Today marks 24 years since Fans United at Brighton and Hove Albion.
For those who know me you might know I’m a bit of a Brighton Football Fan! (….maybe a bit of an understatement!!) Started as a child going to ‘kids for a quid’ games at the Goldstone on 15th March 1995 (love that my dad knows all this stuff!) As a child, teen and adult I have followed my beloved club across the country. I travelled over 100 miles round trip to watch ‘home’ games at Gillingham (we basically did most games- I was hooked!) Spent most of my 20’s sitting at Withdean Sports Stadium (where I used to have school sports day) in all weathers (often sporting a plastic bin bag and about 10 layers when it was cold and raining!!). I travelled back and forth for every home game when I lived in Northampton (suddenly a lot of away games were ‘local’ too!!). I think in the peak we did all home games plus maybe 14 away games!! I have been to some amazing stadiums and well some that may not be so glamorous (1 didn’t even have a toilet for away fans!)!!
I was a season ticket holder for 19 years at Withdean and The Amex…. I stopped in 2018 because…well I had 1 daughter who was born in 2016 and was fairly easy to get a sitter for… then not only did I have another daughter but my sister also had a child (who was the main sitter!). I felt it wasn’t fair to put 3 young children on her every other week…so we are on a break! At least with COVID and craziness going on I am not missing anything and we can watch most games on the TV!
I wanted to tell you a story about how I came to be such a passionate Brighton fan and the story has relevance to being the lowest of the low, coming back from the brink, with support and community spirit and working each year being the best you can be, to really achieve your dreams! Kind of feels relevant right?!
In July 1995 the club owners, Archer, Stanley & executive Bellotti decided to sell the club’s 95-year-old Goldstone Ground to a property developer with nowhere for them to go. They had bought into the club for just over £50. There was talk of sharing with Portsmouth and eventually ended up at Gillingham travelling 100 miles to “home” games. All this was done without consulting anyone connected with the club.
The team were not playing well. When you think about winning, you have to have the right mindset. Well if you have a lot of negative energy around you that attracts negative energy, which makes it almost impossible to win. They had only won 4 games by Christmas and were rooted bottom of the league. It was looking certain that we would be non-league and homeless. In the 70’s and 80’s they had been right up the top and it was a horrible demise.
This was in the 90’s the internet had only just come along and was pre-social media. The fans have always been the powerhouse of the football clubs and this story goes to show to never underestimate the power of the fans!! The fans started to campaign to save the club. This was when I started to really support the club, as a teenager hooked in with kids for a quid and and the passion and creativeness of the fans with the campaigns was intensely powerful. Writing this still gives me goose bumps when I remember the atmosphere at the games (I don’t think I have ever seen so many grown men cry!). There were pitch invasions, goal posts were broken, points were deducted. It felt like there was no way out. Off the pitch there were marches, protests and the most dedicated and powerful campaign to save a club. The community really were supporting the cause and the ‘football family’ had secured its status in so many fans of the time.
A Plymouth Fan Richard Vaughan had heard about what was going on and wrote a comment on ‘North Stand Chat’ (the old equivalent to social media!) about how fans from everywhere should support our club! This was the start of one of the most emotive days a fan can experience with their club. A game was targeted Hartlepool, which was an international break weekend so no other football on-it was perfect! The crowds had been around 3,500 with everything that had been going on…that game there were over 9000 fans from all over the world. It put the fight on the map and gave the momentum we needed. As well as a nice 5-0 win! The chant was ‘FANS UNITED WILL NEVER BE DEFEATED’ and even now brings a massive sense of emotion over most that were around at the time!
There was a massive fight back which continued that season and there were quotes from commentators at the time, which are still played at the Amex on the montage! Dick Knight was the saviour and his group gaining a controlling interest in the club. The last few games were incredibly powerful, we queued for hours to get tickets, the tension, well you couldn’t have written it… we won the game and stayed up!!! we went on the pitch after the game. People were digging up the pitch taking chairs, turnstiles all sorts. People were cheering the team, Dick Knight, each other, there were tears, so much emotion. We felt numb and just froze taking it all in. The joy of staying in the football league by the skin of our teeth but the sadness that came with loosing the stadium.
There was a massive battle ahead, which year on year has led to us playing at the Amex and in the premier league (arguably the best football league in the world!). I will never forget my ‘hard hat’ day to choose my seat and so many special memories at the club.
For me, today writing this I almost wonder if it could have possibly shaped my career choices… What a crazy thought!! I get so passionate and thrive from taking people from the lowest point of their lives and supporting them across there lives. It really is amazing watching people shift into different directions and achieving their dreams.
For those interested you should read the book or some articles: