Brighton are lucky to have Tony Bloom but fan power can bring change for Man United, Arsenal and Liverpool

Scott McCarthy: There was something rather apt that on the same weekend Brighton all-but secured Premier League football for a record-breaking fifth consecutive season, Manchester United fans were invading Old Trafford to get their game with Liverpool postponed in protest at the ownership of the Glazer Family.

Thursday, 6th May 2021, 10:00 am
Club owners such as Tony Bloom as few and far between

25 years ago almost to the day, that was Albion fans at the Goldstone Ground. 16 minutes of the Seagulls' Division Two match with York City had elapsed on April 26th 1996 when supporters took to the pitch and snapped the crossbars in two, forcing the abandonment of the fixture.

The York Riot - the only riot in history incidentally in which old ladies sat around having a picnic and kids played football - brought the asset stripping of the Albion being carried out by Bill Archer, David Bellotti and Greg Stanley to the attention of the world.

It was the turning point in the battle to save Brighton, a desperate cry for help after all other avenues of letter writing and talking had been ignored.

Those dark days of a quarter of a century ago seem a lifetime away now. A year after the York Riot and Archer, Bellotti and Stanley were removed by a combination of fan power and Dick Knight, who lived up to his name by being the club's knight in shining armour.

Over the next decade, Knight and his board kept the Albion afloat, brought the city's football team home from exile in Gillingham and then secured planning permission for a new stadium at Falmer.

That paved the way for Tony Bloom and his many millions to arrive, build the Amex and fund a rise to the Premier League which has brought unprecedented success at the highest level, now stretching into a fifth successive year for the first time ever.

Since the dark days of Archer, Bellotti and Stanley, Brighton have been blessed to be owned by two genuine supporters. Owners like Bloom - lifelong fans with deep pockets who care about their football club above all else - are few and far between.

In the top two divisions, the only comparable examples in the good owners club are Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha at Leicester City, Steve Gibson at Middlesbrough, the Coates family at Stoke City and Matthew Benham at Brentford.

The failure of the European Super League is having far reaching consequences which can only be good for football. Not only did Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs and Manchester City see their dreams of a closed shop competition designed purely to make them rich vanquished, but it has inadvertently lit the torch paper under a fans revolt of how football clubs are run in England.

The Glazers at Old Trafford, Stan Kroenke at Arsenal and the Fenway Sports Group at Liverpool are coming under increasing pressure to stop using centuries old institutions as their own personal cash cows.

There now appears to be a genuine desire for fans to have a greater say in how clubs are run with the German 50+1 rule all the rage. Never has there been a better opportunity for revolution.

Brighton fans know better than most what can happen when businessmen whose only concern is the balance sheet are removed from power. Other clubs too have fought long battles against hated owners to come out stronger the other side.

Doncaster Rovers climbed from the Conference to the Championship and moved into the shiny new Keepmoat Stadium. Blackpool look to be on the way back up following the end of the hated Oyston regime.

Bolton Wanderers secured promotion from League Two at the weekend after spectacular mismanagement saw them tumble through the divisions and there is hope again for Wigan Athletic who avoided relegation from League One after a nightmare two years in which they nearly went to the wall.

There is little danger of Manchester United or Arsenal being driven out of business, the horrible fate suffered by Bury and Macclesfield Town. Their battle may be different, but the desire is the same - for supporters to take back their clubs from money men with no interest in the game.

What happened at Old Trafford on Sunday will not be the last protest that we see. Change is coming across football.

It is a reminder of Brighton’s past but more pertinently, a sign of how lucky we are that the Albion are one of the few clubs in the top division of English football who remain in safe hands.