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Brighton boss lecturing Newcastle United on ownership – You couldn’t make it up

11 months ago
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Interesting to hear what Paul Barber, the Brighton and Hove Albion CEO and Deputy Chairman, had had to say during this international break.

The man who runs Brighton on behalf of owner Tony Bloom, speaking to The Beautiful Game (read below).

In particular, the view of the Brighton hierarchy on who should and shouldn’t own Premier League clubs, how they should and shouldn’t be financed and by whom…

Paul Barber, Brighton and Hove Albion CEO and Deputy Chairman, speaking to The Beautiful Game podcast:

“Any kind of state ownership, we’re not in favour, because potentially it gives those clubs a significant financial advantage over us.

“The best way we can deal with the here now is to make sure the regulations are as tight as possible, but there are controls on spending, so that the league maintains its competitiveness.

“But also, we don’t go down the route of European Super League where a small number of clubs are guaranteed their place and clubs like ours and others can’t progress and strive for that top level football.

“If you take that meritocracy away if you take that dream away, then you’re completely changing everything all of us have grown up with in this country and I don’t agree with that.

“I don’t think state ownership necessarily leads to that.

“I don’t think necessarily there is a way in which state ownership forces that to happen, but we have just got to be careful that we don’t lose our competitive nature, from the top of the pyramid to the bottom because that’s what we all love.”

When the conversation is about ‘state ownership’ then it is obviously in reality talking about the likes of Newcastle United and Manchester City, whether it is Brighton CEO Paul Barber or whoever speaking about it.

It is very interesting to compare Newcastle United and Brighton in recent times, especially when it comes to finances…

The two clubs were promoted together in 2017, Rafa Benitez and his side pipping Chris Hughton’s team on the final day of the season for the second tier final.

In that promotion season of 2016/17, Newcastle United had a turnover of £85.7m and for Brighton it was £29.2m, the pull of NUFC and the money the Newcastle fans were prepared to put in (average home crowds of over 51k in the second tier!) making a massive difference, despite Mike Ashley’s ongoing ownership and total lack of ambition in the running of the club.

Despite Newcastle United having a £55m higher turnover in 2016/17 than Brighton, the next season the Seagulls spent some £60m on new signings compared to only around £40m by Newcastle.

That 2017/18 season saw Newcastle United have a £178.5m turnover and Brighton £139.4m, the south coast club banking over £39m less.

Yet the following (2018/19) season Brighton spent around £80m and Newcastle just over £50m on new signings, plus £20m of that Newcastle total wasn’t spent until the final day of the January 2019 window, when Rafa Benitez was allowed to at last bring in a sizeable transfer in Miguel Almiron.

We all know that Mike Ashley was strangling Newcastle United’s ambitions but how were Brighton on the other hand, spending far more than could / should have been expected…?

Indeed, in the nine transfer windows and four and a half Premier League years before the new NUFC owners came in on 7 October 2021, the relative spends on new signings (all figures from Transfermarkt) were roughly £300m Brighton and Newcastle United just over £200m.

Selling players for big money I hear you cry.

Actually, no. Newcastle United and Mike Ashley were the ones selling players and generating cash after that 2017 promotion, with Perez, Mitro, Merino and Thauvin pulling in over £75m just for that quartet.

Before the 2021/22 season, the most Brighton had banked for a player since promotion was the £10m Fulham paid for Anthony Knockaert. The success of Brighton in terms of buying and selling at big profits is far more recent, with summer 2021 seeing £50m banked by them for Ben White, then around six months later, the £13m received for Dan Burn in January 2022 from the new Newcastle United owners became the second highest fee received by Brighton since their 2017 promotion.

So once again, how had this Brighton miracle happened, where had all the money came from…?

Brighton now talk about wanting a level playing field in the Premier League when it comes to how clubs are financed but what about their story…?

Earlier this week, Brighton published their latest accounts, covering the 2021/22 season.

Football finance expert Kieran Maguire happens to be a Brighton fan, in his analysis of the latest accounts, this was one of the key stats he picked out…

As you can see, we get a bit of an idea as to how this Brighton financial ‘miracle’ has happened.

Brighton with an owner who has splashed out half a billion pounds, so far. With an overwhelming proportion of that in loans.

Tony Bloom is a Brighton fan and has basically paid for a new stadium, new training ground, loads of new players and so on.

On the one hand I would say fair play to him, a fan living his dream and financing this relative success for the small club (until 2017, Brighton had in their entire history only ever spent four seasons in the top flight of English football) he supports.

However, at the same time, you can’t have it all ways.

Amidst claims of state ownership due to the Saudi Arabia PIF 80% stake, the new / current Newcastle United owners have supported the rescue and turn around of NUFC with around £200m invested by them in total since initially buying the club. That is hundreds of millions more than Tony Bloom has supported / financed / propped up Brighton with.

As things stand at the minute, which of the two clubs has benefited the most since promotion due to money put in by the respective owners?

Well, Mike Ashley was only interested in how he could benefit, rather than the football club, so you can rule him out of the equation.

What is fair and what isn’t, when it comes to Premier League club ownership and how the respective owners run their clubs and finance them?

Well, I think that as we all know for sure, everybody clearly talks from their own selfish individual perspective.

Tony Bloom has been allowed by the rules to artificially prop up Brighton, without his money there potentially wouldn’t even be a football club, never mind one that is enjoying the greatest era in their history, currently six Premier League seasons in a row AND currently competing for a Premier League top four spot!

Newcastle United and Brighton, two clubs currently taking on the self-appointed elite.

What is fair when it comes to financing Premier League clubs?

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