Fans warned by Bamber to turn up early


From Shoot! magazine in 1979:

Brighton fans get a warning from chairman Mike Bamber as they prepare to welcome the First Division big boys to the Goldstone Ground.

The Seagulls start life in the top flight with a glamorous home game against FA Cup winners Arsenal – and Bamber makes it clear the fans must get there early. “I’m afraid they are going to have to change the habit of a lifetime and turn up at the ground with plenty of time to spare now we are in the First Division,” he says.

“The days when they could turn up ten minutes before kick-off and stroll through the turnstiles are over. If they do that now there’s a fair chance they won’t get within a mile of the ground. Our promotion to the First Division has created tremendous interest down here and everyone is excited about seeing some of the great names and some of the great teams of football at Brighton.

“We have all got to make adjustments to meet the new challenge and I beg the fans to get here in plenty of time in future. We’v had problems in the past on big-match days trying to pack in everyone who turned up late and many have complained it’s taken them ages to get through the turnstiles.

“It will do. It you get lots of people arriving together – and late. They will have no chance at all this season if they leave it late. So my message to fans is – please be early.”

In the end, Bamber was both right and wrong. A huge crowd of 28,604 came to see Brighton trounced 0-4 by Arsenal in a First Division baptism of fire in August 1979. All but one home league game hit the 20,000 mark, which was understandably the Stoke match shortly before Christmas. (If fans had to miss one, they chose wisely as it was a 0-0 stalemate). At the same time, the attendance at the Arsenal match was still five-thousand short of the capacity at the time. There was not one 30,000 attendance at the Goldstone Ground by the end of 1979/80.

By the following season, the novelty of top flight football had waned, with Brighton mostly struggling to keep their head above water. With the onset of recession and much higher ticket prices than in the old days of the 1970s, home attendances began to dip.

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