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PERRY'S 20 YEARS AS A DIRECTOR - PART TWO

17 June 2017

Paul Hazlewood
Martin Perry - Albion's executive director.

To celebrate Martin Perry’s 20 years as a director of the football club, below is the second in a series of stories on brightonandhovealbion.com to celebrate his achievements at the Albion.

Brighton & Hove Albion executive director Martin Perry spoke about the club’s final-day showdown with Hereford United in 1997, before their two-year period at Priestfield - as fans made a 150-mile round trip to watch the Seagulls.

After giving themselves a chance to beat the drop, Albion travelled to Edgar Street with Football League survival on the line, and Perry commented on a memorable day that ended his first week in football.

He said, “We were equal on points with them but above them - purely on goals scored. The goal difference had arisen because of the Fans United game against Hartlepool [5-0].

“Hereford had their local vicar in the boardroom - I don't know whether he was trying to give them some divine intervention, but of course, it didn’t work.

“At the end, there was this contrast of two emotions, ecstatic supporters on one side and heartbroken Hereford supporters on the other side.

“Our hearts went out to them, but the scenes of sheer jubilation on the Brighton side was incredible. That rounded off my first seven days in football, and it hasn't got much less exciting since.”

With Albion’s Football League status secured for another season, the club’s search for a temporary home began, and Perry explained the procedure that took place, as they left the Goldstone Ground for the Priestfield Stadium in Kent.

“Although we were saddled with a ground-share at Gillingham, we tried everything we could to avoid it. We initially talked to Crawley Town and they were keen on us going there.

“But the stadium was owned by Crawley Council and when we approached them, they were having none of it and didn’t want us to go there.

“Ultimately, that probably worked in our favour. If we had of settled there - a new ground that had a 6,000 capacity - we might have found it much more difficult to get planning permission in Brighton.

“We then looked at Millwall and ran into problems again, because the Metropolitan Police didn't want us to go there. We tried Woking as well, but none of those stadiums worked, so we reluctantly ended up at Gillingham.”

The Seagulls spent two seasons at Priestfield - narrowly escaping relegation with another 23rd-place finish before rising to 17th the next season - and Perry commented on a difficult period for the club, both on and off the field.

“The distance [75 miles] meant that we lost a lot of fans, through either not being able to make the journey or not wanting to - those were the two elements.

“Apart from one or two really loyal businesses, there was no commercial sponsorship or business interest, which meant the club’s income really dropped.

“Attendances fell dramatically, they averaged around 2,000. It was a very low time and the football was absolutely awful.

“Only one team got relegated at that stage, so the only reason we didn't get relegated was because Doncaster were worse, and that took some doing.

“It became really obvious that we had to get back to Brighton as soon as we could, because the club would never survive at Gillingham.”


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