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FANS UNITED 2 20TH ANNIVERSARY

14 February 2018

The Argus
Today marks 20 years since Fans United 2

Today marks the 20th anniversary of Fans United 2 – The Heart of Football, a day when Brighton & Hove Albion and Doncaster Rovers came together once again, to highlight the struggles of both clubs, who were languishing near the bottom of the Football League.

Club historian Tim Carder explained how the idea for a second Fans United event materialised, and how a dire game of football at Albion’s temporary home had many long-lasting implications other than the 0-0 result.

He said, “With both clubs suffering from the effects of bad ownership there was a mutual respect and purpose between the fans that continued to support their teams.

“When Albion visited Belle Vue in October 1997 many of our fans joined with the home supporters in front of the directors’ box and on the pitch to show their disgust at Rovers’ owner Ken Richardson.

“Albion won the game 3-1 – but there was little triumphalism among the travelling fans, more a sense of solidarity with their beleaguered Rovers counterparts.

“The seeds of friendship between the two clubs’ fans were sown, and four months later one of our leading activists, the late Roy Chuter, dreamed up the idea of a second Fans United day.

“With the return against Rovers falling on 14th February, it was dubbed The Heart of Football – showing that even the two worst clubs in the entire League were still the subject of a love affair with their true supporters.”

Despite the club being in a marginally better position than a year previously, Albion fans still faced a 150-mile round trip to Gillingham for every game, and the battle had begun for the Seagulls to return to the city.

“The priority was to get the club back to Brighton, to Withdean Stadium, but also to stay in the Football League”, Carder explained.

“It had been a close call the previous season – only a last-day draw away to Hereford United had preserved our status at that club’s expense – but the 1997/98 team was arguably worse.

“With 32 matches played Albion had won just four – three away games and one at Gillingham.

“Fortunately for our status, Doncaster Rovers were worse still. The Yorkshire side had a chairman, Ken Richardson, who was later convicted of conspiracy to commit arson of the club’s home ground!”

Carder explained why the day was so significant in the club’s history, and how the match ultimately began Albion’s remarkable journey to the Amex. It also saw the club enter the internet age, with the launch of seagulls.co.uk.

“It was never going to be as good as the original Fans United game (when a 5-0 defeat of Hartlepool United did so much to keep Albion in the Football League), but Fans United 2 was the best event to take place during Albion’s exile in Gillingham.

“In an attempt to make the Priestfield feel a little like home, Albion launched their mobile shop on the same day, for the selling of souvenirs from a converted van and, coincidentally, also their internet site, www.seagulls.co.uk. The average gate rose from 1,900 before Fans United 2 to 2,800 during the remainder of the season.

“It was another 18 months before Albion played in Brighton again – and another 14 years before they could truly say they had a home of their own. But it was events like Fans United 2 that inspired a generation to keep fighting for their club: to bring it home to Brighton and to secure a permanent stadium – and to enable it to flourish as it does today.”


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