Football: Brighton face race to safeguard League future

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Brighton were yesterday given five days to come up with the pounds 500,000 that will guarantee their future as a League club.

The Football League's 72 clubs decided at yesterday's annual general meeting in central London to give the go-ahead for the Sussex side's plans to share with Gillingham, following the sale of their Goldstone Ground. But the Seagulls were given an ultimatum that they must pay the pounds 500,000 bond to the League by next Friday if they are to be allowed to play in the Third Division next season. Brighton have also been told they must return to the Brighton area within three years.

Brighton's chief executive, David Bellotti, and chairman, Bill Archer, were at yesterday's meeting, although chairman-elect Dick Knight was not.

The Football League chairman, David Sheepshanks, said the consequences of not meeting the deadline had been spelled out to the club. "They've assured us they can come up with the money," he said. "If they do not, the matter will be referred to an extraordinary general meeting of the League clubs. The other clubs have expressed the view to Brighton that they expect to see them comply with the undertaking." It is understood that Brighton have been told they will be ejected from the League if they do not come up with the money.

Bellotti said: "Mr Archer told the meeting that he could meet the conditions imposed by the League. I do not think that there are going to be any additional meetings called to discuss our case."

Brighton have signed a pounds 300,000 two-year contract with Gillingham, with the option of extending for one further year, to share the Kent side's Priestfield Stadium. Knight and his consortium have earmarked a sight at Waterhall on the outskirts of Brighton for a pounds 25m new stadium development, but there seems little chance of that being completed within two years as they are still awaiting planning permission.

The Football League secretary David Dent added: "The bond is a guarantee that Brighton will fulfil their commitment to the Football League and also return to the Brighton area. If there was no indication that they were moving back within the three-year timetable, action could be taken."

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