Seagulls Soar: How To Build The Perfect Soccer Club

The following is a summary of Jeremy Wilson's article for the Daily Telegraph Report entitled "Brighton back in the big league - how to build the perfect football club"

 

Brighton & Hove Albion Football Club which, almost, went out of the Football League in 1997, dropping to semi pro status, has now been promoted to the English Premier League. Read more about promotion and relegation.

Four Key Indicators Of Their Success

1.    Find an Owner who is a die hard fan.

Paul Barber…CEO of the Vancouver Whitecaps …a former Football Association and Tottenham Hotspur Director was planning his return to the Premier League and remembers his first meeting with Brighton owner and Chairman Tony Bloom…Barber wanted one question answered…” What’s your exit plan – at what point will you want to get off?”

Wealthy guys tend to get to the Premier League and then sell the club…Bloom pointed to a picture in his office of his two year old son and said, “My plan is to pass the club on to him.” I thought, “Wow, that is someone for the long term.” 

“On the day we were promoted to the Premier league all I could see in my peripheral vision was my chairman jumping up and down” said Barber.

2.    Build The Right Infrastructure.

Brighton did not have their own stadium for many years and moved around playing at various stadiums on short term leases. Martin Perry, former CEO and present Club Director said, “I have always felt Brighton was a sleeping giant and, if we survived, we would somehow be all right even if we did not know where we would play. …there were many setbacks but there was this extraordinary unity with the supporters in pursuit of a common goal….Bloom got in touch and I explained the stadium plan and what it would cost (Building a 120 million pound stadium - $180 million ). He said, “OK, I’ll fund it.”

I could not believe it. I told the fans and the Council…they struggled to take it in as well but…once the work started…there was this realization that it really was happening.”

3.    Create The Correct Culture.

The fight for survival and a place they could call home created a bond between club and community that remains a huge strength but Bloom had a much bigger vision. Brighton developed a “Bottom Up” approach. “We developed a mantra about doing things properly and if we can’t we wait until we can afford it or get the right people and processes in place,” Explains Barber. Every department was reviewed and long before it was an onfield possibility the benchmark was being, “Premier League Ready.” Examples stretch to a community program that touches 50,000 young people annually or how costly but important standards for disabled fans – still not met by most Premier league clubs - have long been in place at Brighton. 

Bloom and his directors have also thought about how to add what they called “glue” to their staff. Premier League promotion would be worth a guaranteed bonus between 10 and 20% of any employees salary, right the way from a part time car park attendant or night cleaner to manager Chris Hughton….” It was a magnificent way of bringing people together and making sure they all go the extra mile,” explains Barber. All 250 staff are also given the same nutritious food as the players, freely for breakfast and lunch. Away fans are treated with rare respect. Their concourse is also lit up in their colours. Local beers and even foods are shipped in. “Its common sense” says Barber, “If you treat people with respect they treat your staff well they treat the stadium well and they look forward to coming back in numbers.” 

4.    Build an Excellent First Team. 

After the stadium came a new 32million pound training facility ($40 million) and, including squad investment, Blooms overall outlay was over 250 million pound - $300 million. In Hughton they also have a manager who places huge emphasis on the internal squad dynamic. ..Paul Winstanley is the clubs head of recruitment and analysis and says that scouting focuses beyond the obvious to how a player warms up, how they might celebrate a goal, and who they interact with. They will also consider how they act on social media, their family background, off field habits and broader interests, motivations and influences. “The last few years have been about building a core group who want to fight for each other and go to the next level’” explains Winstanley. 

The success and failures of other recently promoted teams have been closely analyzed but there is also a determination to savour the experience. “It’s incredible” says Barber, “if you did not know the story and put it forward as a novel – a piece of fiction – people would say it was too far fetched.”