Date:Wednesday May 2 2007
The saga of Brighton and Hove Albion's search for a new home is the longest in recent English football. Since they left the Goldstone Ground, sixteen clubs have moved into new stadiums. It's now just over ten years since the Seagulls played their last game at the Goldstone Ground which was their home for 95 years.
But the club's future is still at risk because of Nimby opposition to their planned new stadium at Falmer on the outskirts of Brighton. The Goldstone became a retail park after being sold off by a controversial board of directors. To add insult to injury, Brighton had to pay £245,000 in capital gains tax to the Inland Revenue because of the delay in building the new ground.
For two years after leaving the Goldstone Brighton had to share with Gillingam, 70 miles away. They then returned to temporary accommodation at Withdean Stadium, a small council-owned athletics facility. Pitches with athletic tracks round them are never ideal for football and £3.5m had to be spent bringing Withdean up to league standard. But its size means the club cannot take full advantage of their potential attendance.
The City Council approved plans for the 22,500-capacity stadium at Falmer, after a city-wide referendum, but the club are still in limbo. John Prescott approved the plans after two lengthy public inquiries. However, neighbouring Lewes Council, whose territory includes Falmer village and a small corner of the proposed stadium, launched a legal challenge. Supposedly in an area of outstanding natural beauty, the Falmer site is a nondescript field between a railway, some university buildings and a road.
Falmer parish council tried to claim that residents of East Brighton estates lacked the skills to take advantage of employment opportunities offered by the stadium development. It was also claimed that Brighton Council only gave permission because they wanted football fans as far from the city centre as possible. The final decision now rests with Communities and Local Government minister, Ruth Kelly, who will rule before July 9th.
The clubs who have moved to new grounds in the last ten years are:
Bolton Wanderers (1997);
Coventry City (2005);
Derby County (1997);
Doncaster Rovers (2007);
Hull City (2002);
Leicester City (2002);
Manchester City (2003);
MK Dons (2007);
Stoke City (1997);
Swansea City (2005);
Wigan Athletic (1999).
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