Seventeen years today, Fans United happened. It was a massive show of strength as supporters from all around the country, and the world, (including a young Richard Vaughan) came to the Goldstone Ground to support Brighton fans in their battle to save the club. From 90 Minutes magazine in February 1997:
Saturday 8 February will go down as the day the fans reclaimed the game. Against the backdrop of Brighton’s possible loss of league status and the threat of closure, over 8,000 fans from all over the country descended upon the Goldstone ground to show the money men who really runs things. 90 Minutes was on hand to witness the massive show of fan power in the fight to save Brighton and Hove Albion FC.
The Goldstone Ground was awash with shirts and scarves on supporters from all over the country. We asked some fans outside the Goldstone: “Your tea’s not playing today, so why are you here in Brighton?”
Ian Fennell supports Aldershot
Ian: “Aldershot went out of business which upset a lot of people, and I’d hate the same thing to happen to Brighton. Let’s hope today sends a statement that football fans from all clubs are standing together to stop, not only Brighton, but any other club from going out of business. We’ve simply all had enough of poor an untrustworthy management.”
Ros Constable & Sandra Jenner support Arsenal
Ros: “These people are buying into clubs cheaply in the lower Divisions and then, basically, raping them. These people at Brighton have to be stopped. If not, it’s like setting a legal precedent. If one bugger gets away with it, more will follow, and no club will be safe.”
Sandra: “These businessmen have looked to football clubs to make a fast buck. The fans should have a faster learning curve to outwit them and stop them in their tracks. We’ve come here today to support football and stop clubs in the lower Divisions being kicked out of existence.”
Graham Underwood & Steve Jones support Aston Villa
Graham: “I’m here today to show my support for the Brighton fans’ battle against some men who, thank God, are not in charge at Aston Vlla. It grieves me to say it, but, again, thank God we’ve got Doug Ellis, and not this lot down here, running our own club.”
Steve: “Who could sell a ground, before another one’s ever been found? The man’s a joke – it’s just a case of money before football. If one man gets control of a club, no one’s safe, not even Premiership sides.”
Miles Beecham supports Darlington
Miles: “I’m here today because Darlington football club are in a similar position to Brighton. We have directors who say one thing, do another, give promises and don’t deliver. It’s about time directors woke up to how fans feel, and respected them, because if the fans don’t turn up, there’s no club, no directors and no money for them.”
James Randall supports Derby & Richard Cole supports Liverpool
Graham: “Five years ago, Derby were playing Brighton. It could’ve been us that went down and down, and it’s important that these clubs continue to exist. Without them, there wouldn’t be any clubs anywhere in the long-term. We all rely on each other.”
Richard: “It’s about time the fans had a say in the running of clubs, not just the board and the business people. The game belongs to us, not to individuals with an eye to what the game can give them. It should be what they can do for the good of the game. Most of the top players are discovered by the smaller clubs (e.g. Keegan), so they must survive at all costs, or there is no long-term future for any club, big or small.”
Richard & Roger Vaughan support Plymouth
Roger: “There was a campaign page on the internet looking for ideas on how to protest about what’s going on at Brighton. There were loads of messages of support from supporters all over the country, even Europe, and it gave me the idea of organising a FANS UNITED day to help out Brighton. It shows football fans do care about other clubs. Richard put a message on the internet that started the ball rolling. The people organising Brighton Resistance thought it was a wonderful idea and put it into motion. We had to come today to see the end result and give our personal support. People are now coming from all over Europe and America to support the Brighton fans’ attempts to rescue their club. We’re here to show how people up and down the country are feeling about clubs that put money before fans. It’s a sport, not a money-making exercise.”
Trevor Hulstrop & Gaby Binstead support Southampton and Danny Blackmore supports Brighton
Trevor: “I’m protesting because I believe that if clubs like Brighton are allowed to go under, it’s the beginning of the end. Football clubs are part of the community and people shouldn’t be allowed to come in, buy the club, asset strip it, run it into the ground and then dump it. A club like Brighton belongs to the people that support it and made it what it is over the last 100 years. Not one or two individuals.”
Gaby: “If they get away with this, and clubs go out of business, who are we going to play? Football clubs are all inextricably linked, so when one’s in trouble, we all have to rally round to save it.”
Danny: “Today is a statement saying: Football will win. Football is a lot of people’s lives, and it’s great that fans from all over are here today to help us – so thanks to everyone who’s supported us.”
Toby Radenhurst supports Millwall, David Fordham supports Watford & Paul Chesworth supports Brighton
Toby: “With what’s going on at my club, Millwall, I’ve come here today to show solidarity with Brighton fans – to say enough is enough. Directors running clubs into the ground are not going to get away with it.”
David: “It’s critical that football clubs aren’t allowed to die because of the attitude of these directors who are only there to make money at the expense of football. What these people are doing is wrong and it has to be stopped.”
Paul: “Today is showing that people care about all football, not just their own club. It’s fantastic that fans from other clubs care about whether we continue or not.”
John Cotton & Paul Hilton support York City and Milena Radosavcjevic supports Red Star Belgrade
John: “Ot could happen to any club – to our club – if we let Brighton be destroyed. It could be the first of many. It has to be stopped so we’re here today to lend our support.”
Paul: “If someone tris to make a quick profit out of a club, he’s not only taking on the directors, but also the fans. If you’re fan of a club, you’re a fan of football and anyone destroying football has to be stopped. That’s why we’re here.”
Milena: “People need their football club because it’s part of the local community. Why should it be taken away from them, just so an individual can make a quick profit?”
Finally, to round off an excellent feature…
Gulls’ Eye view:
For the first time in living memory, Brighton, Chelsea and even Crystal Palace shirts stood united by one cause. Seagulls devotee Johnny Dee reflects on this event and the shock of seeing that ‘I’ll get me coat’ bloke off the Fast Show:
In the teary-eyed closing scene of It’s A Wonderful Life, hundreds of familiar faces save the fallen George Bailey from bankruptcy and giving him all their cash and joining in a rousing chorus of Auld Lang Syne.
Last Saturday, every Brighton fan must have felt like old George. Under the banner Fans United, football supporters converged on the Goldstone Ground from Leeds, Birmingham, Glasgow, Newcastle and beyond. They came to see Brighto play Hartlepool but, more significantly, to show solidarity with a group of supporters in their season of need. They swelled the gate to double the season’s average, learned the hosts’ songs, saw a pretty decent game and left, reminded of the true spirit of football. It was bloody ace.
The reason so many took part in Fasn united was simple: if it can happen at Brighton, it can happen to anyone. Bought for a pittance by chairman Bill Archer, Brighton have found their ground sold, their assets sold off and a ludicrous groundshare with Gillingham looming. Yet the FA still has no powers to legislate against such actions.
Albion fans have become expert protesters this season, ahtough, sadly it was only the ‘violence’ after the pitch invasion last season that received national media attention. Fans united remedied matters a little, but it still wasn’t enough.
Every fan should hope Brighto manager to oust the disgraced Archer, because if Brighton fall, then plenty will follow. Visit Goldstone while you can (it’ll be bulldozed in May), but check with Seagulls fans first – if Archer’s still in charge, chances are they’ll boycott the match.
A massive day in our club’s history – proud to say that three generations of Cowdrys (father Cliff & son Rich with me) were there that day on the west terrace. Gary O’Reilly was on the terracing too, paying to get in and supporting one of his old clubs!