20 January 2013


So then, days after the Albion announced losses of £8m last year, they sign a striker for a fee believed to be around £2m. Are we doing a Pompey? Of course not. Football is a world away from the constraints of owning a business in the real world. An £8m operating loss for one financial year is pretty good for a football club, especially for what is traditionally a third division side. And certainly now our front line is worth £4.5m (assuming Gus ever plays two strikers up top). Rumour has is that this gold vault was pictured in the basemen of one Tony Bloom - what do we care if he spends all his money on the Albion?

A lot of that £8m loss announcement felt like a belated public relations exercise by a club who had been remarkably silent around the chaos in the catering contract, safe standing (default answer is no) and the excessive FA Cup ticket prices. As far as I'm concerned the loss announcement served another purpose. It was to make supporters aware of the Financial Fair Play (FFP not FFSMurray, but it can provide a similar reaction from an Albionite) regulations that will affect club spending within the next few years. According to the most maligned Barber since Sweeney Todd, Albion are currently operating outside of initial FPP guidelines. This is alright though, FPP doesn't come into force for second tier clubs until 2014-15.
The first thing I thought was this: what's another £2m on a striker if we're still operating outside of FPP? We'll simply end up with more assets playing for the club that we can then sell on (if need be) to ensure we stick within FPP limits when they arrive, right? I think so. Tony Bloom is a decent gambler so is surely going buck-wild with his spending now - it could be the last chance our sugar daddy gets to sweeten us up this easily, without having to balance the books. He has pumped the odd £100m into the club so far on the stadium / training ground projects - another £8m a year must feel like a bargain for the part-time Antipodean little man.

But there are other theories. And one less savoury. The most alarming is that this will cost us more to watch matches at Falmer, through season ticket price rises and the like. These prices will not be set yet, with an announcement set to be held back as long as possible (as with Gus on player contracts, it will be on the pretense that 'we don't know what division we'll be in') and fear around the AmEx is that we will be paying for Ulloa and the chase for the top flight ourselves.

If prices do go up then I'll have no complaints - my season ticket in the North Stand is cheaper, dryer and slightly more atmospheric than Withers used to be. But is that an excuse? Just because Withers (and Priestfield before that) were so inept, and so expensive (OK, that only applies to Withdean, I seem to remember prices at Gillingham being small change), does that make it right to price out a sector of society from our 'community' stadium? Indeed, whilst I could cope with a North Stand price rise, who knows what others might not be able to? And as for increasing what are already ludicrous prices in the West...

One thing that really should be considered by the club is matchday ticket sales. Flogging fanzines, outside means we invariably end up speaking to what is a new phenomenon at Albion matches: the football tourist. On many occasions this season, we have used our spare tickets to get these people inside Falmer - they constantly look confused as to why a football club wouldn't sell tickets on the day, especially when operating at an £8m loss and having not sold out. I know this was a constraint of Withers but is it still a constraint inflicted upon us now? And there are other commercial opportunities to be had to save money. Where is the sponsorship on the seats between home and away fans? And even this sort of bank heist could be considered as a last resort.
Some may say that chasing the top flight - and performances like the one against Newcastle in the cup - mean we have to accept the unfair consequence of paying more (and I watched the FA Cup match on TV again last week, we were fooking brilliant). Whenever I publicly bemoan the threat of season ticket price rises, people tell me that I need to understand Brighton is not a 'noddy' club anymore. But it surely can't be that blue and white.

Football is not just for those in the 1901 club. It's more than a £30k+ a season corporate box at Falmer, and its for more than the select band of champagne socialists who reside in my part of the North stand. The beauty of football is that it is for everyone. It's for 1901ers as well as ruffians.

Throughout the past few weeks, and the ever-expanding (now national) debate over the cost of watching football, I read that Manchester City - champions of all England - have one season ticket with limited availability priced at £275. I know they have more capacity and can offer these more widely but what a remarkably cheap price? Dare I say that even the Sheikhs know that football is for the whole community. That's what a community club and community stadium is all about, right? Or did that just help us through the planning process?
The club now has to ensure that, years in the future, we haven't ended up as a football club of social exclusivity - it doesn't necessarily breed success (just have a look at our highbrow FA Cup opponents making a profit over the period we've lost so much money). Overall, this £8m loss announcement has just led to more questions that won't be answered until (or if) the full accounts are published. If you're some sort of financial whizz and want to translate the full accounts, get in touch at the usual email if you want to do a nice analysis for a hard copy TSLR.

1 comment:

@Seagulleo said...

Treating players as assets is fine but unfortunately their contracts are liabilities. 4 1/2 years for Buckley and Ulloa is brilliant, a statement of the Club's move away from a selling club of old. But if you look at the financial car crashes - Pompey, Sheff Wed come to mind - it has been the wage liabilities that are the millstones.This is the financial risk that goes with success.