LIBERATING FOOTBALL TRAVEL

Whitehawk FC

Raising up the Whitehawk sail by the South Downs

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

A Sussex County League side until 2010, Whitehawk FC came within a penalty of a play-off for fifth-flight National League in 2016.

For a club squeezed between a deprived east Brighton housing estate, the sea and the South Downs, this has been a remarkable rise – not least because this is not the most remarkable thing about Whitehawk FC.

The real tale is on the terraces.

It was also in 2010 that a small band of like-minded fans took up their drums, banners and horns and made their way to Whitehawk’s Enclosed Ground. The reason why is hazy – perhaps a random suggestion from a football fan fed up with the prices at Brighton & Hove Albion. Whitehawk’s motley but marvellous following, the Ultras, evolved by word-of-mouth. Today, for want of a better comparison, the club is the St Pauli of Sussex.

Here, the rainbow flag is flown, a red rag to some visitors still stuck in the 1970s, and hearty, spontaneous chants ‘NO TO HOMOPHOBIA!! NO TO HOMOPHOBIA!!’ ring around the ground.

And recently the Hawks have provided their party-minded following with serious high drama.

In 2014, a last-minute penalty kept the Hawks in the Conference South. In 2015, two last-gasp equalisers in consecutive heart-stopping games with Dagenham & Redbridge kept them in the FA Cup. In the first game, once Jordan Rose had levelled the scores on 95 minutes and flapped around D&R’s Victoria Road pitch like a hawk, manager Steve King dived into the away end and was seen dancing with the ecstatic fans.

Then came the National League South play-offs. Hovering over the relegation zone after sacking Steve King and bringing in Pablo Asensio, Whitehawk picked up, a late winning streak putting them into the National League play-off semi-final against Ebbsfleet. Trailing 2-1 after the home leg, the Hawks beat the Kuwaiti-backed Kent side 2-1 away after 90 minutes, extra-time taking the game to penalties and a 3-2 defeat for Whitehawk.

The then owner, locally born John Summers, remained ambitious. Having failed to get the club’s name changed to Brighton City – accentuating its location close to the Marina, as opposed to B&H Albion’s base at faraway Falmer – Summers became keen on finding Whitehawk a new home with expansion possibilities elsewhere in the area.

Unable to move the club from its 3,000-capacity home, moneyed Summers moved on. Managers, meanwhile, came and went with alarming regularity.  Although the Hawks avoided the drop in 2017, two successive relegations followed, and the team was struggling in the Isthmian League South East Division when the 2020-21 season was curtailed. The fans still beat the drum at the Enclosed Ground but Whitehawk seem to be heading in the direction from whence they came, the Sussex County League.

Ground Guide

The field of dreams – and the stands around it

The Enclosed Ground, also going by the sponsored name of the TerraPura Ground, is hidden in the middle of East Brighton Park, accessed by a narrow, twisting, unsignposted path. The club made its home here, backed onto the South Downs, shortly after its foundation in 1945.

Suitable for the Sussex County League but perhaps not for televised FA replays, the Enclosed Ground comprises a main, covered, seated stand, a home end (The Din, also the name of the club fanzine) and the uncovered Sea End, with a separate section for away fans. The Whitehawk Ultras usually switch ends at half-time. The far sideline opposite the Main Stand is open but for the coaching staff and substitutes, and occasional curious hiker drifting in from the Downs.

Capacity is just over 3,000.

getting there

Going to the ground – tips and timings

Bus 7 (every 6-10min) runs from Brighton station (stop A) and Clock Tower (stop N), in the direction of the Marina, to Roedean Road, journey time 15min. Head for East Brighton Park up Wilson Avenue straight ahead. Walk up 100 metres then head into the park, following the main path past football pitches and another sports ground before it veers right. Alighting at the Marina means a steep – very steep – climb up to East Brighton Park. The path is unlit, so watch out for passing cars as you’re walking back after the game in winter.

The sat nav code for the Enclosed/TerraPura Ground is BN2 5TS. The car park by the ground has 100 spaces, usually easily enough on match days, but is accessed along a narrow, winding path. There’s more free parking off Wilson Avenue, on side streets such Whitehawk Road near the Co-op (BN2 5NS).  

tickets & shop

Admission and merchandise

Admission is cash-only at the turnstiles, £10 adults, £5 over-65s, under-17s, NHS workers and students. Accompanied under-10s are allowed in free. The club also now sells tickets online

As you come enter, a small hut sells Hawks souvenirs, including match programmes (£2), replica shirts (home red, away blue, third-choice green) and ones bearing a rainbow sash.  

Where to Drink

Pre-match beers for fans and casual visitors

If you are alighting at the Marina, the best choice of pub among the bland chains is the excellent Master Mariner, a cabin-like local with a terrace overlooking bobbing boats, and TV sport, live music and Harvey’s Best on offer inside. Good pub grub too, plus Peroni, Sharp’s Doom Bar and St Austell Tribute on tap.

Set in the park surrounding the ground, the East Brighton Cafe is now home to the Durban Curry Club, with local craft beers to accompany and happy hours mid-afternoons Fridays through Sundays.

The definitive pre- and post-match pub towards the sea on Arundel Road, the New Bush, is now the gentrified, gastro-focused Daddy Longlegs, selling Moretti and Beavertown craft brews on tap. It’s named after the electric railway that used to run along here in the late 1890s.

At the Enclosed Ground, between the home end and the main stand, the club bar is a must. Sporting the striking photography of JJ Waller, who captured all the drama of the Hawks’ 2013-14 campaign, the bar dispenses local craft Brighton Bier in one room, and hot snacks and tea in another. A TV allows you to catch up with all the scores at half- and full-time.

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