Brighton and Brentford face off in the ‘Cold War’ on Saturday (3pm) as both teams battle for a place in Europe next season.
Tony Bloom and Matthew Benham haven’t spoken to each-other since 2004 after they were involved in a betting scandal. The pair have gone head-to-head in the Premier League on three occasions and play for the fourth time in the competition when the Bees travel to the Amex Stadium this weekend.
Bloom has a long history of gambling and appeared in the Late Night Poker television series, while he also has a final table appearance at the World Poker Tour. The Brighton owner recently placed two bets which totalled £600,000 on his horse to win at the Cheltenham Festival – and guess what? His horse won – handing him £830,000.
Meanwhile, Benham wasn’t a born gambler. “I have never put a bet on for the fun of it,” the Brentford owner told 11 Freunde in 2013. “I don’t like gambling. But I always liked maths and football.”
Having graduated from Physics at Oxford University, Benham grew into betting. In the early 2000s, Bloom hired Benham to work for his company, Premier Bet. However, the partnership did not end well.
In January 2004, Benham was sacked from his role at Premier Bet and decided to start up his own organisation, Smartodds. He recruited Stuart Coles, who had also worked with Bloom in the 1990s.
Benham claimed he resigned from Premier Bet in September 2003, as per The Athletic. Bloom allegedly asked him to work to his notice until the following May, but instead fired him in the January.
This saw legal authorities get involved in the spat between the two as Bloom eventually took Benham to court. It was eventually settled, although Benham privately acknowledged that he was the one to blame for their relationship being torn apart.
An ex-associate of Bloom said: “Quite a few individuals just went off and became professional gamblers on their own, which Tony didn’t really have an issue with.
“The problem with Benham is he kind of used the same business model as Tony. Loyalty is very important to him and he’s incredibly generous. The only thing he asks for is that kind of loyalty in return.”
Bloom and Benham are now enemies and haven’t spoken to each other since the legal matter, despite being involved in a couple of transfer dealings between the two clubs. Neal Maupay’s move from Brentford to Brighton is arguably the most high-profile to occur as the Frenchman moved for £15million in 2019.
Nevertheless, this is a game the Brighton owner, especially, desperately wants to win. It was reported before the game on Boxing Day 2021 that Bloom wanted to come out on top in this game more than any other. The Seagulls had previously beaten Brentford earlier in the season through Leandro Trossard’s strike.
However, Brentford won the most recent meeting. Thomas Frank’s side won 2-0 back in October. This means Brighton have won two of the three matches in the Premier League since the Bees won promotion.
In comparison to last season where both sides were battling relegation, this time around they are fighting for a European place. That will put extra spice on a fixture that is always tasty due to the owners’ frosty relationship.
Bloom took over at Brighton in 2009 and has since taken them from the third tier to the Premier League, while Benham became Brentford’s owner in 2012. Unsurprisingly, the pair are not expected to share a drink on Saturday.