Back in August, we asked David Hartrick- football book publisher, In Bed With Maradona guru and Football Fives Podcast rabble rouser and Brighton fan - about his club. It's fair to say that he wasn't optimistic:
When asked about Brighton's weaknesses, his answer was prescient:
We need width, better defensive options and goals, goals, goals. We have bodies in so the pressure won't be on the *ahem* limited Chris O'Grady to be our main striker, there are those who don't want him anywhere near the match day squad in truth, but we have to create more, concede less and as a minimum look like scoring. Simple...
Brighton were clearly glad to see the back of Chris O'Grady. While a willing worker and all round nice guy, his contribution has been sporadic.
It's fair to say that Brighton's success this season has come as something as a surprise. When asked "Where will Brighton finish this season?", this was his response:
I'd chop dead bodies up to finish top half in a relatively trouble-free season. I fear we may be (for me, Clive) in and around relegation for most of the year. I'll split the difference and say 18th. Bobby should be worth 20 points alone, he said convincing no one, least of all himself.
The Bobby in question here is obviously Bobby Zamora.
Brighton currently sit third in the table, snugly placed in the play-offs and not without a shout at automatic promotion. Have a look at their squad and you may be forgiven for uttering 'Who?' as you scroll through the names. The Sami Hyppia experiment failed spectacularly but with the appointment of Chris Hughton and a few tweaks here and there, the club is now reaping the rewards of a sustainable approach.
The club has been careful to operate within FFP regulations and confirmed their compliance with such for the 2013/14 season. Given this, it seems perfectly fair that the club expressed disappointment with QPR for breaching such rules.
Brighton are an example of a club backed by a wealthy individual - Tony Bloom - but operating within FFP guidelines. The excellent Swiss Ramble produced a detailed analysis of the club's finances here. Here are a few interesting conclusions:
Looking at how Brighton have used these funds since Bloom took charge, the majority (£153 million, or 72%) has gone on investment into infrastructure (including £103 million on the stadium and £32 million on the training centre), while £45 million (21%) has been used to cover operating losses. Any spending on new players has essentially been self-funded in this period by player sales.Being so dependent on one individual can be a concern, but Bloom comes from a family of Brighton supporters: "I have absolutely no intention of selling. I think I will be here for many years to come."
He continued: "Our ambition remains for the club’s teams, both men and women, to play at the highest level possible – and as chairman (and a lifelong supporter of the club) I will do everything I possibly can to achieve that and I remain fully committed to that goal."
The current rules will continue to apply for the 2014/15 and 2015/16 seasons (though the maximum allowed loss is increased to £13 million from the second season), but will change from the 2016/17 season to be more aligned with the Premier League’s regulations, e.g. the losses will be calculated over a three-year period up to a maximum of £39 million.Although Bloom said that the club was "not entirely happy" with the increase, he did concede that the change "does provide us with greater flexibility and the option to compete with those clubs benefiting from parachute payments."
FFP encourages clubs to invest in youth development, which is an area of focus for Brighton. The splendid new training centre ("the best I’ve ever worked in", according to Hughton) has resulted in the awarding of the important Category 1 academy status and will ultimately help develop players that can push for the first team.
Forest's Academy, whilst clearly producing some talented players and achieving success, remains Category 2. It achieved this status in 2013.
All of which goes to suggest that success can be achieved through long term planning and within FFP requirements. Perhaps it doesn't require a miracle to be successful in this league. Brighton's achievements suggest that it can be done within FFP guidelines.