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The chairman's annual statement

Chairman Tony Bloom reflects on release of 2019/20 club accounts.

By BHAFC • 26 January 2021

By Paul Hazlewood
Albion chairman Tony Bloom.

Writing in his annual statement, Albion chairman Tony Bloom has spoken of his pride at the club's and community's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, in what was a challenging season for the club.

The chairman's statement

These accounts relate to our third season in the Premier League, and one of the most challenging in our club's history. During the second half of the season, the world was in the grip of a devastating global pandemic that changed so many aspects of life in so many ways - football included.

Tragically, thousands upon thousands of people have lost their lives or loved ones to the pandemic, amongst them a number of Albion fans and members of the Albion community. Such tragedies put football into perspective and, notwithstanding everything we did to raise our standards on the pitch, our greatest achievements in the season just gone by, came off the pitch. Our contribution to the community on a number of levels was ground-breaking and hugely impactful. Much of this was due both to Paul Barber and his Executive Team at the club, and Matt Dorn and his team at Albion in the Community.

By Paul Hazlewood
Graham Potter guided Albion to a record Premier League points tally in his first season as head coach.

On the football front, we began the season with a new head coach in Graham Potter, having parted company with Chris Hughton at the end of the 2018/19 season. I wrote in last year's statement that Chris did an exceptional job, but as the season ended, I felt it was the right time for a change in leadership for our senior men’s team.

Graham's first season at the club was a success as we finished 15th with 41 points, our highest ever Premier League position and points tally. I have been delighted with how quickly Graham and his staff settled and with the style of play he has developed and continues to develop.

I was also pleased with our player recruitment, making significant investments in Adam Webster and Neal Maupay in the summer. In January, we were very excited by the signing of super-quick Tariq Lamptey.

What has been equally impressive has been the flow of talent from the academy, with many of our young players gaining valuable experience out on loan and others getting regular minutes in the first team. Last season, Steven Alzate and Aaron Connolly both established themselves in the Premier League, and I am delighted other recent academy players Ben White and Robert Sanchez are also now playing a significant number of Premier League games.

By Paul Hazlewood
Hope Powell's side reached the quarter-finals of the FA Cup last season.

It has been a similar season of progress with our women's team. The team secured their Women's Super League status and also reached the quarter-final of the FA Cup. In January 2020, we appointed Ron Thompson as our first head of recruitment, working solely on player acquisition for the women's teams. This is an area which is becoming more competitive, and I am excited by the progress we are making in this area.

Our £25 million training ground improvement is due to be completed for the start of the 2021/22 season. This will incorporate a new women and girls' facility at the American Express Elite Football Performance Centre, ensuring that all of our players will benefit from superb state-of-the-art facilities. 

The accounts show a significant loss for the 2019/20 season. The club had budgeted for an increase in losses, due to additional investments in recruitment and with rising player wages and amortisation (transfer fees). The budgeted losses were significantly increased by the unexpected drop in turnover due to COVID.

Commercial revenues fell as a result of the reduction in television monies and loss of gate receipts – with the club playing five home games behind closed doors. In addition, there were shortfalls in catering and merchandise income, plus a number of additional and unexpected costs during the lockdown and return-to-play periods.  

We have worked very hard to minimise the impact of COVID on the staff at the football club. Naturally, we have been cautious and careful, but we've had to be inventive too. 

By Paul Hazlewood
Tony Bloom has hailed Paul Barber's leadership as 'outstanding'.

I would like to pay tribute to our board, executive team, and entire staff for all their hard work, as ever skilfully led by our chief executive and deputy chairman Paul Barber. Paul's leadership throughout this crisis has been outstanding. He has led from the front, often working around the clock, and taken on a personal responsibility for the many thousands of jobs that rely – either directly or indirectly – on the club. His communication with the supporters and all major stakeholders has been first-class, and barely a day passes without someone highlighting how proud they are of the club, and all its efforts during the pandemic.

Community and supporters

We are delighted that our fan base continues to grow both internationally and domestically. At our core, we are proud to be a community-based club and remain committed to our local fan base. When disaster strikes, such as with this horrendous pandemic, the importance of community and our place within it, comes into sharp focus.

Right at the start, we committed to paying our casual matchday staff until the end of the season. We also committed to support the incredible work of the NHS and its magnificent staff with a significant early financial donation from our players, a commitment of free tickets for NHS and key workers, and offering our stadium for training and equipment storage. As the government's strategy on testing became clearer, we converted the Amex into the south coast’s largest testing facility, with capacity for up to 1,500 tests per day. 

During lockdown we launched the Albion As One campaign. Kicked off by a huge donation from the club's players, which was added to by directors, the campaign has raised close to £400,000 and helped a huge number of worthy local causes.

Alongside this, Albion in the Community continued their excellent work using a variety of creative solutions to continue their engagement with more than 40,000 people in need of help. Typically they focus on getting people active, helping them lead healthier lives, and raising aspirations and academic achievement. During lockdown, priorities changed to: helping combat loneliness; addressing mental health challenges; and delivering food to the most vulnerable. AITC's staff and volunteers showed ingenuity, courage and selfless dedication by delivering thousands of food packages. AITC were also able to move a good proportion of their core program activity online via video webinars and calls. 

By Paul Hazlewood
Martin Perry is retiring from the football club, but will remain in post as Chairman of AITC.

Martin Perry is retiring from the football club, and does so as a true legend of the Albion. He will remain in post as Chairman of AITC, and we welcome his ongoing wisdom to help guide the charity. His commitment to the Albion and his passionate and unrelenting pursuit of our goal to build a brilliant new stadium, as part of a brand-new era for the club, can never be overstated. When I took over as chairman from Dick Knight, I was delighted to have such a trusted and conscientious colleague as Martin by my side. A wonderful legacy is clearly in place and, while Martin's professional contribution to our football club is there for all to see, I would also like to extol his human qualities. Working at this club over the past quarter of a century has been full of challenges – and Martin's humour, compassion and resilience have always shone through.

Naturally, we are keen to get fans back to the Amex, as soon as possible, but it has to be in a safe way and secure environment. Meanwhile, we have been conscious of helping our supporters, particularly season-ticket holders, and have committed to ensuring they receive a refund for any fixtures which are closed to fans. 

The club has also undertaken a huge amount of work to continue to engage with supporters while there were no matches being played – and then in the behind-closed-doors period – including checking in with calls to the most vulnerable as well as a host of online fans' forums, including Q&As and quizzes. I take this opportunity to highlight the unstinting and ongoing support we have received from our loyal fans, and say thank you on behalf of the club.

Looking ahead 

Our main priority for the 2020/21 season is to remain in the Premier League. We will also be looking to make progress on our longer-term aim of establishing the club in the top ten of the Premier League, in line with the vision we outlined in the summer of 2019.

Our vision is to be a top-ten Premier League club, and a top-four club in the Women's Super League.

We will achieve this by working together with smart recruitment in all areas, a productive academy, world-class facilities, and a sustainable budget - underpinned by our core values and supported by our fantastic fans and world class partners. 

We have a great team of people all around the club and great support from our fans, from our commercial partners, and from the wider community. Despite the global pandemic, our goal is unchanged. This will, I hope, continue to guide and inspire our club to even greater achievements.

Tony Bloom