How communications helped launch a British football club into the Premier League

While business decisions should always be made through a financial lens, the communication angle is sometimes neglected. Championing a communication focused approach to business will ensure your stakeholders and reputation are duly considered.

Premier League football club Brighton & Hove Albion’s approach to managing the opening of their new Amex Stadium is a testament to the profound impact this approach can have. For the club, it all started from within.

A professional football team in the second tier of English football, ‘Albion’ were suffering from a torrid recent history. Their home stadium had been sold from under them, forcing them to be housed temporarily at a dilapidated athletics stadium. The club were also battling relegation at the bottom of the football pyramid.

Brighton’s CEO, Paul Barber, spearheaded the process with a strategy founded on solid community engagement and communication, upholding a culture and brand committed to inclusivity and equality.

The whole spectrum of stakeholders, from fans and staff to sponsors and players, were engaged to develop values that would dictate the club’s approach to all facets of the business.

This collective decided the values to be:

  • Treat people well
  • Exceed expectations
  • Aim high
  • Make it special

Spelling out TEAM, the values exist to galvanise everyone associated with the club and provide foundations that would cement its brand. These values are represented through a slough of initiatives:

Engaging staff

Creating a culture of inclusivity meant ensuring everyone felt appreciated. This started with staff.

Staff played a critical part in establishing how the stadium would be run, a decision that has instilled a socially cohesive environment where everyone enjoys the same benefits, including high-performance meals on breaks and bonuses.

Just as the players themselves are entitled to performance related incentives, so too are the service staff – even the car park attendant who only works a few hours a week.

Diversity and inclusion

Brighton is the LGBT+ capital of the UK. Traditionally, British football has not been an environment that is widely embraced by the LGBT+ community. At the time of the club’s transformation there were no openly gay footballers in England’s top four divisions. The club implemented a strict zero tolerance policy towards discrimination and back it up through prolonged engagement with the gay community.They signed up to the rainbow laces initiative, which promotes equality in sport, invite LGBT+ groups to their games, march with Brighton Pride and distribute a Gender Identity & Sexual Orientation leaflet to both staff and fans.

Inclusivity even extends to treatment of fans from opposing teams. When Newcastle came to play, the club made their local beer, Newcastle Brown Ale available.

Inside and out

The values of the club are present on the inside and out. Throughout the stadium inspirational quotes don the walls, along with the repeated TEAM mantra. The club regularly hosts Q&A’s with fans and have set an efficient communication system that allows senior staff to directly respond to supporters.

A marketing and communications guru, Barber, went on to become Director of Marketing and Communications, for The Football Association, yet remains chief executive and deputy chairman of Brighton & Hove Albion.

Barber’s communications focused approach is testament to the strength of clear internal values dictating an organisation’s direction.

Since moving to the stadium, several requests for expansion have been approved, seeing the capacity jump by over 8000, and the addition of corporate boxes, new television facilities and a luxury suite.

Their transformation has seen the club promoted to the Premier League, ending their 34-year absence from topflight football.

BM Magazine’s first tip underlying the importance of internal communications reflects Barber’s approach.

• Establish a set of communication principles and link them to your brand guidelines. This provides a guidance framework for employees which they can refer back to.

Good advice, having coherent communication principles that align with your brand will ensure the right messages are reliably conveyed. When followed consistently, it guides all members of the organisation to work collaboratively towards a shared goal.

This commitment to collaboration and ownership helps facilitate a cohesive culture that not only empowers staff but promotes their welfare.

The difficulty, however, is that while it’s one thing to have guidelines, it’s another to consistently uphold them.

To quote smark, even though 95% of organisation have brand guidelines, only a quarter are consistently enforced.

Every organisation will face unique challenges – what underpinned Brighton’s success will not necessarily be the same for everyone.

However by:

  • galvanising staff through an ethos of equality
  • reinforcing a clearly defined value system through effective communication
  • having foundational values that underpin everything you do

You are placed to see your organisation flourish, on the inside and out.

For a club that only this century was playing in the fourth tier of English football, that Brighton & Hove Albion is now holding its own both on and off the pitch with the giants of the Premier League is a significant achievement and a model of success for all organisations.


As the madness fades listen or you’ll miss the sound of calm

On the weekend I was on one of my usual many walks and this time Barbara decided to take me through the city across to the Fitzroy Gardens.  As we were walking I was going about my business sniffing here and there, enjoying the new route with fresh smells and sounds which comes to the point of today’s Woof… Barbara suddenly stopped and said to me “Wow the city is so quiet I can hear your footsteps on the pavement Louis!”

No, no, no, it’s not what you are thinking, not another COVID disaster story… but it did start me thinking about all those sounds, that when white noise disappears, you hear.

It’s the simple stuff, the birds singing and dancing from tree to tree some serenading, others warning ‘dog on the pavement’, others simply having a dispute of their own.  Then there are the last of the left-over leaves rustling up and down the street and the ones you end up crunching under feet, the splash and soothing sounds of a fountain that washes past you as make your way.

The wind whistles past you when you turn a corner, especially in Collins Street.

The tap, tap, tap of heels as someone strides past you.  Then there’s that very particular swishy sound only a puffer jacket makes as it rubs together.

Have you ever noticed when it becomes really quiet so many other sounds come to the surface and it’s really not that quiet anymore?  Even if the city lacks that hustle and bustle, or your part of the world is devoid of neighbourly noise,  we should take a moment to enjoy the sounds that rise to the surface during these times and listen out for what we haven’t heard before.

Maybe it’s time to get off the phone when you go for a walk to take out those earbuds out to listen and appreciate what’s around – before you know it will be busy again and maybe for today it may just put that smile on our face that we need!


We pride ourselves on being experts in applying essential communication principles to business decision making.

Learn more here