Dean Hammond is holding fire on signing a new contract - because he wants to be convinced of Albion's Championship ambition.

The Seagulls rejected a bid for Hammond from Championship strugglers Colchester earlier this month, The Argus can reveal.

But the skipper's agent, Tim Webb, has assured fans the player has no desire to leave and that it will be the club's choice if the influential midfielder is sold during the January transfer window.

Hammond's future with the Seagulls in still hanging in the balance. He will be entitled to a free transfer at the end of the season, when his current contract expires, and he refuses to commit to a new deal at this stage.

Webb stressed: "This should not be interpreted as a desire by Dean to leave the club. Dean would like to play in the Championship with Brighton. We cannot, however, determine whether he is able to do that until the end of the season.

"Yes, he is a Bosman and the thought process might be that the agent will just move him on at the end of the season but that is not right because, if Albion get into the Championship and there is further discussion on a contract, I think there is every probability of keeping the player.

"From the player's point of view, there is no reason for him to agree on a new contract today and that is not because he wants to go but simply because he wants to see where Brighton are at the end of the season and what sort of investment Brighton make in players - to see whether they are going to have a good go for the rest of the season and if they go up."

Preliminary negotiations over a new contract for Hammond started in the summer.

Webb said: "A brief discussion took place in August. We followed that up on at least a couple of occasions but there were no further developments until around November time, so there can be no criticism aimed in the player's direction.

"Some while after that first discussion, in October or November, a meeting took place and some figures were put to us. Those figures at that time were not particularly attractive.

"That led to a further period of not much happening and, since a further offer was put to us, we've had an exchange of e-mails.

"Brighton requested a response to this latest offer. Over the period of time there has been one meeting and a couple of e-mail exchanges, so this isn't something where there has been heavy negotiation going on on a day to day basis."

Albion chairman Dick Knight issued an ultimatum, demanding an answer from Webb by last night. Webb, who also represents Hammond's team-mates Alex Revell and Adam Hinshelwood, said: "What Brighton have put to Dean is a situation where they want a decision now.

"If they wish to force the issue that is their prerogative but Dean has not asked to leave the club or said he wants to leave."

Knight was unavailable for comment when The Argus tried to contact him.

What do you think about Dean Hammond's decision to hold fire on signing a new deal?