Knight takes control

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The Independent Online
Dick Knight, the new Brighton chairman, has made clear the board's determination to bring the Seagulls back close to their former Goldstone Ground, after finally taking control of the club.

News that the ownership deal has gone through has come as a huge relief for supporters of the club, and Knight admits that the new board have "their hands full" following the two most traumatic years in Brighton's history.

Knight said: "The real work starts here. We have to get the football club back on an even keel, and get it on a firm financial footing to face the economic hardships of playing away from Brighton for the foreseeable future.

"The first priority of the new board is to put in place a more suitable ground share than Gillingham. Then we clearly ultimately want to make sure that we bring a club back to the Brighton and Hove area."

Knight, who has removed the chief executive David Bellotti from Brighton and promised new cash for players, has a 49.5 per cent shareholding in the Third Division club.

Bellotti, the former Liberal Democrat MP for Eastbourne, has been with Brighton for nearly four years and was subjected to a hate campaign during Albion's last seasons at the Goldstone Ground when they nearly went out of business.

However, Knight is now looking to the future, and as well as long-term plans he is intent on stepping up the search for a new temporary ground rather than continuing to use Gillingham's Priestfield Stadium, which involves a 150-mile trip to watch "home" games.

Earlier this summer Albion submitted plans for a huge pounds 25m sports and leisure complex at Waterhall, on the outskirts of Brighton.

Knight added: "The issue here is, does the community of Sussex want a superb modern sports stadium to house not only its Football League club but also a whole range of other sports facilities, which is our vision for this stadium for the future?"

The scheme has been attacked by environmentalists, who say it will ruin an area of outstanding natural beauty, and Knight stressed: "Our main priority was to gain control of the club. The issue of Waterhall will certainly be addressed, and we will explore all the options open to us in the Brighton area for a suitable sports stadium.

"I am going to try and get us away from Gillingham as soon as possible. We are going to have our hands full, but I'm sure everyone is as relieved as I am that the long ownership saga is now over. We are delighted we're now in a position from which we can all take the club forward."

Liz Costa, vice-chairman of Brighton's official supporters club, summed up Seagulls fans' feelings, saying: "Thank goodness this matter has been resolved. Fans have wondered at times over the last two-and-a-half years whether it has been worth it. But they kept the faith and have been rewarded."