• What DID happen to the 1983 Cup Final money?

    The Albion's tenure in the top flight for the only four years in the club's history is full of myth and legend. One of the most common questions asked is in relation to the 1982/3 cup final run, culminating in two four goal thrillers at Wembley. Some fans have asked ever since about the monies generated after victories against Newcastle, Manchester City, Liverpool, Norwich and Sheffield Wednesday, and the final/replay against Manchester United.

    NSC, at great expense, has managed to gain hold of the old financial paperwork in relation to that period and the years thereafter.

    Division 2: 1977-79

    The Albion were promoted from Division 2 (today's equivalent of League 1) in 1976/77 to secure their highest ever placing in the Football League the following year. They fell agonisingly fourth behind fourth behind Bolton, Southampton and Spurs. However 1977/8 was noticeable for the club breaking it's transfer record twice in signing Mark Lawrenson for £112,000 followed by Teddy Maybank for £238,000. Overall the club managed to make a profit of £43,379 despite spending over half a million on new players.

    Fans however had to contribute their share too, as terrace prices rose an astonishing 54% to watch the team (albeit from 65p to £1). This didn't deter support as an average attendance at the Goldstone of 25,264 was the highest in the club's history.

    In 1978/9 the goals from Brian Horton, Peter Ward and Gerry Ryan in a 3-1 victory on the final day of the season at St James' Park secured promotion. The season hadn't started well though on the field though, and at the end of November the club were lying a lowly 12th in the table, and gates had fallen to 16,000. Part of the reason for this was the poor form, part was due to a further 30% increase in admission fees, and the £1.30 charged to stand in the North Stand was the second highest sum in the country.

    Six wins and two draws in the next 8 matches saw the Albion rise to first position in the table, and they never dropped outside of the top two for the remainder of the season. Crowds began to return too, but even for the final home match against Blackburn there were only 26,141 (compared to 33,431 for the final home fixture the previous season), and averaged 22,074.

    Because the club had not bought many new players in 78/79 it meant that a profit of over £296,000 was made on turnover of £959,000. Peter Ward, despite starting only 27 games and scoring 10 goals, was the highest paid player on £14,000 for the year.


    Division 1
    In the Albion's first season in the top flight, ticket prices rose again, this time to £1.50 for standing. This again provoked a negative reaction from fans, and the average attendance rose to 24,795. This was despite the south stand being burned down in April by a discarded cigarette following a 2-1 victory against Middlesbrough.

    Many people have queried why the Albion never achieved a 30,000 crowd during their time in the top flight, but a combination of high prices, recession, and terrace violence (there were for example over 50 arrests before and during the first match of the season at home to Arsenal, in another four goal thriller).

    Despite turnover rising to £1.579 million for the season from £959,000, (partly due to player sales), the club lost £51,000 in the year. This was due to the club trying to compete with the established top tier clubs by increasing wages, the highest of which was £33,000 for the year.

    1980/81 was a real shock for the club, a relegation fight all season, only averted by winning the last four games of the season, reduced capacity due to fire concerns and terrace prices rising to £2 all contributed to the average attendance of 18,969, with a lowest figure of 12,112 for a fun-packed 1-0 defeat at home to Middlesbrough in November, the culmination of a run of ten games without a win.

    The wage bill continue to rise, as the highest paid player (Mark Lawrenson) was now on £46,000, as the Albion board tried to spend their way to avoid relegation. All of this meant that the losses for the year hit a mammoth £718,000. This was partly due to the signing of Michael Robinson and Andy Ritchie for £900,000, and other six figure signings such as Ray McHale and Perry Digweed, although Peter Ward departed to Forest after scoring just once in 11 games.

    The following season saw a new manager in Mike Bailey, whose cautious football delivered results (victories against Liverpool and Arsenal) and a highest ever position in the table of fifth early season, but not bums on seats, so average attendances fell further to 18,246. Albion's reputation as high wage payers (top players still on £46,000) meant that further losses were incurred, albeit a more bearable £135,000 as there were fewer signings than in the previous season.

    The way the accounts were prepared were changed in 1983, so a direct comparison when calculating revenue with previous years is difficult, total income was however £2.85 million, of which £900,000 was in respect of the sale of Mark Lawrenson to Liverpool.

    In 1982/3 the club froze ticket prices, but it couldn't prevent attendances falling to an average of just 14,676, with a low of 9,845. The cup run did provide some distractions, and the fans who attended the cup matches were left scratching their heads at some of the poor performances in the league, especially away from home, where the Albion won only once (albeit on my birthday).

    Revenue fell to £2.057 million, despite the cup final proceeds, on the plus side the club did make a profit of £202,000. The Albion were still paying high wages though, with Michael Robinson and Steve Foster signing ten year contracts for £50,000 a year each.



    Back in Division 2

    The Albion could not afford to continue to pay the wages of Foster and Robinson, both of whom were offloaded (to Villa and Liverpool respectively for £200,000 and £250,000) but had to pay up some of their contracts. Steve Foster received £80,000 therefore in his final season at the Albion. Crowds fell further to an average of 12,286, but the sale of the above players, along with Gary Stevens to Spurs for £300,000, allowed the club to post a profit of £170,000 on revenues of £2.22 million

    In 1984/5 the true state of Albion's overspend came home to roost, although an attempt was made to cut the wage bill (highest paid player now down to £38,000), revenue fell to £1.31 million as there were no good players left to sell, and losses of £469,000 on average gates of 11,789 meant the club, now short of the benevolence from former Chairman Mike Bamber and Vice-Chairman Keith Wickenden, were on a long slide downwards financially.

    Losses meant there will little wriggle room in terms of player signings, which meant that the football became less attractive, and crowds fell further to an average of 8,282 by 1986/7, when the Albion were once again relegated, this time to the third tier.

    Read more about the money side of the Albion in our Finance section.
    Comments 4 Comments
    1. Seagull on the wing's Avatar
      Seagull on the wing -
      I have a COPY of the 1983 accounts...but cup final monies would've been shown on the 1984 accounts...interesting reading where the money went.
    1. Dick Knights Mumm's Avatar
      Dick Knights Mumm -
      Another of the big questions is who made the money from the ticket allocation sold to United fans in the lower tier of the Brighton end?
    1. Dan Aitch's Avatar
      Dan Aitch -
      Creative use of the phrase "four-goal thriller" -
      there were for example over 50 arrests before and during the first match of the season at home to Arsenal, in another four goal thriller
      My recollection is a 0-4 home defeat and rather more of a shellacking than a thrill.
    1. I remember the good times's Avatar
      I remember the good times -
      Interesting reading. I have to admit to being one of the fans who stopped attending in 1979/80, our first in the big league. Up until then I'd been a season ticket holder attending all home and most away games (on the seagull special train) for about 10 years, I was 25 in 1980. I think future wife arrived in my life about then plus I just got bored having reached the ultimate target.