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Seagulls seek to ruffle feathers of Premier League’s high-fliers on long-awaited return to top flight

Why the return to the big-time wasn’t all one Brighton fan had hoped it would be when it finally happened

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 April, 2017, 5:35pm
UPDATED : Friday, 21 April, 2017, 9:35pm

When the dream came true after 34 years, Brighton’s return to top-flight football quickly turned to a nightmare for life-long fan Kevin Tate.

At the final whistle against Wigan, a 2-1 win which sealed Brighton’s promotion to the English Premier League, Kevin’s 12-year-old son ignored pleas to stay put and instead legged it over the seats and down the terraces to join the delirious pitch invasion – a merry mob that debagged some of the Gulls players.

“There were hundreds of 12-year-old kids all wearing Brighton shirts, so I lost Riley for an hour and went out of my mind, so could not really enjoy the experience,” said the veteran season-ticket holder who, you’ll be pleased to learn, was able to celebrate later that night after finally being reunited with his son on the Amex’s happy turf thanks to the stewards rounding up the youth.

These stalwart custodians in high-viz attire will be among those rewarded for making Brighton such a family-oriented club. From manager Chris Hughton and his squad to the 800 casual match-day staff to the full-time tea lady – all will share in up to a 20 per cent performance bonus in their next wage packet thanks to the inclusive scheme devised by the board to incentivise the entire workforce.

How this carrot worked: Brighton’s 28 wins so far this season are more than Premier League basement club Sunderland fans have seen in three years.

Be in no doubt that the £200 million promotion windfall will transform Brighton, a club that has suffered a generation of existential turmoil.

“It’s now down as the best day of my life – apart from Riley’s birth of course,” joked the Gulls fan, who had been dreaming of top-flight entertainment since 1983; such happy scenes for this small club that was nearly forced out of existence 20 years go because of debts, and had to sell its 95-year-old home to property developers to avoid extinction.

Now clashes with northern behemoths and London titans await – plus the intense South Coast derbies between Bournemouth and Southampton. Who knows? Brighton could go on to emulate Leicester and be crowned champions within two seasons and then take on the cream of Europe.

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Of course, amid the tangle of emotions few are ignoring the fact that though promotion was the goal, staying up is a lot less fun – just ask strugglers Middlesbrough, who went up last season after winning 26 Championship games and scoring 63 goals. Back in the Premier League for the first time since 2009, Boro fans have witnessed four wins and 23 goals.

But the new dawn for the Seagulls is a long way off. Now is the time to wallow in satisfaction – and relief that lost sons and daughters have been found, safe, well and, like their dads, very excited.

Does a dribble around the White House lawn herald a new apprentice at the Emirates?

If ever the omens were playing to the section of the Emirates crowd that wants manager Arsene Wenger booted out of the dugout, then surely the photo of the 11-year-old son of US president Donald Trump kicking a ball about the White House lawn dressed in a full Arsenal strip was a welcome signal.

Just why Barron Trump was decked out in the Gunners’ red-and-white kit became clearer when it was revealed that Arsenal owner and US tycoon Stan Kroenke made a US$1m donation to The Donald’s presidential inauguration fund.

Having the most powerful man on the planet support your team is no bad thing – though there’s many a Gunners fan hoping the old Donald will appear before their eyes, and point that famous forefinger at Wenger, and declare: “You’re fired!”

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Fifa left with egg on its face as sponsors flee the gravy coup

After all those years of nefarious activity, the chickens are coming home to roost for Fifa.

Sponsors have been slow to back the 2018 Russia World Cup. Almost all of Brazil 2014’s sponsorship slots were allocated three years before kick-off.

But with just over a year to go, only 10 companies have been named as commercial partners for Russia – that’s half the number of firms who backed the last tournament.

Against a backdrop of corruption, racism, football thuggery and Russian geopolitical aggression, even the usually unscrupulous corporations have been put off paying US$150 million for top-tier sponsorship spots.

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Russia’s economy has also struggled in recent years, as underlined by Alfa-Bank being the only “national” partner signed up from the Russian business community to date.

Many long-standing World Cup backers cut their ties with Fifa after the world governing body was hit with a series of corruption scandals following Brazil 2014.

So it brought joy to critics that Fifa reported earlier this month a loss of US$369 million in 2016 as legal costs and sponsors’ caution hit its bottom line.

If there is a god, he does poetic justice.