A look back on Martin Perry's first few days at the club.
To celebrate Martin Perry’s 20 years as a director of the football club, below is the first in a series of stories on seagulls.co.uk to celebrate his achievements at the Albion.
Brighton & Hove Albion executive director Martin Perry reflected on his journey into the football club and commented on a memorable first week working for the Seagulls, when he arrived at the Goldstone over 20 years ago.
Perry has overseen Albion’s remarkable journey from the brink of Football League relegation to the heights of the Premier League, and told the story behind how he became a director on the south coast.
He said, “It happened in a series of phases. Dick and I were involved in the talks with Bill Archer at the CEDR offices in London. The difficulty was that Archer wanted to retain 51% control of the club and understandably Dick wanted a controlling interest of at least 51%.
“To try and break the deadlock, I suggested a formula where Dick and Bill Archer held equal shares of 45% and an independent director who they both trusted held the balance of 10%. Dick agreed to this on the condition that I was the person that held the 10%.
“To my surprise Bill Archer agreed to this and we announced that we had reached an agreement following the CEDR talks. From that moment I was deeply involved. However a week or so later, Bill Archer tried to change the agreement we had reached.
“It meant that we had to re-negotiate the deal the night before the last game at the Goldstone, at a restaurant called Greens in Jermyn Street in London. We ended up with a deal that Dick and Bill Archer would hold 49.5% each and I would hold 1% of the shares.
“Having actually agreed a structure and shaking hands on it, we then came down to Brighton the following morning for the game. Dick and I went to the Goldstone Ground together, but we didn’t even know where the directors’ door was!
“We found our way in and were taken on a stadium tour. It wasn’t very impressive! We all know what happened in the game, but as soon as the final whistle went we were ushered back into the boardroom very quickly.
“We were surrounded by police in the boardroom in full riot gear and heard the noise of people tearing the Goldstone apart. Afterwards, we went back out and had a look at the remains of the ground, which was a very sad sight. It was the last time I saw the Goldstone and my first day acting as a director.
“At that point, effectively, we started to run the club. But we weren't actually directors, because we had to negotiate the terms of the Share Purchase Agreement, which meant more long hours with solicitors until the agreement was finalised.”
Despite their earlier involvement, Perry and Knight, together with Bob Pinnock, had to wait until 2nd September 1997 to officially be appointed as directors at the club, and Perry spoke further about his transition from the North West.
“As most people know, I was working as the director of special projects for Alfred McAlpine. One of the projects I was responsible for was the building of the Alfred McAlpine Stadium for Huddersfield Town.
“This was a very successful project and was a joint venture between the football club, rugby club and the local authority Kirklees Metropolitan District Council. Alfred McAlpine had been involved in putting together the deal that led to the stadium being built.”
“Ivor Caplin [who at the time was Leader of Hove Council] knew the Leader of Kirklees Council, John Harman, and John put him in touch with us. Ivor asked for me to come down to Brighton to talk about what we had achieved at Huddersfield and have a chat about the problems Brighton were facing.
“I told Ivor that I would love to build a stadium for Brighton, I was brought up in Brighton, my father and I were Brighton fans, Brighton was my club, but I didn’t want to end up running a football club”.
“Three years later, Dick offered me the chance to become chief executive and I jumped at it!
“From the very outset, instinctively I sensed there was something about the club. Perhaps it was from my childhood days in the 50s, when I could hear the roar from the Goldstone in my back garden, I knew that Brighton was a sleeping giant, and that if we could get a new stadium built, it would go on to greater things.”
“I believed it from the moment I got involved and I’ve never lost that belief. Now, 20 years later, getting to the Premier League in this stadium is a realisation of that dream.”