Brighton’s success is not just about its football

Brighton's chairman Tony Bloom reacts ahead of the English FA Cup semi-final football match against Manchester United. (Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images)
Brighton's chairman Tony Bloom reacts ahead of the English FA Cup semi-final football match against Manchester United. (Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images) /
Zerbi a class act at Brighton
Roberto De Zerbi (center left), manager of Brighton & Hove Albion, comforts Alexis Mac Allister after a loss to Aston Villa. (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images) /

It is ‘Bloom time’ at Brighton & Hove Albion

Brighton & Hove Albion’s chairman Tony Bloom is the real deal.

Taking over in 2009, he steered his club into the Premier League in 2017. Brighton have stayed put in the Premier League since and now have qualified for Europe for the first time. This is however not about the football they play, but about how Bloom has run the club.

In a sport that is increasingly influenced by money, Brighton has shown the way in the Premier League. A football club is no longer just a manager and a squad. It is now a business enterprise, where revenue matters, costs kill, and profits are a necessary evil. Even the smallest club has a team of business professionals who watch every penny spent and each one collected.

In almost every country, clubs have spent money in transfer windows to strengthen their teams. Gate revenues, advertising revenues, and debt have been the sources that keep the club afloat. While only a few clubs have great success, most manage to just stay afloat, before selling it to some other foolhardy investor or an investment firm.

Bloom works his magic at Brighton

Since his takeover in 2009, Bloom, who made a fortune on betting, horse racing, and playing poker, has changed the way Brighton operated. Like all owners, he did his bit on recruiting the right coaches, building an academy system to ensure a talent bank, and bringing in everything needed to create a team that can sustain performances. It is beyond this that things get interesting. It is what Brighton has done differently in the transfer markets that has been a revelation.

A degree in mathematics and a career in poker and horse racing has endowed Bloom with guts, gumption, and the ability to spot a chance and take a punt. This potent mix is formidable enough but is multiplied by his love for football and his hometown club. In the past few years, he and his team have surprised many with the way they have acquired players and then managed to sell them off for monstrous profits.

Just a sample of the deals they have done would illustrate their success.

  • Ben White, brought in free from Southampton in 2014, was sold for£65 million to Arsenal
  • Marc Cucurella was bought for £18 million and sold for £65 million to Chelsea.
  • Alexis Mac Allister was bought for £8 million and sold for around £35 million to Liverpool.

It has taken some time for the Brighton team to bring this strategy into play, but it seems to be in a sweet spot just now. The cornerstone of its success is in having a pipeline that enables continuity in the turnover of talent while keeping the team performance at the required levels in the League. This is where the next Bloom masterstroke emerges.

Scouting: The Brighton way to riches

The scouting and recruiting team at Brighton has expanded its game to a different level. Through his data analytics firm Starlizard, he has empowered scouts with in-depth data on footballers across many countries. The scouts then dig and and thus far they have successfully been unearthing talent at a cost of next to nothing.

In Europe, some clubs have a great record of this transfer market strategy. Clubs like Benfica, Borussia Dortmund, Lille, etc., are way ahead in this game. Brighton is a late starter but fast catching up. They have managed to find new fields to scout. Many of their recent buys have been from countries like Ecuador, Paraguay and Argentina. These are young talents, almost all of them in their early 20s as well as some teenagers. These signings, their development and subsequent moves are the real testimony of success.

Moises Caicedo from Ecuador bought for a measly £4 million is already being chased by the big clubs willing to pay around £80 million. Julio Enciso, a precocious 18-year-old Paraguayan, was nicked for £1 million and is already worth £25 million in the market, just 6 months after he was signed. Facundo Buonanotte, an 18-year-old from Argentina, is worth £12 million, double what he was signed for in January. With all these deals, Brighton is among the rare teams that has a net fee inflow in the Premier League

Given the development and progression of players like Caicedo and Kauro Mitoma, it does look like Brighton has a system capable of producing more gems. The new manager Roberto De Zerbi has worked wonders with the team and the Amex, their home ground, has become a tough patch for visiting teams. De Zerbi, a coach who is talked about in glowing terms, has bought into the project and things surely seem to be “Bloom”-ing at Brighton

These are interesting times in this beautiful seaside resort town, south of London, and the football is surely as attractive as the town.