LIBERATING FOOTBALL TRAVEL

Brighton & Hove Albion

Seagulls soaring after a decade at Falmer Stadium

A fan’s guide – the club from early doors to today

Brighton & Hove Albion made their Premier League debut in 2017-18. Twenty years after a pitch invasion at the club’s doomed home of the Goldstone Ground – part protest, part desperation for the club to stay in the Football League – Albion fans swarmed across the turf at the Falmer (aka Amex) Stadium in celebration of promotion and a remarkable transformation.

The win over Wigan in April 2017 not only meant that the Seagulls would be joining England’s elite for the first time since 1983. From the controversial closure of their beloved ground, then homeless oblivion, to the crusade for a new stadium and opening of the Amex in 2011, Brighton had been salvaged, sustained and steered by two dedicated, generous chairmen. As for the fans… many rejoicing at the Amex had painful recollections of the dark days of 1997 and nomadic existence thereafter.

Seagulls Superstore/Lucy Mallows

Throw in the most famous last-minute miss of any FA Cup final, Brian Clough, Attila the Stockbroker, a poker champion and a vicious rivalry with a club more than 40 miles away, and you have a very colourful past indeed.

Brighton had previously won their only major honour back in 1910 when, as champions of the Southern League, they beat their Football League counterparts Aston Villa 1-0 to win the Charity Shield. Centre-forward Bullet Jones was the key figure, playing for Brighton until he was almost 39.

After joining the Football League, Brighton barely bothered the statisticians until promotion to the second flight in 1959. The Seagulls duly tumbled back down two divisions in as many seasons and, despite a brief sojourn from Brian Clough (and longer one from his assistant Peter Taylor), Brighton fans had to wait until 1977 for success.

Brighton & Hove Albion programme kiosk/Peterjon Cresswell

Taylor’s replacement Alan Mullery took Brighton from the third flight to the top in two seasons, goals coming from Seagulls legend Peter Ward. A bitter rivalry with Crystal Palace also arose, the key figure being Mullery himself – not least when he went to Palace in 1982.

Without Ward, who had joined Clough at Nottingham Forest, Brighton struggled, their top-flight swansong coinciding with a cup run to Wembley in 1983. Goals from ex-Liverpool star Jimmy Case, including the winner at Anfield and a screamer in the semi-final against Sheffield Wednesday, set up a mismatch of a final between already relegated Brighton and Manchester United.

With their ex-chief scout Jimmy ‘Disco’ Melia as manager and without regular captain Steve Foster, Brighton overcame a United comeback and unpunished brutality by Norman Whiteside to take the game to extra-time. At 2-2, and nearly two hours on the clock, Gordon Smith missed a golden chance to gift Brighton the cup.

‘And Smith must score!’, taken from the fateful radio commentary, became a Brighton mantra, and name of a local fanzine. United dispatched Brighton in the replay, 4-0.

Cup hero Case then flopped as manager, and Brighton sank to the fourth flight amid increasing financial insecurity.

Attila the Stockbroker quote, Dick's Bar/Peterjon Cresswell

Rumours that DIY millionaire owner William Archer would sell the century-old Goldstone Ground led to protests and pitch invasions, culminating in the last game there, against Doncaster in 1997.

League status saved by a late goal at Hereford, homeless Brighton played the next season at Gillingham as boyhood supporter Dick Knight led a fan movement to wrest the club from the reviled Archer. The future lay in Falmer, where Knight envisioned a new stadium.

Fans such as DJ Fatboy Slim and punk poet Attila the Stockbroker helped the cause with an unlikely chart hit, as Knight moved Brighton to the municipal athletics ground of Withdean.

Seagulls Superstore/Peterjon Cresswell

Goals from the prolific Bobby Zamora lifted the Seagulls from fourth flight to second in two seasons. Knight secured funding for the new stadium, bringing in moneyed poker champion Tony Bloom as chairman in 2009.

The 2011 opening of the Amex Stadium coincided with a new season in the second flight under impressive manager Gus Poyet. Bringing in Craig Mackail-Smith, Will Buckley and injury-blighted former Valencia star Vicente, Poyet took Brighton to the Premier League play-offs, attracting healthy crowds to the ever-expanding Amex.

Brighton then lost the play-offs to Palace, of all teams, Poyet dismissed in circumstances yet to come to light.

Seagulls Superstore/Peterjon Cresswell

Three managers on, in 2016 Chris Hughton steered Brighton as close to the Premier League as the club has ever been. Neck-and-neck for promotion, Brighton lost out to Middlesbrough but looked favourites to beat Sheffield Wednesday for a Wembley showdown with Hull. Hit by injuries, Albion fell 2-0 at Hillsborough then failed to take their chances at the Amex.

Wisely keeping faith with Hughton, Brighton then picked themselves up, finding new defensive steel in centre-back Shane Duffy and attacking guile in former Leicester and Liège winger Anthony Knockaert. Named Championship Player of the Year for 2016-17, the Frenchman brought classy sparkle to England’s second tier. Team spirit played a part in Brighton’s triumph, too – when Knockaert’s father died halfway through the season, the squad went over to France en masse to attend the funeral.

Undefeated in the league from mid September to mid January, Albion won five on the bounce over 17 days in April. Goals against Wigan either side of half-time, the first by top scorer Glenn Murray, set up the promotion party.

Amex Stadium/Peterjon Cresswell

Murray continued scoring in the Premier, as Brighton kept their beaks above the drop zone and Hughton gained ever more plaudits after his team’s brave performance against Manchester City in the FA Cup semi-final of 2019, a narrow 1-0 defeat. The league was a different story, however, and dismal form led to Hughton’s replacement by Graham Potter.

Having led Sweden’s Östersund from the fourth flight to Europe, Potter had the man management skills to place faith in young players while attracting former England internationals Adam Lallana and Danny Welbeck to the south coast on free transfers. Former France U-21 international Neal Maupay also proved key to creditable campaigns after Potter’s arrival, the result being a near-capacity 30,000 average home gate pre-pandemic.

Ground Guide

The field of dreams – and the stands around it

Its curving exterior echoing the contours of the surrounding South Downs, the award-winning Amex Stadium took a far longer time to build than the 30 months from the first shovel in December 2008.

Homeless after the controversial closure of their long-term home, the Goldstone, in 1997, Brighton were forced to groundshare at Gillingham for two seasons before setting up at a converted athletics ground, the Withdean.

Quickly identifying out-of-town Falmer as the ideal site for a much-needed new stadium, incoming owner Dick Knight spent several years jumping through fiery bureaucratic hoops to see the project through.

With ownership passing to poker supremo Tony Bloom, £93 million was raised and KSS hired, the design team also responsible for the revamped Stamford Bridge, Ascot and Twickenham.

Opened with a friendly against Spurs in July 2011, the Amex first staged league action against Doncaster Rovers – the last visitors to the Goldstone.

As envisaged, capacity was increased from just over 20,000 to 30,000 by 2013. Attendances averaged around 25,000 spectators, each getting a padded seat and a full view of the action. By the promotion season of 2016-17, this average was closer to 28,000 in a ground holding 30,700 – and in the Premier League, sell-outs became a regular occurrence.

The home North End is one-tier – away fans are allocated end and corner sectors (S1A-C) of the South End nearest the east stand where family sectors along the sidelines. Executive boxes line the impressive, three-tiered West Stand.

GETTING there

Going to the ground – tips and timings

Taking their lead from the German game, Brighton offer free bus and train services for ticket holders on match days, a scheme that stretches as far as Eastbourne, Worthing and Haywards Heath, and for several hours either side of the game.

The Amex stands alongside Falmer station, three stops/10min from Brighton. Trains run every 15mins. Queues can be long and trains packed – some prefer to set off from Lewes (one stop/7mins) or take frequent bus 25, 28 or 29 from downtown Churchill Square (journey time 20mins), stop G. Bus 50 sets from stop F. Bus 23 sets off from the Marina.

You’ll see the stadium on your right as you approach the university complex on your left.

The sat nav code for the Amex is BN1 9BL. There is no parking around the stadium on match days, but the club runs two Park & Ride facilities located at Mill Road (BN1 8ZF) and Brighton Racecourse (BN2 9XZ). Mill Road is the smallest and will be full by 1.30pm for a 3pm kick-off. Buses from the racecourse take about 20mins to reach the ground. The price for this service is included in your match ticket, which you should show whenever asked. The club also advises drivers to avoiding the congested A27 on match days.

An alternative is to park at Lewes station (Mon-Fri £7.10/day, Sat £6.60/day, Sun/hol £2.25/day) then take the train in, free with your match ticket.

getting in

Buying tickets – when, where, how and how much

Tickets go on sale about three to six weeks before match day. Without MyAlbion+ membership (£28/season, £30 for international customers), you’re quite unlikely to find tickets for most league fixtures. Even, then you may need a certain number of loyalty points or a purchase history. Hospitality packages begin at £175 for Category C fixture and include a three-course meal and drinks. Contact 01273 668 855 (option 2), hospitality@brightonandhovealbion.com. 

If available, match tickets are sold at the outlet within the Stadium Superstore (Mon-Sat 10am-5pm, Sun 11am-4pm), by phone (daily 9am-8pm, 01273 668 855, option 1) or online. Phone and in person purchases incur a £1.50 fee, online £1 unless you’re printing at home.

Prices are grouped into three categories, depending on the opposition. The cheapest in the upper tier wing of the main West Stand £35, the dearest in the lower tier, centre, £60. For over-65s/under-21s, it’s £26-£42, for under-18s £18-£30. The East Stand is about £5 cheaper, the North/South Stands £10-£15 less. For Premier League games, away fans are charged a flat £30, over 65s/under-21s £23, under-18s £15.

what to buy

Shirts, kits, merchandise and gifts

Behind the North Stand, the Stadium Superstore (Mon-Sat 10am-5pm, Sun 11am-4pm) stocks retro Brighton tops featuring a whole range of obscure sponsors – Sandtex paint, Skint records. defunct airline British Caledonian – plus the shirt and Bukta trackie top from the 1983 FA Cup Final. 

There are plenty of standard T-shirts but surprisingly little beach gear, considering the location. Look out, too, for We Want Falmer, the story of the stadium move by Paul Hodson and Stephen North.

Where to Drink

Pre-match beers for fans and casual visitors

The only pub in the vicinity of the stadium, the traditional Swan Inn along Middle Street in Falmer. – head under the motorway and bear right away from Brighton, it’s down a narrow lane, allow 10-15mins – usually doesn’t welcome away fans on match days. For neutrals, it’s a cosy spot with a beer garden. Visiting supporters usually have to make do with the bars around Brighton station – but should leave plenty of time for the long queues for match-day trains.

Behind the north stand of the stadium, Dick’s Bar (Mon-Fri 9am-3pm, match days) above the Stadium Superstore is dedicated to the club’s life president, Dick Knight. Tasteful displays on the wall tell Brighton’s decade-long stadium saga – a mosaic of Albion fans’ portraits, a signed Doncaster Rovers shirt from the last game at the old ground in 1997, the Goldstone Ghosts poem by Attila the Stockbroker – while the bar serves local beers such as Dark Star Hophead and Harvey’s Brighton. 

The match-day, family-friendly Fan Zone outside the stadium near the walkway to Falmer station is usually happy to welcome away fans. Harvey’s from nearby Lewes is the beer of choice, although the club will try and stock a particular craft brew from the town of the visiting team.

CITY

LOCAL CLUBS

AWAY DAYS