Football: Lynam's Brighton offer

Kieran Daley discovers still more trouble ahead for a beleaguered club
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The Independent Online
Des Lynam rang up a radio station last night offering to help settle the long-running dispute at Brighton. The sports presenter called Radio Five Live's Six-O-Six football call-in show, hosted by the Conservative MP David Mellor, and said he would act as mediator to help bring the fans and the board together.

"I've supported them for 40 years and I get lots of letters from fans asking what I can do. I've been racking my brains for two years. As a last-ditch attempt I want to get the two sides in a room to see if I can make them work together. Otherwise the club is going to go out of business," Lynam said.

The offer comes just when it seems things can't get any worse for Brighton - no manager, nine points adrift at the foot of the Third Division and the fans' anger at fever pitch. Tomorrow they find themselves in the dock at the Football Association.

The club could be docked further points or forced to play behind closed doors after a hearing into an October pitch invasion at the Goldstone ground. There is already a suspended sentence hanging over the club after crowd trouble forced last season's game against York to be abandoned in April. Brighton were charged with failing to control a crowd for the second time in six months following a pitch invasion on 1 October when fans interrupted play against Lincoln.

A three-man FA commission will hear evidence from both the club and police at the Goldstone ground. No decision on punishment will be announced tomorrow but a verdict is expected before Brighton's next League game at home to Hull on 14 December.

In this volatile climate, the club's chief executive, David Bellotti, has warned fans that the club's very League existence could be threatened by their actions. His statement follows the postponement of their home tie against Fulham in the Auto Windscreens Shield on Tuesday. "It must be realised that if the general disorder continues there is a clear threat to our future fixtures and League existence," he said.

The Football League revealed that the decision to postpone the Fulham game was made on police advice. It is now due to be played at the Goldstone Ground on 17 December.

Trouble flared most recently at Tuesday's 3-2 home defeat by Darlington, when damage was caused and bricks were thrown by unhappy supporters. Liz Costa, vice-chair of Brighton Supporters Club, believes the threat of violence is increasing because fans are becoming more frustrated at the club's plight. "There is a threat at Brighton and it is caused by the continued running of the club by Mr Bellotti and the chairman Bill Archer," she said. "Fans are very frustrated. We've done everything legally and nothing seems to be happening. The supporters know we've got 24 matches before the club could be out of existence."

None of which seems to have stopped people throwing their hat into the ring to become the club's manager following the sacking of Jimmy Case. The former Southampton manager, Dave Merrington, and the ex- Republic of Ireland striker John Byrne are the latest to declare an interest. Glenn Roeder and Dennis Rofe are also in the frame.