Tag Archives: david bellotti

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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Fans fury over Brighton move to Fratton Park


Thank your lucky stars that the future looks bright for Brighton. The current set-up is quite unlike what it was in the mid-1990s when it was increasingly difficult to write about the club without using the word ‘beleaguered.’

This article by Andrew Arlidge from 1995/96 captures the horror as a soon-to-be homeless Brighton face up to the prospect of playing home matches in Portsmouth, with the recent demise of Maidstone hanging in the air:

Brighton’s shell-shocked players and fans are still finding it hard to come to terms with the club’s plans to sell the Goldstone Ground and share Portsmouth’s Fratton Park from next season.

Albion’s chief executive David Bellotti says the Second Division club are now £6 million in debt and the only way for them to survive within their own resources is to sell the Goldstone – their home for 93 years.

Bellotti claims there are now provisional contracts in place for the sale, and that is why they have secured a provisional agreement to play at Portsmouth, but he stresses that temporary facilities much nearer to the Goldstone are being examined.

A possible location is the Hove greyhound stadium, less than a mile from the Goldstone, but vanous hurdles need to be overcome before a safety certificate can be granted•.

As well as an agreement from owners Corals, Brighton would need land from the adjoining Alliance and Leicester Building Society, a new stand for 5,000 supporters and financial help from Hove Council.

Fans have been quick to oppose the prospect of making a 100-mile round trip to Fratton Park for home matches by staging a pitch invasion and demonstrations. But Bellotti emphasises going to Portsmouth would be a last resort.

He said: “If there is any chance of accommodating the club at the greyhound stadium, or anywhere else nearby, we shall make every effort to do so. Ground-sharing at Portsmouth is a safety-net but if there is no alterntive we shall be going there in 1996.”

Brighton have been told by the Football League that they will not sanction the ground-share unless they receive guarantees that the club will be building a new stadium in the town. So far a site for Brighton’s proposed 30,000 seater multi-purpose ground has not been identified and the League say they need to know the situation well before next June when Brighton are due to leave the Goldstone.

League spokesman Chris Worley confirms that regulations state new clubs must play in their home town while establishing themselves in the League. but the League would do all they could to help established sides, like Brighton, survive.

The League are anxious to avoid a repeat of the situation which led to the demise of Maidstone three years ago. The Third Division outfit were allowed to ground-share at non-league Dartford but their plans for a new stadium in the town never came to fruition, and the club eventually resigned from the League after going out of business.

Said Worley: “Brighton moving to Portsmouth is not ideal because of the distance supporters would have to travel. But it wouldn’t be a major obstacle as long as there were cast-iron guarantees from Brighton about the future.

“There would be no sanction from us until we were satisfied that the club had planning approval for a new ground and we had an idea when building would begin.”

Bnghton say they have to repay more than £4 million worth of debt by next June, but the total amount they owe is approaching £6 million because of other debts which are to be met on different timescales.

Bellotti maintains the only thing that prevented Albion from folding in 1993 was a financial re-structuring. This resulted in Greg Stanley and Bi!l Archer becoming the only shareholders in the club.

Said Bellotti: “They had a clear determination, whch rernalns to this day, that the first and foremost objective was to have a winning team and obtain Premier League status.

“A second objective was to build a new stadium fit for Premier League football. The Goldstone Ground cannot be developed as a football stadium.

Funding the debts in a ground that cannot be developed is not a viable proposition. The debts become repayable in the summer of 1996. They were incurred over many years and resulted in several High Court appearances in 1993.

“Since those days in the High Court nobody has offered to help with our debts and no true supporter would expect us to simply wait for the inevitable winding-up order finishing us off at the end of this season. We must maintain Albion as a League club at whatever sacrifice.”

Bellotti claimed club chairman Archer and president Stanley would Invest money on the club provided Albion has the council’s support to build a new stadium.

He added: “By the close season in 1996/97, the shareholders will make available more money than ever before for manager Liam Brady to buy players to strengthen the team for a real push for promotion.

“Other clubs succeeding with plans for new grounds have nearly all had planning and financial help from their local authormes. I urge our fans to contact the leaders of Bnghton and Hove councils requesting their heip in both the short term, with a move to the greyhound stadium, and in the longer term with a move to a permanent stadium.”

A step in the right direction has been the setting up of a Sports Development Trust with the aim of attracbng funds for the new stadium.

Meanwhile, Brady has gone into his second full season in charge having only added loan players Gary Bull and Greg Berry to his squad. His sole cash signing since taking over 21 months ago has been winger Stuart Storer, a £15,000 buy from Exeter last season, and Albion’s plight would be even worse without veteran battlers Steve Foster and John Byrne.

Brady commented: “It’s ironic because I had all this stadium talk when I was manager at Celtic. It didn’t help me there and it’s not helping at the moment. I wish I couid manage in calmer circumstances.

The former Republic of Ireland star admits this is a critical period in Albion’s history but he and his staff remain committed and won’t be quitting.

He confessed: “The situation at Brighton is of a very big concern to me, though it’s really out of my hands. I don’t have any role in decision-making as regards which way the club is going.

“Whether the right decisions have been made I am not prepared to say at the moment. I think we have got to give a little bit more time for things to develop.

“My job is to get results. Although we haven’t made a very good start to the season, I believe in the players and fee! we can c!imb the table to challenge for those play-off positions.”

Despite Brady’s attempt to sound optimistic, Brighton’s playing prospects were bleak. He did not survive the season as the club were relegated to the bottom division at the end of 1995/96.

When you're young...

When you’re young…

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April Fool’s Joke: David Bellotti says new stadium is in Dieppe


Ha, bloody ha. Evidence that Bellotti possibly didn’t take fans’ sensitivity about moving home fixtures away from Brighton particularly seriously. This is from the match programme against Swansea in April 1994.

And yet, was he once ‘one of us’?

In the programme against Doncaster in April 1997, the last at the Goldstone, the chief executive regales tales of how he became a fan:

My first visit to the Goldstone was back in 1973. Having moved to Sussex to a new job and being mad on football at the time the first thing I did was buy a season ticket. Sitting in the back row of E block the stadium looked huge. The first game I watched at the Goldstone we lost 2-0 to Bournemouth. Later that season Brian Clough arrived and we were knocked out of the Cup 4-0 by Walton and Hersham and thrashed in the League at home by Bristol Rovers 8-2! The horror of those games remain in my memory. However we did get revenge in 1989 beating Rovers 2-1 to secure promotion to the Second Division. My greatest memory was the very first game in the First Division against Arsenal at the Goldstone. There were tears of joy all around me in the stand. We may have lost 4-0 but we were there.

Ian Hine is doing a wonderful joke scanning Albion programmes from yesteryear at www.seagullsprogrammes.co.uk. He has also started a thread on Bellotti’s missives on North Stand Chat.