Dick Knight will forever be a legend of Brighton & Hove Albion FC, of that there is no doubt. From wrestling control of the club from its previous owners in the mid 90s, to bringing the club back to Sussex after a two year stay in Gillingham, to the seemingly never ending battle to win planning permission for our new stadium, he successfully guided us through the most turbulent and important part of the club’s history. Quite simply, if it wasn’t for him, I’d now be spending my Saturday afternoons watching Whitehawk.
With Knight’s involvement now reduced to the ceremonial title of Life President and a smattering of shares, he has decided the time is right to release his memoirs, and it’s fair to say he hasn’t been entirely complimentary about those involved when it came to Tony Bloom’s rise to club chairman, and some of the decisions Bloom has taken since, including the way he handled the Gus Poyet saga last summer.
In this day and age, controversy sells books and was therefore probably inevitable, but the public mudslinging between the various parties that has ensued is doing no-one any good.
Whilst Bloom has kept quiet, director Derek Chapman has waded into the debate, mainly questioning Knight’s desire to retain as much of the money he invested into the club as possible when he handed over the reins to Bloom in 2009. In a normal business environment this would be perfectly acceptable, but it does seem somewhat strange that Knight would want to take money from the club he has supported all his life, knowing that it was struggling to make ends meet. No sane person would ever put money into a lower league football club thinking they will ever see it again – Knight surely only got involved in the first place to stop the club he supports going to the wall, not to receive a return on his investment.
As well as the sales from his new book, Knight is also looking to retrieve some of his investment by offering his remaining shareholding in the club (less than 2%) to the club’s supporters via a form in his book. He has explicitly said he is only selling them at the face value of £1 per share and therefore is making no profit, and will only look to sell them to genuine Albion fans in a bid to ensure fans retain a right to voice concerns about the club as it moves with the times and becomes more corporate.
All of this seems very noble at first glance, but Knight has to offer first refusal to other shareholders if he wishes to sell up, and the first they allegedly heard of his intentions was when the book was serialised in the local press recently. If the other shareholders now decide to purchase Knight’s shares from under fans’ noses, Knight is going to publicly look very silly, which would be a great shame given how much he did for the club during the dark times.
It is also worth questioning whether it is worthwhile for the club to end up with several hundred new minority shareholders, each with a stake so minor they have no real influence on club matters at boardroom level. We have all seen what can happen when individuals take over football clubs despite having no affinity to it or the local area, but Albion are extremely fortunate in this sense. Our boardroom is already full of genuine Albion supporters, people who can be trusted to act with the club’s best interests fully at heart.
The club has to move on though, as does Knight. He is a club legend for saving the club, just as Bloom is a club legend for providing the funds to build the Amex after planning permission was secured. It is time everyone looked forward together, towards the ultimate dream of promotion to the Premier League.
The possibility of achieving that dream this season is looking more realistic by the week, after an upturn in fortune following an inconsistent start to the campaign. Consecutive victories against Doncaster, Blackburn and Wigan has propelled us from the bottom half to within two points of the top six, an amazing effort when you take into consideration the magnitude of injuries we have suffered. The injury to Leonardo Ulloa against Sheffield Wednesday was a particular hammer blow that threatened to ruin our season, but Andrew Crofts’ goals from midfield, as well as the emergence of youngsters Jake Forster-Caskey and Rohan Ince, have given us every chance of making the play-offs for the second season running.
Written by Liam Dawes – We Are Going Up’s Brighton and Hove Albion Blogger