Read Paul Barber's programme notes

The Albion chief executive and deputy chairman takes a look at the latest off-field news at the club.

By Paul Barber • 02 April 2022

By Paul Hazlewood
Albion chief executive and deputy chairman Paul Barber.

A warm welcome back to the American Express Community Stadium for this afternoon’s game against Norwich City.

After our recent run of disappointing results, the international break has given us a chance to reset, and we now look forward to this afternoon’s game against a Norwich side who themselves will be looking for a return to winning ways. It should make for a really entertaining game in front of what will be another big crowd at the Amex this afternoon.

The support you have given the side this season has been tremendous and hasn’t gone unnoticed by Graham, his staff or the players. Be it home or away, the backing received from the vast majority of our supporters has been unwavering.

Earlier this week our accounts were published for the 2020/21 season, in which the turnover for the period was up by 13.4% to £151.6m, against £132.9m in 2019/20 – and losses reduced to £53.4m from £67.2m.
Paul Barber

We all appreciate our recent run is not what we had hoped for or expected, but there will always be bumps in the road, and I’m sure our supporters, in the main, can see the bigger picture. To this point, we have made real progress on the pitch, which has, largely, been reflected in the quality of our performances.

We also have to remember that we are trying to compete in the toughest league in world football, against clubs who are far more established than ourselves at this level.

Earlier this week our accounts were published for the 2020/21 season, in which the turnover for the period was up by 13.4% to £151.6m, against £132.9m in 2019/20 – and losses reduced to £53.4m from £67.2m.

Despite our progress on and off the field, it’s clear to see that we continue to sustain heavy losses. While this is never ideal, we are, however, encouraged by the fact that we have seen an increase in turnover and a reduction in the losses, despite the pandemic impacting the entire season in question – and these figures do not include the sale of Ben White to Arsenal, which happened after the end date for these accounts.

The figures are testament to the careful, diligent and professional approach of so many across the club, who adapted to the global situation, and to the stability that Tony Bloom’s financial investment gives the club.

As always, we are greatly indebted to Tony for a further increase in an already very significant investment in Brighton & Hove Albion. Tony provides a level of stability rarely enjoyed by other clubs, and this has enabled us to continually grow and progress under his chairmanship and ownership.

By Paul Hazlewood
Albion chairman Tony Bloom.

This week’s results show just how difficult it is to be competitive in the Premier League, but with roughly half of our total loss attributed directly to the pandemic, hopefully we can now move forward with more certainty. Nevertheless, we must continue to look for new ways to boost revenues, increase our fanbase and reduce operational costs.

The overall effort to become more sustainable, and less reliant on Tony, is a long-term project involving all of our staff. We recognise that there will always be difficulties in achieving our aims and ambitions, but we remain determined to work towards our combined vision.

Being a top ten Premier League club and top four WSL club won’t be easy, and isn’t achieved by hitting these heights once, just as a season isn’t determined by one good or bad run.

Long-term sustainability also isn’t achieved easily or overnight and improving our key financials must be balanced by careful investment on and off the pitch. On the pitch, this means shrewd transfer dealings and ongoing output from our academy, while off it, improving the fan experience at our stadium and providing the best possible value for money is paramount.

The recent recognition of the club’s progress in the Financial Times, Mail on Sunday and, indeed, the Premier League’s recent annual fan survey has been gratifying. That said, there is no room for complacency and everyone at the club continues to work very hard to improve.

Engagement with fans remains high on our agenda too, and the development of the Fan Advisory Board is progressing well. To date, we have received a decent balance of male and female applicants, and we look forward to the FAB’s first meeting later this summer.

We hope, by then, that the pandemic will be truly behind us and while it would be foolhardy to suggest COVID is no longer an issue today, the recent relaxation in the restrictions by the Government means that the restrictions we have at the stadium will continue to ease over time.

We’re keen, however, to impress that fans who attend games here do so in confidence and that they are entering a safe environment in which to watch the game. If you feel more comfortable wearing a facemask then we encourage you to do so, likewise the regular washing of hands and keeping your distance in crowded places.

As you might have read elsewhere in the programme, we had an incident recently where a young fan was struck by a bottle in the North Stand.

Fortunately, and thankfully, the child wasn’t seriously hurt, but it goes without saying that we have zero tolerance for any kind of antisocial behaviour at the stadium, where the safety of fans, players, officials and staff is a non-negotiable.

This incident is a reason why we have a policy of no bottle tops on drinks at the Amex. A full bottle of drink can be used as a missile with serious consequences, but with the lid removed, that threat is greatly reduced – which is why this child escaped relatively unharmed.

Still, this is no excuse for the incident that occurred and the club is currently working to identify the bottle thrower in question. Anyone who is identified as having thrown an object inside the stadium will be subject to a lengthy exclusion from attending matches and other club events.

Finally, as we enter these final matches of the season, there is still plenty to look forward to – as has been reflected in our ticket sales.

Matchday sales remain strong; attendances are clearly growing and we are now close to 90% in terms of our season-ticket renewal rates. We have also sold out of our 1901 Club availability, and this augurs well for the remainder of this campaign and into 2022/23.

We have nine games to go and we look forward to each one with confidence and expectation. Our record points total in the Premier League and highest finish is still possible and your continued support will be so important as we strive to reach our targets.

That begins this afternoon, so thank-you again for the backing you give the players throughout the 90 minutes and beyond.

Enjoy the game!