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Brighton & Hove Albion's road to Falmer: Part One

Brighton & Hove Albion's Amex Stadium
Brighton's supporters have played a major role in gaining permission to build a new stadium at Falmer

Brighton & Hove Albion move into their new American Express Community Stadium this season after 14 years without a permanent home.

Campaigns by their supporters have been instrumental in the battle to save the club from extinction and get permission to build a new ground.

Two fans who were heavily involved in the fight were Paul Samrah and John Baine.

They could not have been more different - Samrah is an accountant and Baine is a self-styled punk poet known as Attila the Stockbroker.

The duo were galvanised when it came to light that the board of directors - Bill Archer, David Bellotti and Greg Stanley - had agreed to sell the club's original home, the Goldstone Ground, in 1995.

Stanley tried to appease fans at a meeting at the Concorde pub in Brighton.

"He said: 'The Goldstone will be sold over my dead body', and gave a load of his bluster," Baine told BBC Sussex.

"Sitting in the front row was a bloke looking extremely angry. That was Paul."

"The club was appearing in the High Court every week it seemed," Samrah said.

"The whole club was at risk. The spectre of the sale of the Goldstone was galling."

Pitch invasions

The fans organised pitch invasions to protest against the board of directors during league matches against Notts County, Bournemouth and York. Fans caused the abandonment of the game against York after tearing down the goalposts.

"It was a combination of organised pressure through the media plus direct action on the pitch," Baine continued.

John Baine and Paul Samrah
Baine (l) and Samrah have become firm friends after campaigning together

"All those pitch invasions were necessary. We brought what was happening to the club into the public domain.

"These were all people, from all walks of life, who wanted to save the Albion."

"Everyone was totally united," Samrah continued. "When you've got everyone totally united, it's amazing what you can achieve."

Dick Knight's consortium saved the club in April 1997 but the Seagulls were forced to play at Priestfield Stadium in Gillingham for two years.

The club returned to the city to play at Withdean Stadium, but its supporters now had a new target: to get permission to build a new ground.

The fight for Falmer

Labour MP John Prescott, Secretary of State from 2001 to 2007, was the man who could give the green light build a stadium at Falmer.

"We knew we had to be humorous and have a campaign that was focused," Samrah continued.

I'm so proud to be a Brighton supporter. We were the pioneers of fan protest

John Baine aka Attila the Stockbroker

"We always said Prescott never responded to aggressive tactics.

"We knew the subtle approach of Valentine cards, flowers and witty postcards was going to work.

"It was unlike any other campaign. The impact was enormous."

Permission for construction was eventually granted by Hazel Blears in 2007 following two public inquiries.

"I'm so proud to be a Brighton supporter, looking back at the inventiveness, the courage and the dedication shown to save the Albion," Baine said.

"We were the pioneers of fan protest, and long may it continue."

Samrah added: "Now it's up to the club to explain to players in the years to come the story of how we've struggled to get the new stadium and put the club back on the footballing map.

"They've got to know we treasure our club very deeply."

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see also
Attila speaks for the supporters
08 Mar 10 |  Brighton
Seagulls chairman to fund stadium
18 May 09 |  Sussex
Work 'kicks off' at Falmer site
17 Dec 08 |  Sussex
Falmer opening put back for year
02 Oct 08 |  Sussex
Falmer work to start in December
13 Jun 08 |  Brighton
Falmer objectors abandon battle
15 Aug 07 |  Sussex
Brighton's stadium gets go-ahead
24 Jul 07 |  Sussex
Fans mark 10-year stadium fight
26 Apr 07 |  Sussex
Stadium campaign taken to Labour
27 Sep 04 |  Southern Counties
Seagulls fans say it with flowers
10 Feb 04 |  Southern Counties
Inquiry starts on new stadium
18 Feb 03 |  England

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