Brighton have two points deducted

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The Independent Online
Brighton and Hove Albion's survival hopes were dealt a huge blow when the Football League's bottom club were fined two points last night. It leaves the managerless Seagulls 11 points adrift at the bottom of the Third Division and looking doomed to relegation.

The Football Association, trying hard to broker a solution to the club's off-the-field problems, could not ignore the two pitch invasions by protesting fans during the game against Lincoln on 1 October. The club already had a suspended sentence of a three-point League fine and a one-match ground closure hanging over them following disturbances last April.

However, the FA showed some mercy by deciding not to activate the suspended sentence in full once its crowd-control commission found them guilty of failing to control their spectators. Instead, it deducted two League points and ordered Brighton to pay the costs of the hearing. They have 14 days to appeal.

"The commission clearly felt it had no option but to activate at least part of the suspended sentence," the FA chief executive, Graham Kelly, said.

There had been speculation that the commission would delay their verdict and punishment to see how peace talks instigated by Kelly turn out - but he said: "At the insistence of the club and the police, the issue was dealt with today so the matter could be put firmly behind them."

The fans' main target is Brighton's controlling shareholder, Bill Archer, who has been accused of letting the club drift towards disaster. The club are likely to be homeless at the end of the season after selling the Goldstone Ground without an alternative lined up, beyond a belated suggestion of groundsharing at Gillingham - 60 miles away. Although a rival consortium is in the wings, Archer and his chief executive, David Bellotti, have ignored all popular demonstrations.

Liz Costa, vice-chair of the Brighton Supporters Club, said she felt it was "outrageous" that the FA had punished the players rather than the club's owners. She asked: "The charge was that the club had failed to control their crowd - so why penalise the team? Deducting two points means that it is the team who will suffer. It is crazy that the FA have not addressed the issue at all."