Football: Brighton warned about moving

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The Independent Online
Brighton and Hove Albion have been warned by the Football League that they need to provide several "cast iron guarantees" about their future before they will be allowed to groundshare with Gillingham next season.

Brighton, who have to leave the Goldstone Ground at the end of this season after selling the stadium to property developers for pounds 7m to pay off debts, have said they intend to share with Gillingham.

The League insist it is a premature announcement and they need assurances sooner rather than later about the club's long- term prospects before giving permission for the switch.

"The groundshare scheme has been announced as if it is already in place, that everything is cut and dried but that is definitely not the case," Chris Hull, the League spokesman, said.

"We need cast iron guarantees before contemplating a ground-sharing scheme and we want them as soon as possible.

"There are no assurances from Brighton about their future in front of us and that is not the way forward. We need to be assured they have plans in hand for a new ground in the Brighton conurbation, that they have a site in the pipeline, that they have the resources available and that there is a reasonable time-scale involved.

"If they have all these assurances in place then we will look at the groundsharing option but they don't at present. Clubs are not allowed to move out of the area to play unless they have plans to move back eventually and you are probably talking about two seasons maximum."

The League's concern could become hypothetical in the short term if Brighton finish bottom of the Third Division and are relegated to the GM Vauxhall Conference, who will take them with or without their own ground. At the moment Brighton remain bottom, having lost 2-1 at Torquay yesterday.

Hull warned that the Seagulls might not be readmitted to the Football League if they won the Conference title and were still operating as nomads.

The Walsall manager, Chris Nicholl, has signed Mark Smith, the former Nottingham Forest and Crewe goalkeeper, following his release from prison. The 23-year-old, who has just finished a six-month sentence after being jailed following a fight in Birmingham, has signed a deal until the end of the season.

"He made a mistake and has paid for it," Nicholl said. "But he has been here training a couple of times and he is a good goalkeeper. He seems a nice lad and is keen to get on with his career."