Paul Newman: Blooming Brighton find green setting to end homeless life

The Football League Column: The team will move into a new stadium next summer, by which time they will also hope to be back in the Championship

There have been times when Brighton fans must have wondered whether it was all a dream. Were they really playing in the top flight 27 years ago? Would they really have won the 1983 FA Cup had Gordon Smith not missed a last-minute sitter against Manchester United?

Since leaving their historic home at the Goldstone Ground in 1997, Brighton have mostly toiled away in League One while fighting to find a new home. Having spent their first two seasons in exile sharing Gillingham's ground 75 miles away, watching their crowds dwindle to little more than 2,000, they have been playing in temporary accommodation for the last 11 years at the Withdean Stadium, an athletics arena in Brighton with a capacity of under 9,000.

The long wait, however, is nearing an end. Brighton will move into a new stadium next summer, by which time they will also hope to be back in the Championship. Gus Poyet's pacemakers lead League One by three points and would have been further ahead but for a controversial late penalty that secured a 1-1 draw for Bournemouth at the Withdean on Saturday.

Promotion would be the perfect way to celebrate the move to the American Express Community Stadium, which is being built at Falmer, four miles from the city centre on a site next to the University of Sussex. Buckingham Group, the main contractors, are on schedule to hand the stadium over to the club in time for the start of the 2011-12 season.

After 13 years playing in front of crowds which have rarely topped 7,000, a move to a 22,500-capacity stadium might seem overly ambitious, but the Brighton public's enthusiasm for their new home has been remarkable. At the Withdean, the club entertain just 150 corporate guests; at the Amex they will have 2,100, of which 2,000 have already been sold for the opening season.

A total of 15,500 season tickets will go on sale later this year and the club expect to sell out. The stadium has been designed with a view to being enlarged, subject to planning permission, to a capacity of 30,000, which was the sort of crowd the club attracted in their heyday.

Martin Perry, the chief executive, said: "There's a huge pent-up demand in the south-east for the club and for a new stadium. Anecdotally, we've heard so many people say: 'I won't go to Withdean, but I will go to the new stadium.' Initially we weren't sure how much we could rely on that information, but the corporate sales have shown it's true."

Perry was one of those who helped to save the club from oblivion in 1997, but the current revival has been made possible by Tony Bloom, chairman since June 2009. Bloom comes from a family of Brighton supporters – his grandfather was a vice-chairman of the club and his uncle has been involved for more than 20 years – and has amassed a fortune through the sale of a betting website he set up, as well as his property and finance interests.

Bloom has kept Brighton afloat and backed Poyet, but his major commitment has been to support the new stadium, which is costing £66m to build. The Football Foundation and the regional development agency have helped with grants, but the final bill totals £93m, including the price of the land and planning. It took two public inquiries and 10 years to secure planning permission.

As befits a city with the country's only Green MP, the stadium will be environmentally friendly. There will be only 150 new car parking spaces as supporters will be encouraged to travel by train to the adjoining Falmer station. The stadium should also be of architectural appeal. The roof is designed to reflect the landscape of the South Downs, which will be visible through two curved arches.

Perry believes the excitement created by the new stadium – there is even a live webcam on the club website showing the construction work – has inspired Poyet's team. "The training ground is on the other side of the road from the stadium, so the players drive past it every day," he said. "They can see where this club is going."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power