Tag Archives: bill archer

Meridian TV: Goodbye Goldstone

Bill Archer gives the show a touch of the surreal

Bill Archer gives the show a touch of the surreal

Yesterday on North Stand Chat, a user called The Great Gatsbt answered a request by posting the infamous hour-long special on Brighton’s plight, on Sunday 9th February 1997:

It makes for remarkable viewing. As Foster’s Headband remarked:

Bellotti and Archer were on telling the usual lies and a few very irate fans. Tony Millard, John Vinnicombe, Atilla, Paul Samarah, Alan Mullery, Mark Lawrenson, Gerry Ryan all had their say and Ivor Caplin who proved that both Archer and Bellotti to be lying about a supposed planning application they had put in, but Caplin informed the programme this had already been refused.

Here is an extract from Stephen North and Paul Hodson’s ‘Build a Bonfire’ (p.166-167) about the show:

WARREN CHRISMAS: We’d all had such a great time at Fans United and everyone was still buzzing on the coach going over to Meridian to record the programme. We weren’t made to feel very welcome and it was a bad programme. It was bad PR for Albion supporters, it just didn’t go right. At the beginning of the programme Geoff Clarke says there will be plenty of opportunity for Albion’s fans to ask questions, and there never was and before we knew it, it was over and it wasn’t until it was over that everybody started to get really angry.

PAUL SAMRAH: Fans United on the Saturday was a brilliant day – the Sunday, the ‘Goodbye Goldstone’ debate on Meridian TV, was a disaster. We went in there rather naively thinking that all the facts surrounding the furore about the club will be explained in a balanced view and it wasn’t. Dick Knight was not going to attend because Bill Archer wouldn’t attend. Well, to our surprise Bill Archer was there, David Bellotti had the cheek to turn up and also arrived with his wife which was even more galling because in our negotiations with Bellotti he’d asked us to refrain from any verbal or other attacks on his wife and we naturally assumed that, really, she would take a back seat.

Regrettably things got out of hand and we didn’t get our case across in a professional way and it ended up being a shouting match and I was glad the programme ended when it did because I think we could have done our cause an awful lot of harm.

Bellotti is brilliant in front of the cameras, he’s a superb guy in an interview – he can answer a subsidiary question and miss the main question.

Archer came across as a nice guy sitting in a studio in Liverpool.

As soon as I came out of the debate I rang Dick Knight and said, ‘Did you know that Archer was appearing?’ and he told CEDR because it was a CEDR agreement that they wouldn’t go. Driving back the 60 miles from Southampton we felt cheated, we felt hijacked and the most annoying thing was that we knew it was down to us. It wasn’t anybody else really that had let us down, it was ourselves that let ourselves down.

LIz COSTA: The ‘Goodbye Goldstone’ programme was a total triumph for Archer and Bellotti. And this having taken place a week after Bellotti had said to us, ‘Please leave my wife alone’, he brought her into that studio. She had nothing whatsoever to do with that programme – she had no input, was not expected to have any input.
Archer was there with a patch over his eye, we were told, because he had corneal problems. The neutrals, the people who didn’t really know what was going on or had chosen not to take any notice, must have thought, ‘What the hell are the supporters on about? Archer and Bellotti are so totally feasible.’ Well, that’s how they bloody wriggled their way in in the first place, by being feasible.

TONY FOSTER: To some extent we were stitched up on that – as far as I’m concerned so was Dick Knight and the consortium. Things were edited, we had to re-do quite a bit and at the end of the programme re-record certain bits that probably didn’t come across on the programme.

PAUL SAMRAH: I am afraid it was the low point of our campaign.

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Brighton face FA penalty after new pitch invasion

Here’s The Guardian’s Peter Nichols report on the events of Tuesday 1st October 1996:


Brighton face the threat of playing behind closed doors and having three points deducted, after supporters invaded the pitch during last night’s Third Division game against Lincoln at the Goldstone Ground. Play was halted for 12 minutes in the first half when Lincoln took the lead.

Shortly after play resumed Brighton equalised but two further goals for Lincoln consigned them to last but one in the league. The second goal prompted another invasion but this time the spectators did not reach the centre circle and they were booed off. Even the faithful had had enough.

The damage, though, may well have been done. Brighton have a Football Association sentence hanging over them after fans rioted and caused the abandonment of a Second Division relegation game against York City at the end of last season. That sentence could now come into effect after the referee Steve Bennett was forced to take the players off the pitch.

Trouble had been anticipated. Fans were angry at the breakdown of talks on Monday between the club chairman Bill Archer and the consortium headed by the advertising millionaire Dick Knight wanting to take over the club. But appeals to stay calm went unheeded. There was already a volatile atmosphere, with cries of “Archer out”. before matters spilled over in the 25th minute.

About 50 supporters from the North Stand invaded the pitch, and the referee immediately took the teams to the safety of the dressing-rooms.

Another 100 or so supporters from other sections of the ground then spilled on to the pitch, and the entire group congregated in the centre circle before leaving en bloc to return to the North Stand. The police adopted a “softly, softly” approach and, as invasions go, by Goldstone standards it was brief and bloodless. There were five public order arrests.


Archer, the object of the supporters’ disaffection, was not there to witness the protest. He had bought into Brighton and Hove Albion for £56.25 and, through dealings that might be described as Byzantine, sold the ground to Chartwell, a company connected to the Kingfisher Group and with which he is also involved. Chartwell paid £7.4 million, most of which went to pay off the club’s mounting debts.

The club now rent the ground back on a single-year lease which costs £480,000. At the end of the season, after 94 years at the Goldstone Ground, Brighton will be homeless. The ground will be dug up in June for a retail development.

Supporters might have been less alienated if Archer had employed a little PR during his tortuous dealings.

Talking to the supporters would have been a start. Nobody in this seaside town has the faintest idea of his plans.

Archer has attended only a handful of games and yesterday’s was not one of them. David Bellotti, the former Liberal MP, has been the front-man and, though he did visit the ground yesterday, he made his excuses and left before the game.

This particular crisis was precipitated by Monday’s meeting at the Park Court Hotel in London, where the FA attempted to arbitrate between Archer’s group and the Knight consortium.

Liz Costa, vice-chairman of the Brighton and Hove Albion Supporters’ Club, was one of many who predicted the worst for last night’s match.

“It will make York City look a like a Christmas party,” she forecast. “There’s going to be bedlam.” In that match almost 3,000 spectators spilled on to the pitch to demostrate against the board.

If those fears were unfounded, there was no disguising the despondency of the manager Jimmy Case. “Since I’ve been here there’s not been one ounce of good news, written or implemented,” he said. “When Liam Brady was here he said he couldn’t work in an unharmonious atmosphere, and it’s got worse.

“All we want as a manager and a football team, and especially the supporters, is a ground to play in. This situation affects everyone, down to the tea-ladies. I’ve never brought it up before but there comes a time. Any good news would be a breath of fresh air for me, the players and the tea-ladies.”

From ‘Build A Bonfire’:

Bill Swallow: I have to say, and maybe this puts me in a minority of one, I wasn’t terribly happy wit the Lincoln protest. I didn’t think it was wise. If they’d opened fire on David Bellotti I wouldn’t have had a problem with that, no difficulty at all. I thought the strategy went off the rails.

Tim Carder: Everyone supported it – I mean there were about two cries of ‘get off the pitch’ because we were under suspended sentence at that point. We knew that anyone going on the pitch and holding the game up was going to cost us points, but we were in such a desperate state at the time that the vast majority of the crowd applauded them. I clapped them. It was all very orderly and the crowd was in full support. We had to show that, even with the threat of losing points – and we were very near the bottom at this stage.

Significantly, after the Lincoln match, there was a marked change in emphasis in the protests that followed. Out went the kind that were liable to cost the club league points and made it easy to brand the loyal supporters as hooligans, and in came the imaginative kind such as the charm offensive at the village of Mellor, Bill Archer’s home in Lancashire.

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My 77-97 home

At the end of the 1996/97 season, Brighton wasn’t the only Football League club to lose their home. Bolton left Burnden Road, Derby County vacated the Baseball Ground, and Oxford, Stoke and Sunderland saw the last of their respective stadiums.

A fan and the terracing Bill Archer sold from under him.

A fan and the terracing Bill Archer sold from under him.

The big difference was that all those other clubs had a spanking new stadium to move into. The Albion had nowhere.

Here’s Total Football (July 1997)’s fact file on Brighton’s state of flux:

Old ground: Goldstone Ground
Final capacity: 11,500
Record gate: 36,747
Last game: Doncaster, April 26, 1997
New stadium: TBA
New capacity: TBA
Location: Who knows?

Background to move: The sale of the Goldstone to pay off debts of £6m sparked two years of protests. A month or so of groundsharing can’t be ruled out while a temporary location, either at the nearby Corals greyhound stadium, or perhaps Crawley Town’s new gaff, 20 miles north but still in Sussex, is organised. The consortium who wrested power from the old board include a representative of McAlpine’s, so when plans for The Seagulls’ new nest are revealed, expect something worth the wait.

We certainly got a great stadium in the end, but what a wait it turned out to be…

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Boycott Focus DIY, urges 90 Minutes magazine

It may have been founded by a Crystal Palace fan, Dan Goldstein, yet 90 Minutes magazine was not averse to giving coverage to Brighton throughout the seven years of the publication’s existence. Indeed, the diversity of the paper suggested that the concerns of fans of lower league clubs were every bit as important as those of the big clubs.

By 1996/97, the turmoil surrounding the Albion was reaching epic proportions. In 19 October 1996 (Issue 330), Barbara Everitt of Hassocks won the Letter of the Week award (£10) with this finely penned call to football fans:


iestyngeorge The excellent, sensitive response is by Iestyn George (Twitter @iestyngeorge), the senior staff writer at the time. He now lives in Brighton, and is a Lecturer at Solent University in Southampton.

As we all know, Brighton & Hove Albion did survive despite the traumatic events at the club. Less fortunate was 90 Minutes magazine, which folded with its 17th May edition, a fortnight after the Hereford match.

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Mountain pressure on Bill Archer!


From the Evening Argus, 20th February 1997:

Albion fans must be beginning to think getting rid of chairman Bill Archer is a bit like climbing Mount Everest.

Well now the anti-Archer campaign has even reached the Sherpas of Nepal, thanks to long-serving Seagulls supporter Mel Hempleman.

The mother-of-two from Henfield, a fan since 1968, sent us this picture taken by a friend.

The mountain in the background is actually Annapurna 1, but the message is still the same.

Mel said: “I am a passionate Albion fan and a very good friend of mine was climbing the Himilayas, so I gave him a banner to take.

He had a bit of a hard time making the Sherpa understand what it was all about, but he got there in the end!”

(Thanks to Jim who supplied me with newspapers that featured this and other articles from the mid-1990s).


Seagulls TV – the 1990s

Look above these words to see the menu of The Goldstone Wrap and you may notice an extra item today…

Today, I am very pleased to let you know of a big website update that I’m putting online.

As you may know, The Goldstone Wrap is a blog that is part of Seagulls TV, a Brighton & Hove Albion retro site that I started off three years ago to archive the video footage I had of the glory years of 1976 to 1983. Since then, the site has expanded to include team photos, action shots, results and player profiles for each season. I then expanded the site to cover the period from 1970/71 to 1975/76.

The Seagulls TV site has received praise from many football fans in tweets, forum posts, Facebook posts and blogs in these last three years. For example, in a piece choosing seven Albion matches from the past, Two Hundred Percent have said:

There is so much archive footage of Brighton & Hove Albion out there, and this seems like as good a time as any to those that have turned YouTube into such a marvellous archive of football. In the case on Brighton & Hove Albion, the quite magnificent Seagulls.tv is to thank for providing us all with such a magnificent selection of matches from the past. Without the diligence of people such as those behind this site, much of the footage available to us would be sitting in archives, forgotten about by all bar a few.

Kind words, indeed.

Now, though, I’ve pieced together a substantial new section on Seagulls TV that covers the 1990s. In the site, you can find videos of Brighton’s matches against Liverpool, Millwall and Notts County in 1990/91, the win against Portsmouth in 1991/92, the three cup clashes with Manchester United the following season, the Leicester cup shocks of 1994/95, and the famous games vs Doncaster and Hereford in 1996/97. It’s all lovingly organised season-by-season along with team photos and other bits and pieces.


Anyway, have a look, please!

Seagulls TV – the 1990s

In the meantime, I leave you with some of the highlights from that decade. These are my nominations – feel free to share your own views on Twitter or by leaving a comment on the blog:

Cheekiest goal
George Parris against Bristol Rovers (1995/96)

Most surreal sight
Bill Archer on TV facing angry fans while having an eye complaint (1996/97)

Greatest finish to a match
Dean Wilkins’ last minute free-kick (1990/91)

Best goal
Stuart Munday’s amazing shot (1994/95)

Most stomach-turning match
Hereford v Brighton (1996/97)

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