A Century of Work for the Albion - and Albion Fans
Launched in March 1912, Brighton & Hove Albion Supporters’ Club is currently celebrating its centenary. The largest of the Albion supporters’ organisations may now be in its fourth incarnation, but it maintains the core values of assisting the football club when possible and helping Albion fans support their team.
Albion historian Tim Carder, a former chairman of the Supporters’ Club, takes a look at its past, present and future.
'To Help, Not Hinder'
The former motto of the Supporters' Club reflected its philosophy for many years. It took fans to away games, ran social events and donated money to the Albion, but had little ambition to influence decisions. After all, fans knew that directors always acted in the best interests of the football club ...
There was a time when a swastika was merely a decorative motif, as demonstrated on this page from the 1927/28 handbook
The Supporters' Club raised funds for the football club, notably through the publication of annual handbooks. It encouraged fans to buy shares in Brighton & Hove Albion Football Club Ltd, enabling the Goldstone Ground to be purchased outright in 1930. But its greatest achievement of the period was funding a roof behind the north goal, the first North Stand which opened in 1931.
The 34 editions of the Supporters' Club's annual handbook, published from the 1920s to the 1970s, are very collectable
The 1950s committee made up for any
lack of 'image' or women in numbers
The Supporters' Club was revived in March 1948 and soon reached a peak membership of 5,000 as football attendances boomed after the Second World War.
Contestants in the Miss Albion Football Queen competition 1970
Coach travel to away games took off in the 1950s with members enjoying reciprocal hospitality with the home team's supporters' club. Social events included an annual Miss Albion contest, while members could also join both ladies' and men's football teams.
Looking forward to an away game in the '50s
Following the Albion to Norwich ...
... and to Ipswich in the 1950s
Some members have been around a VERY long time!
A club re-born
After a gap of five years, the present Supporters' Club was launched on 17 September 1982.
Last-day fun in the 1990s
More clowning around - at Toddington Services
But it also began campaigning. While others battled against managers and sometimes opposing fans, the Supporters' Club confined its crusades to promoting good behaviour and encouraging fun, and to non-divisive issues: the Government's national membership scheme (1988-89) and the Save The Albion Now campaign amid the financial crisis of 1992-93.
The Mansfield Town boycott, November 1996. The Supporters' Club had actually called for a permanent boycott
Demonstrating outside the Park Court Hotel, London, as Dick Knight's consortium meets the FA, the council leaders and the club board
Supporters' Club members and Andy Naylor of the Evening Argus present a petition to the HQ of Focus DIY in Crewe, on the way to Rochdale, October 1996
Then, in 1995, came the seminal moment in the modern history of the Albion: the sale of the Goldstone Ground. The Supporters' Club threw its weight behind the united campaign to install a new board. Some said it wasn't radical enough, yet it proposed a blanket boycott of home games and began legal action against the FA.
Declaration of independence
Most of the Withdean litter patrollers were Supporters' Club members
The Supporters' Club rewrote its constitution in 1997 to emphasise its independence and democratic principles. While co-operating and liaising with the Albion whenever possible, it has maintained a healthy distance and a watchful eye ever since.
Presenting the 61,452-name petition to the city council, May 2002
Over the next ten years or so the Supporters' Club campaigned tirelessly on any number of issues, from Bringing Home the Albion and keeping it ‘Alive and Kicking’, to targeting homophobia and other anti-social behaviour. Proudly, it funded the Falmer For All campaign to the tune of more than £10,000, and provided much of the manpower in connection with this, the most important initiative in the history of Albion fans.
Happy Valentine's Day, Mr Prescott! Hull, February 2004
She was right! Labour Party Conference, September 2004
The Supporters' Club has run transport to every away game since November 1996 (except when Wimbledon was boycotted over the move to MK). It also ran coaches to every home game at Gillingham
It backed its members' initiatives such as the Buy-a-Player Fund (for Rod Thomas in 1998) and the promotion of youth development. It campaigned on behalf of other clubs in crisis, giving very practical assistance to Hull City, Bury, Wrexham and Plymouth Argyle among others.
It's not easy decorating a 1960s concrete town hall,
but the Supporters' Club gave it a go in 2001
Buses are easier than town halls!
Division Two champions 2002
For the benefit of all fans
The Supporters' Club is sometimes derided for being an irrelevance, but much of its work goes on in the background for the benefit of all fans, not just members. Without the Supporters' Club there would have been no £5 compensatory voucher at Norwich in 2003, for instance, and in 2000 a draconian Away Membership Scheme would have been imposed.
Dick Knight and the mayor of Brighton & Hove, Cllr Anne Meadows, unveil the Goldstone Ground heritage board in Hove Park which was largely paid for by the Supporters' Club, July 2011
The Supporters' Club is not the only fans' group by any means, but it is the biggest and by far the oldest.
"I'll swap you this bucket and scarf for that Highland Terrier." Fans United, February 1997
Indeed, the Supporters' Club has been lobbying for a representative fans' forum to be held at regular intervals. As the football club grows bigger, there is a danger that it may become more remote; yet in recent years it has enjoyed its most notable successes off the pitch when directors, management and supporters have worked together in close harmony. We are hopeful that something may soon arise from this lobbying.