Friday, 29 July 2011

Home At Last

Most will say that tomorrow's match against Tottenham Hotspur will be Brighton and Hove Albion's 14 year wait for a home to call their own ended. Those who have felt the heartache, frustration and passion through those 14 years will know that their true homecoming will be on August 6th as they embark on a new league and a new challenge, starting their nPower Championship Campaign against Doncaster Rovers.

The AMEX Stadium

We can go on and on about the recycled clichés that will no doubt follow the coverage amongst the opening of the AMEX Stadium next week, but they stand to reason. There probably will not be a dry eye in the house come August 6th, and rightly so. It's been a struggle felt in the stands as well as in the boardroom, and come kick off the over-riding feeling of relief will swamp the Brighton fans and players. Not that they'll settle for this, mind.

Plans to extend the capacity of the new ground are already being put in place, with the corners of the ground and a new tier on the East Stand part of proceedings. The extension will add a further 8,000 seats to the ground, taking capacity to an impressive 30,500. Considering that last May the Seagulls were saying goodbye to their stay at the Withdean Stadium, able to hold just under 9,000 people, shows how far the club has come in recent years. The plans to add to the AMEX should be welcomed by all, the stadium still feeling slightly unfinished when inside the ground; The corners left empty takes away slightly from the shine from the new stadium, though still streets ahead of the common bowl-type arena that Leicester, Southampton and Coventry have all introduced to the footballing world.

The AMEX, infact, is so innovative and stunning that it even offers a welcome package like no other to travelling support. The away end will have lights within the stand dependant of the team playing that day; Bristol City, for example, will be greeted to red lights projected onto the walls to add their own touch to the stand. Not only that, but hangings of the team's badge will be placed to give the away fans a unique experience when visiting. It's a clever move with sensible reasoning behind it, the decision being made after discussions on the importance of away fans selling out week in week out.

After all, the ground is still being paid for - Loans for the £93 Million ground were taken out, amongst other sources of money, to get Brighton their new home. As such, reasonable gate averages need to be meet to pay for the costs. The away support can sometimes be just as valuable as the home in terms of gate receipts, so why not make their stay more inviting? Their money is as good as Brighton's, after all.

It doesn't stop at the ground for reasons to smile, either. Brighton can look forward to their new home introducing a new league for the fans, after winning the League One title last campaign. It's a more fitting tribute to the stadium, inviting the likes of Leeds United, Leicester City and West Ham United rather than Yeovil and Exeter. On the field, Brighton have added well and managed to pull off one of the signings of the season in Craig Mackail-Smith, a £2.75 Million buy under the noses of then admirers Leicester City. Along with Will Hoskins, Will Buckley and Kazenga Lua-Lua joining the squad this season, it's not just a fitting league that the AMEX will play venue to, it's a fitting home for fitting players; Players of real quality.

Three men need to be thanked for all of this, though. The input and backing Tony Bloom, current chairman and fan of Brighton and Hove Albion, has been incredible. Despite plans having already been put down before his backing, it's clear that his involvement has made this a more positive and financially capable dream that soon opens it's doors and becomes a reality. Dick Knight, credited for keeping the club away from extinction, also needs a worthy mention. His time as chairman saw the fight for the new ground which proved successful, and rightly passed on the role as chairman in 2009 to Bloom, who then funded the stadium. Lastly, Gus Poyet, who's won the hearts of the Brighton faithful for his exciting tactics and clever style of football which has seen them recover from the possibility of relegation when he first took over, leading to now; One week before the start of their Championship campaign.

Home at last for Brighton and Hove Albion, and what a platform they've set themselves to move on in their new abode.


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