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

Brighton & Hove Albion's Amex Stadium
Brighton & Hove Albion's move to the Amex brings an end to 14 years without a permanent home

Brighton & Hove Albion move into their new American Express Community Stadium this season, but they might not exist as a club were it not for Dick Knight.

A consortium led by Knight took over the Seagulls in 1997 with the club on the brink of falling out of the Football League.

He helped to steady the club and remained as chairman for 12 years as they fought for a new home.

"The troubles forged a unique spirit and a sense of purpose," Knight told BBC Sussex.

"It unlocked the huge potential football clubs have among their fans. It's become a parable for how football clubs should operate in their communities and the wider world.

"We've shown that a football club can be driven by its supporters."

Exile in Gillingham and the Withdean years

The Seagulls were forced to groundshare with Gillingham in 1997 following the sale of the Goldstone Ground by the previous board.

"The exile in Gillingham was water off a duck's back for me," Knight continued.

Former Brighton chairman Dick Knight
Knight is credited with saving Brighton from extinction

"It was part of the bonding process that had started with the battle against [former chairman] Bill Archer.

"It created an understanding of how a club can be mismanaged and then revived by a group of people that believed in it.

"The role the fans played was unique in rebuilding the reputation of the club."

The Seagulls returned to Hove to play at Withdean Stadium in 1999. The converted athletics stadium was only meant to be a temporary solution but the venue became their home for 12 years.

"I was always determined we would get to the new stadium because our cause was just," he added.

"Blue skies were always on the horizon. I was supported by a great deal of people who backed the club in our endeavours.

"Every penny we received from fans helped to keep the club going.

"Whether we like it or not, 12 years at Withdean forms a very important part of the history of the club.

"We had an amazing amount of success there. Our fans learnt to live with it."

Tony Bloom takes over the reins

Planning permission for the Amex was granted in 2007, and Knight stepped aside as chairman when Tony Bloom injected the money into the club to finance the building of the stadium in 2009.

Knight is now life president of Brighton.

"Tony was able to facilitate the building of the stadium immediately having got final planning approval," Knight said.

The hairs on the back of my neck stand up when I go to the Amex. I'm glad we got there

Dick Knight

"We were able to overcome the worldwide credit-crunch because of Tony's generosity.

"The hairs on the back of my neck stand up when I go to the Amex. I played a role but this is a stadium for the community.

"Our fans have waited long enough. This is a wonderful ending to the saga of the past 15 years. I'm glad we got there."

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see also
Knight backs new Albion directors
21 Sep 09 |  Brighton
Ex-Albion boss reflects on career
19 May 09 |  England
Knight stepping down is 'sad day'
19 May 09 |  Brighton
Seagulls chairman to fund stadium
18 May 09 |  Sussex
Work 'kicks off' at Falmer site
17 Dec 08 |  Sussex
Knight upbeat despite stadium delay
02 Oct 08 |  Football
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
Charting the long road to Falmer
24 Jul 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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