ALBION w ill not allow the Premier League and its mega riches to change the club as it is already primed for the big time, its management has told The Argus.
Chief executive Paul Barber said the club would stay “humble”, “grounded” and mindful of its history among the razzamatazz of the world’s richest league and its “transformational” impact on Albion.
He also praised the vision of chairman Tony Bloom in ensuring the club’s infrastructure was ready for the Premier League before promotion was sealed.
The club will not expand staffing numbers dramatically but will make £5.5 million improvements to the Amex to improve the ground’s floodlights, camera positions, additional restaurants and media facilities.
The club believes the impact of promotion on the Greater Brighton economy will be a minimum of £160 million but the true value of the increased global profile of the city region was hard to calculate and hard to underestimate.
Mr Barber said Brighton and Hove as a destination would be ideally suited to cash in on Premier League status with visiting fans keen to make a weekend of an away fixture at the Amex.
He said: “It can’t be underestimated how powerful promotion will be for the city as a whole, the council and for all the local authorities that adjoin this city because they will all get some kind of benefit as the effects breakdown.”
The Premier League will mark a very long journey for a club that nearly fell out of the Football League 20 years ago and were without a home until six years ago but Mr Barber said the club would not forget the qualities that had seen them to this point.
He said: “We need to stay humble, we need to stay grounded and we need to remember where we came from.
“I think we blended the best of the past and the opportunities provided by the future and we need to continue to do so. We can’t let the past be a barrier to the future but we shouldn’t forget where we came from.”
The riches of the Premier League will change the club’s accounts overnight but will also filter through into the wider economy.
Executive director Martin Perry said: “You get the direct impact of our increase in income and revenues and you then get the indirect effect on the supply chain and you also get the induced effect which is the increased consumer spending. If you’re getting 3,000 away supporters every game, they are going to go into the city, they are going to be spending money. You also get the images of Brighton being flashed around 200 countries around the world.”
Despite the huge revenue boost, Mr Barber said “very little” would change in terms of staffing except for a handful of roles to cope with increased demand and roles required by the Premier League.
He said: “We’ve got here a Premier League set-up both in terms of infrastructure and staffing levels, structures and quality of people.”
It will be a busy summer at the ground with £5.5 million of construction work needed to make the Amex Premier League ready.
Mr Barber said: “We have got a world class stadium that needs to go to an even higher level.”
CLUB IS READY FOR BIG-TIME BUT BUSY SUMMER PLANNED
The Argus (TA): What will change for Albion in the Premier League?
Paul Barber (PB): The biggest impact is the income level which goes up by about £100 million overnight.
It is one of the few businesses in the world that would see such a dramatic increase in its turnover from a single event.
At the same time the level of scrutiny and profile for the club is transformational.
We would suddenly have our matches broadcast in 200 countries across the world. The profile of the football club along with the city would grow exponentially.
It’s almost hard to underestimate how big a difference it will make.
On the other hand, the challenge is to ensure that the values that we have as a club and the way we operate remains the same.
There is a big change but on the other hand we have fantastic infrastructure, we have got a brilliant team of people so those things should remain stable and it is important that they do.
We need to stay humble, we need to stay grounded and we need to remember where we came from.
TA: How does the club maintain balance between community and corporate when the financial figures involved are so huge?
PB: Without embarrassing Martin [Perry], it is one of the great reasons having him around makes such a difference because Martin blends what we have and what we didn’t have.
Martin’s experience, history, everything he has done for the club has been a massive help for me in the last five years. Every time I have had Premier League thoughts in my mind, because that was my background, Martin has been able to put it into a context that translates to this club.
Martin Perry (MP): Those values, in the way we have treated our supporters and looked after our supporters, the beer, the real ale, the pies, all things that they wanted and love, are still part of the club and will be part of the club whatever happens.
The way that we look after and attracted away supporters – that will stay because that has been a key part of the way we have run the club and the third element is Albion in the Community.
PB: The players continue to play a part in that too. I think one of the challenges when you are a Premier League club is that inevitably the profile of the players you have got grows and the profile of the club grows and there is a danger you become distant from the people who helped you get to that level. One of our challenges will be to ensure that doesn’t happen.
Clearly some things will change. We’ve seen only this month what top level football teams are potentially subject to [the bombing of Borussia Dortmund’s bus]. We will further tighten security to make sure everybody in and around the stadium is as safe as can be. And those things can play a role in distancing a club from its community.Barriers are physical changes fans might not have had in League One or the Championship. But we are going to try our best to make sure the way we engage, talk and meet fans doesn’t change too much.
When we had a tough season the vast majority of fans stood by us and less than three seasons later we are on the verge of achieving something we set out to achieve when we moved to the Amex.
TA: Will certain areas of the club need to be expanded?
PB: Not really. One of the things Tony Bloom and the board have been brilliantly supportive of is a Premier League set-up both in terms of infrastructure and staffing levels, structures and quality of people, save for one or two additions where we are mandated to have certain roles, for example a safeguarding manager.
Apart from one or two roles like that and perhaps one or two where we will need extra help simply because of the scale we are going in to, we are very happy with what we have got.
If we were lucky enough to stay in the Premier League, we are in good shape. If we are unfortunate enough to come straight back out of the Premier League, we won’t have to adjust too much.
One of the challenges for clubs who get relegated after one season is the pain that causes to the organisation, not just on the playing side but also the operational side.
If you expand too quickly with too many additional people and then you come down and have to let those people go then the impact on the rest of the club is significant.
We don’t feel we have to expand too much therefore we are prepared for all eventualities.
TA: How will Albion’s promotion impact the city’s economy?
MP: There is an interesting study on Leicester City and the impact that has had.
In terms of size they are not dissimilar to us. Their stadium is 32,000, their turnover before they were promoted was around £31 million.
If you measure it through the total Gross Value Added, you get increase in turnover which is £100 million minimum, and bear in mind because for every TV game you get a payment and there are ladder payments it is a minimum, the actual effect in total GVA is £140 million. So the impact on the city will be anywhere between £140 million and £160 million.
PB: And with the greatest respects to some of the other clubs promoted in the past decade, this city as a destination is right up there. Some of the previous towns and cities that have gone up, you are not going to go across the country to spend a weekend there. But you will get people coming from the north of England to Brighton for the weekend.
MP: That was part of the philosophy behind making away supporters feel special. When they are looking at the fixture list choosing which games they will go to because maybe they can’t afford to go to every one, then Brighton is a great place to spend the weekend.
PB: That’s where the city benefits massively from us. And we benefit from the city because those people have a great time and then hopefully next season we will still be there and they will want to come back.
It’s one of those things that is quite frustrating for Premier League clubs because you can’t measure it as accurately as you would like to. How does London benefit from Tottenham, Arsenal, West Ham, Chelsea? It’s hard because it’s a huge capital city, one of the most desirable locations in the world to come to, but it does benefit, it absolutely does. By how much is difficult to say. In this city it will probably be more measurable because you will see a very different weekend 19 times a year when visiting Premier League teams come down.
TA: How will the stadium have to change in readiness for the Premier League?
MP: There is a set of Premier League requirements which we have to comply with which is largely press facilities, things like hard wiring, bigger commentary areas, camera positions.
The press room will change because we can’t get more people in.
We are changing one or two of the hospitality areas but not much. The stadium is almost six years old, there’s a natural upgrade that goes on and that goes on all the time.
We’ve got to put in new camera positions, a second studio for a second outside broadcaster so we are going to seize the opportunity to do that. There will be quite a lot of building work over the summer period. Once this season is over, a few of us are going to be extremely busy.
PB: The assumption from the fans is there’s not a lot to do but actually it’s £5 million of building work in 13 weeks on a stadium that’s only six years old.
People will say ‘What’s wrong with our floodlights?’ Well nothing in the Championship but in the Premier League the lux level of those lights needs to be higher because the Premier League broadcasts in 4K and again there can’t be any interruption to a live broadcast going to 200 countries so there’s going to be a generator which is going to back up all our power. These are significant differences to where we are now and even greater to where we were at the Withdean just six years ago. At the Withdean we were lucky if we were paying the bills. It’s an amazing transformation.