber and of course Tony Bloom. We had a taster of that with the Rugby World Cup last year.
Beyond that, as recently promoted Leicester have shown, the prospect of European competition is not the preserve of the big clubs like Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United.
No one thought Leicester or Bournemouth could hold their own against the bigger clubs but they have proved the doubters wrong.
With a fantastic stadium, global but locally based sponsor and state-of-the-art facilities at Lancing, the Albion have the resources to do the same.
The boost for jobs, tourism and business from putting the city on a national and international sporting stage will be immense.
As leader of the council, that is something I’d very much like to see. But as a lifelong fan what matters most is the dream of promotion and the glory of top-flight football here in Sussex by the sea.
Warren Morgan is the leader of Brighton and Hove City Council.
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