Mr Mayor, Brighton and Hove Albion is part of this city’s history, it is part of the fabric of this place, it is so important to so many in this place as the sea of blue and white that washed over Hove Lawns last Sunday showed to the world.
It is four years since this council awarded Dick Knight the Freedom of the City in recognition of his role in saving Brighton and Hove Albion.
Twenty years ago, just as this council was coming into existence, so our football club teetered on the edge of going out of existence. A club founded in 1901, a club that was the first body to unite our two towns, a club my family has supported for almost a century.
A club that is valued so highly by so many, across generations, across every part of our community. The Albion, as we saw on the last day at the Goldstone, in the demonstrations for a new stadium, in the fans on the pitch a month ago, and in the thousands on the seafront at the weekend, transcends mere fixtures and statistics. It is an emotion which binds us.
Today Brighton and Hove Albion has once again joined the top flight of English football, is in the Premier League for the first time, and in just three months will emerge on to the global sporting stage. That is down to the club and the team led by the two men we, on behalf of the people of the City of Brighton and Hove, meet to honour today.
It is fitting that it is exactly eight years ago today that Mr Tony Bloom took over as Chairman of Brighton and Hove Albion. The gratitude of tens of thousands of Brighton and Hove Albion fans goes to him, a man whose family is steeped in the club, a man whose support of the club has been unparalleled not just in financial terms, but in heart and soul as well.
He is that rare thing in football, an owner and investor who is also a loyal, diehard, lifelong fan. No-one can doubt, seeing him celebrate goals, victories and promotion home and away, not just from the directors box but from the terraces alongside the travelling supporters, just what the club means to him. The millions he has invested in the team will now reap the rewards, for the club, for the fans and for this city.
Promotion, profile, pride. Premier League.
After almost winning promotion to the Premier League at the first few attempts following the move to the fantastic American Express Community Stadium, in December 2014 it seemed our opportunity had slipped away and relegation threatened.
The appointment of Mr Chris Hughton, a football professional of the highest calibre, with an illustrious career as a player at Spurs and for the Republic of Ireland, and as a manager at Newcastle behind him, heralded a return to success.
Under his inspired leadership the Albion have won an astonishing 50% of their games, coming agonisingly close to promotion last season, but this year making it certain with three games to spare.
For me no moment this season summed up what he inspires in his players more than the team lifting Antony Knockaerts shirt aloft following the death of his father. His calm, confident and determined leadership is an inspiration to all in sport and beyond.
His contribution to the sport and success at every level has won him a long list of awards. In March Football’s “Black List” recognised his achievements in coaching, a week after he won coach of the year at the British Ethnic Diversity Sports Awards. He has been awarded Championship Manager of the Month nine times, more than any other manager.
He was League Managers Association Manager of the Year in 2010 and 2016. He holds two FA Cup winners medals, a UEFA cup winners medal, and two Championship promotion honours.
It is my honour as Leader of Brighton and Hove City Council, and my pleasure as a lifelong Albion fan, to propose that Tony Bloom and Chris Hughton are awarded the Freedom of the City of Brighton and Hove today.
In making this award we recognise the achievement of everyone associated with the club, from the board to the backroom staff, the players and coaches, the sponsors and Albion In The Community, and of course the fans who stuck with the team, who fought for survival and the new home at Falmer that Tony Bloom and Martin Perry delivered.
Together, we are Brighton and Hove Albion, and we are on our way to the Premier League.
On Sunday tens of thousands cheered and applauded Tony Bloom, Chris Hughton and the team from one side of the city to the other, on a day none of us who were there will forget.
Today Mr Mayor I move that we honour the Albion’s Premier League success by awarding these leaders, these heroes of our football club, the Freedom of the City of Brighton and Hove.