London (AFP) – Tony Bloom deserves promotion to the Premier League as a return on the £200 million (234m euros, $248m) he has invested in Championship side Brighton, says club chief executive Paul Barber.
Chairman since 2009, Bloom — a hometown boy and successful property developer, as well as a renowned poker player — has seen the ‘Seagulls’ go close in three of the past four seasons.
Last year they lost out in heartbreaking fashion on the second and last automatic promotion place on goal difference — and then lost to Sheffield Wednesday in the first round of the play-offs.
But they’re back in the mix this term and Barber says they mustn’t mess it up again.
Brighton — who have never played in the top flight since the start of the Premier League in 1992 — lead the Championship and victory in front of a sell out crowd at home to second-placed Newcastle on Tuesday would see them move nine points clear of third-placed Huddersfield, who would have a game in hand.
“We are very lucky we have a very wealthy owner who has set aside money to give us an edge,” Barber told a small group of journalists including AFP after speaking at the Sports Industry Breakfast sponsored by BT.
“He has brought us a new ground (37,500 capacity Amex Stadium), training facilities and covered the losses.
“This is the fourth year in five we are in a good position to go up and I just hope we don’t screw it up like the other three.”
Barber — in his present role for five years after working with the Football Association, Tottenham and Vancouver Whitecaps — said the club had to be prepared financially for either scenario.
“We work on a twin track budget,” said Barber.
“We have to prepare for another season in the Championship but also for the EPL.
“If you start planning in May you will be in trouble, so we have parallel projects.
“We are working to get back in the black which would be for the first time in our history and give some money back to the owner.”
Barber, who came into football after a career in banking, admits the odds of retaining their place should they gain promotion will be difficult.
“It is really tough to stay up and looking at the numbers now it will be very tough to stay there,” said Barber.