Football: Brighton fans set for sacrifice

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Tomorrow will start like any other match day for Graham Talbot. His team is playing at home, and though the opposition - Mansfield Town - is hardly glamorous, these days it rarely is. He will arrive at the ground in good time, hoping and praying, as ever, for victory.

But then Talbot will do something he has not done for 26 years. A supporter of Brighton and Hove Albion, he has not missed a Seagulls game, home or away, in any competition - no, not even the Full Members' Cup - since 1970, but tomorrow he will join many hundreds of his fellow fans in Hove Park, across the road from the Goldstone Ground, in a boycott of the match. Brighton's worst gate for a League fixture, the 2,093 who watched them play Norwich City in the Third Division South in 1929, seems likely to be lowered.

The boycott will mark the latest escalation in the bitter feud between the club's supporters and its board, in particular Bill Archer, the chairman, and David Bellotti, his chief executive. Brighton are bottom of the League and, following the sale of the ground to developers, without a home for next season. Most fans believe the club is sliding towards oblivion.

"I've been to just over 1,350 games in a row," Talbot said yesterday. "Sometimes I've had a bout of flu and felt pretty ill, but I've always made it. But we've got to the stage now where we could not have a club next season. It's essential to get the people in charge out."

In a letter to Jimmy Case, Brighton's manager, and his players, the organisers of the boycott say that "we are all behind you and many people gathered outside will be cheering you on as usual. Our anger is directed solely at the board of directors, and we, the paying customers who love the club dearly, will not stand idly by as it is destroyed."

The decision to miss tomorrow's game will be a painful one for many fans, not least Graham Talbot. He will not be the only notable absentee, however. Bill Archer, Brighton's chairman, has not attended a match at the Goldstone for almost 12 months.