Football

Promoted Brighton in full Bloom

Tony Bloom is a feared presence at any poker table but, yesterday morning (Singapore time), the biggest wager of this renowned gambler - a £250 million (S$438m) investment in Brighton - paid off with promotion to the English Premier League.

The south-coast club celebrated on the pitch at full-time after their 2-1 win over Wigan. Their Premier League status was guaranteed after Huddersfield drew 1-1 at Derby.

The Seagulls have truly reached a level that would have been deemed fantastical 20 years ago as they found themselves without a home and penniless.

They avoided relegation from the Football League only on the last day of the 1996-97 season and were forced to play in Gillingham, 113km away from their home town, for the next two years after their old Goldstone Ground was sold to pay off debts.

However, having reached their nadir, they wallowed in lower league mediocrity until Bloom came along in 2009 and, with a wave of his chequebook, he transformed the then-League One club's fortunes on and off the pitch.

Bloom, despite his reputation as a poker player, is also a keen businessman and bears strong ties to the club historically - his family were involved with Brighton dating back to the 1970s when his grandfather Harry was vice-chairman.

The property investor, nicknamed the "Lizard" by a rival poker player, used his money to engineer the state-of-the-art Amex Stadium just outside Brighton.

Yesterday morning's joy was all the more welcome, given Bloom had experienced several near misses, none more so than last season, when they lost out in heartbreaking fashion on the second and last automatic promotion place on goal difference.

We have to strengthen, that goes without saying, but we’re not looking to spend huge amounts. Brighton chairman Tony Bloom ruling out a spending spree after gaining EPL promotion

Bloom said that he will resist making lavish changes to the playing staff and will instead use the influx of revenue to further their evolution.

Promotion to the top flight could be worth up to £200m, given increased media and commercial revenues, reported the Guardian.

"The amounts of money in the Premier League do equalise things a bit," said Bloom, who has already discussed potential targets for the summer with team manager Chris Hughton.

That will add something to their CVs, all of their thoughts when they’re looking back. Brighton manager Chris Hughton, on their next target of winning the Championship

"We have to strengthen, that goes without saying, but we're not looking to spend huge amounts.

"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."

Brighton can clinch the title with a sixth straight win at Norwich on Saturday morning (Singapore time) and Hughton told Sky Sports News: "One thing we spoke about afterwards is it's a wonderful achievement, particularly after last season, to get promotion. That's the first thing.

"But what these lads want to do - whenever it is, two years' time, three years, 10, 20 years' time - is they want to be able to say they won the division and went up as champions.

"That will add something to their CVs, all of their thoughts when they're looking back."

Newcastle remain second, but their winless run was extended to three games after a 3-1 defeat by Ipswich. - WIRE SERVICES

 

eplFootball