Seagulls Over Burwash Article – July 2022

A Valuable 45, Rumours and Youthful Aspirations 

During February and March, Brighton and Hove Albion endured a run of six consecutive Premier League defeats and, for a while, were looking nervously over their shoulders at the relegation places. However, the spring international break came along at the right time for the Albion and, after a two week adjournment of league matches, they lost just one of their remaining nine matches and that was against eventual champions, Manchester City. During that time they took the notable scalps of Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Wolves, all away from home, and humiliated the once great Manchester United 4-0 on a memorable night at the Amex Stadium.

By the time the final game of the season arrived, Brighton’s status as a Premier League club had been assured for another year comfortably. However, that match, against West Ham United, was anything but a ‘dead rubber’. The Hammers needed a win to assure a place in the Europa League and the Seagulls were aiming for their highest league finish ever. A cagey first half saw few clear-cut chances for either team until, after 40 minutes, West Ham striker, Michail Antonio, turned sharply and smashed the ball home from the edge of the penalty area. So, 1-0 down at the break and, given the other half time scores, Brighton were positioned 14th in the table. After the introduction of striker Neal Maupay and a bit of tactical tinkering by manager Graham Potter, the second half commenced. Five minutes later the Albion were level after Joel Veltman scored his first goal of the season (cutting it a bit fine there Joel!). Another goal from Pascal Gross and a late strike from Danny Welbeck followed and Brighton secured a great comeback victory. 

The turnaround in the score line, from losing at halftime to running out comfortable victors, raised Brighton’s league position from 14th to 9th. This was the highest league position ever achieved in the club’s 121 year history. The final points tally of 51 was also the highest ever achieved by the club in the English top flight. For the supporters, these achievements were worth celebrating and demonstrated how far the club has come in the 20 years since it was on the cusp of insolvency and oblivion.

From the point of view of the club management, and in particular, the bean-counters, the second half performance against West Ham was hugely important. That 45 minutes of football generated an additional £12.2 million in prize money! This money relates to the domestic and international broadcast revenue that the Premier League receives. For the domestic broadcast deal, 50% of the total is split evenly between the Premier League clubs, 25% is based on ‘facility’ (i.e. the number of times a club is chosen by TV broadcasters) and the final 25% on final league position or ‘merit’, with bottom side getting 1 share and top 20 shares. It is this final 25 % that was at stake during the West Ham game. Aston Villa, who finished 14th (the position Brighton were at half time), received a merit payment of £12.2 million whilst 9th place Brighton was allocated £21 million, £8.8 million more than their midlands-based counterparts. A similar system is applied to the international TV rights income; in this case, Aston Villa received £4.6 million whilst the Albion bagged £8 million. Thus, the total financial benefit of beating West Ham was £12.2 million. This ‘additional’ income will hopefully enable Brighton and Hove Albion to improve their squad for next season and enjoy even more success in years to come.

Of course, one drawback of a ‘small club’ like Brighton achieving success is that the players that excel attract the attention of bigger, more wealthy clubs. Even before the transfer window opened, the rumour mill was in full swing predicting that certain Albion players would depart for pastures new. Midfielder and Mali international, Yves Bissouma, for example, has, according to numerous ‘well informed sources’, agreed to move to a range of clubs, including Manchester United, Newcastle, Aston Villa, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal. I know he is a talented lad but even a player of Bissouma’s ability would struggle to play for more than one team at a time! Similar claims have emerged regarding Brighton’s hirsute Spanish defender, Marc Cuccurella, who, according to reports, has been courted by Chelsea and Manchester City. Whatever the truth of these reports, it is inevitable that talented young players will want to progress their careers and play at the highest level possible with opportunities to win trophies and championships. With all the will in the world, Brighton and Hove Albion are not contenders for the Premier League title or major European trophies……….. not yet. Therefore, the structure of the club and its youth academy has been designed to recruit talented youngsters, improve their game, benefit the first team for a few years and sell on for a vast profit in the knowledge that there is a succession of younger players desperate to take their place in the first team and prove themselves. Such was the case with Ben White who rose through the youth teams and was sold to Arsenal last summer for £50 million. His departure enabled Cucurella to be bought in and he went on to be the 2022 Albion Player of the Year. It is likely that Bissouma will leave this summer and, of course he will be missed. However, there is a number of players such as Moises Caicedo and Enock Mwepu, both of whom impressed last season and who are more than capable of filling Bissouma’s substantial shoes.

After two years of not being able to hold meetings due to the pandemic, the Seagulls Over Burwash AGM will be held on 11th July. Our special guest this year will be Albion Chief Executive and Deputy Chairman, Paul Barber, who will participate in a Q&A. There will be a lot to discuss…..! Further details will be posted on the SOB website.

For further information on joining Seagulls Over Burwash and details of forthcoming events, meetings or coach travel, please visit our website at www.seagullsoverburwash.co.uk or email me at simon.forster@seagullsoverburwash.co.uk. Alternatively, please feel free to contact our esteemed and venerated Chairman, Mr Teskey O’Neil, on 01435 884344 or tesbar80@btinternet.com. As you all know, Teskey is renowned for his athletic prowess which his advancing years has not diminished. He puts this down to his dedication to his training and his constant quest for improvement. Consequently, he was very excited that the Brighton and Hove Albion Summer Soccer Schools have restarted again following the Covid restrictions and he was first to sign up. The fact that the age limit is 13 didn’t put him off and he dug his 1950’s Wadhurst Under 10s kit out of the attic and was convinced that “no one will notice” his hairy legs and bald head once he was suitably attired. Sadly for Teskey, lycra wasn’t widely available until the 1960s and linen football shirts aren’t so forgiving. Due to the combined effects of an expanded waistline and moths, his cunning disguise disintegrated upon first attempt at donning. Hard luck, Teskey. Maybe you should stick to tiddly-winks after all? 

Simon Forster