Brighton fans riot at plans to sell stadium

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Supporters of Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club invaded their own pitch yesterday, wrecked both goals, hurled wooden stakes into the crowd, tried to storm the players' tunnel and forced the abandonment of the Second Division match with York City.

The fans were protesting at the decision by the club's directors to sell the Goldstone ground, their home for 94 years, to a property company, and share the Fratton Park ground of Ports-mouth FC, 40 miles away. Goldstone is being sold to pay off debts of pounds 6m.

Police had expected trouble. After the club's previous game against Carlisle, 600 fans invaded the pitch calling for the resignation of David Bellotti, the chief executive. Early yesterday, supporters broke into the ground and painted "Sack the Board" across the pitch and directors' seats.

Mr Bellotti and his fellow directors were told by police it was in their best interests to stay away from the game, and before play started the 12,000-strong crowd heard an announcement that no directors were present.

It was not enough. After 16 minutes of play hundreds of supporters, further incensed that their team's relegation to the Third Division was confirmed in midweek, spilled on to the pitch. Some swung from the goal cross bars, dragged down the posts and urged the rest of the crowd to join them while, as the referee took the teams off the pitch, others tore up wooden stakes and hurled them into the crowd. One woman was carried off on a stretcher and another fan was taken to hospital with a serious neck injury.

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