On this day: Dick Knight finally takes control

Today marks 25 years since Dick Knight became Albion chairman.

By Nick Szczepanik • 02 September 2022

By Bennett Dean
Dick Knight became Albion chairman in September 1997.

Tuesday 2 September 1997 may not be a date that resounds in Albion history as loudly as April 26 of that year or May 3, when the games against Doncaster and Hereford were played – but it has a significance all of its own. 25 years ago today, Dick Knight officially became chairman and the club was finally in the hands of a fan.

These days, there is hardly a street in Sussex that our life president can walk down without someone coming up to ask for a selfie or to shake his hand - due recognition of what he achieved in wresting control of our club from a regime that sold the Goldstone Ground and exiled us to Gillingham for two seasons.

Yet Dick had been largely unknown outside the advertising business before his brother-in-law John Keehan had passed his contact details to former Albion boss Liam Brady, who was forming a consortium aimed at taking control of the Albion back from owner Greg Stanley and chairman Bill Archer.

By Paul Hazlewood
Tony Bloom took over as Albion chairman from Dick Knight in 2009.

Archer and Stanley had secretly sold the ground to developers and changed the Albion’s articles of association so that directors could profit from assets if the club was wound up. The fans were up in arms when the Argus broke the story, staging pitch invasions, demonstrations and walkouts. But it needed serious, knowledgeable and well-funded figures to get Stanley and Archer out. Dick ticked every box.

After Dick was named as the leader of the consortium – or Albion’s Knight in shining armour, as the media would have it - his background as the man behind the Wonderbra ad was always brought up. That guaranteed column inches in which to put the consortium’s case before the public, and his business brain let him meet the FA and club chairman as an equal.

He also has a legendary gift of the gab that came out in public meetings as he addressed his fellow fans to assure them that he was one of them, who had stood in the North Stand and later on the East Terrace, and that he was in it for the long haul. The negotiating skills that would later secure the bargain signing of Bobby Zamora proved invaluable in talks with Archer and in mediation arranged by FA head of corporate affairs David Davies. And his determination eventually saw the process through to the right conclusion.

By Paul Hazlewood
Dick Knight recently appeared at Albion's Goldstone anniversary dinner.

Finally, a deal was struck that would see Archer step aside and Dick take over as chairman-elect in time for the last game at the Goldstone, with consortium members Martin Perry and Bob Pinnock becoming directors. Dick would not assume full control until September 2, but he had already begun the work that would eventually return us to Brighton and Hove and secure planning permission for the American Express Community Stadium.

So it was 25 years ago that Dick wrote out two cheques to Archer and Stanley, for £56.25 and £43.75, to buy them out of the company that controlled the club. There was still a long road ahead – how long we could not have known – but the Albion were finally heading in the right direction again, with a Knight leading the way.