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Football: Skint Brighton now rap up new kit deal

THERE ARE plenty of skint football teams around, but as of yesterday, only one Skint football team. Brighton & Hove Albion have teetered uncomfortably between mediocrity and oblivion in recent years, finishing second from bottom of the Third Division in two of the last three seasons. When it comes to the ice-cool trendiness of their shirt sponsor, though, they can now claim to be in a league of their own.

The Seagulls announced yesterday that their main sponsor next season will be Skint Records, the local label which is the home of Fatboy Slim, aka Norman Cook, whose album You've Come A Long Way Baby has been a bestseller for months. Cook is the DJ of the moment on the dance circuit, but you do not need to be a whey-faced night animal to have heard tracks like "Right Here, Right Now" and "The Rockafeller Skank". Both are big favourites with television sound technicians looking for punchy background music.

Cook is a Brighton resident, like many artists on the Skint roster, and he is due to marry Zoe Ball in the town next month. The whiff of celebrity is a godsend to a club like the Albion, who have fallen a long way since their FA Cup final appearance in 1983, and have played their "home" matches in Gillingham for the last two years. Next season, though, they will return to Sussex to play at Withdean Stadium, a small sports complex which will be their temporary home for at least the next two years.

The irony of a football team that is actually proud to be Skint is not lost on anyone. "It's delicious," Dick Knight, Brighton's chairman, said yesterday. "A club that has gone to the very brink of oblivion will have the cheek, confidence and wit to stride out next season with Skint on its shirt. The deal is typical of the new spirit at the Albion, and we see this as a great way to build an idiosyncratic, unconventional image."

Nick Rowe, the club's general manager, was keen to "reassure older fans that we haven't gone mad, and the chairman will not be releasing a rap record". But a range of Skint-branded merchandise will soon be available at the club shop, and perhaps more importantly, Seagulls-branded stock will be on sale at major music events where Skint acts are performing, and through the Skint website. There is even talk of pushing the joke to the limit with a Skint credit card (red would be a good colour, according to Knight).

The replica shirt of choice among Brighton's youth these days tends to be Manchester United or Arsenal. With their new sponsor, though, the team hopes that the Albion shirt will become a must-have item, not just in Sussex but among clubbers across Britain.

It would be expecting too much to think that Cook might wear a Brighton shirt to his wedding. There will be at least one superb photo opportunity next season though, when the Seagulls entertain Barnet FC. That will, of course, be Skint versus Loaded.