Happy birthday to us!

24 June marks the 123rd anniversary since the club was founded.

By Luke Nicoli • 24 June 2024

The first picture of an Albion team wearing stripes from 1904/05.

Today, Brighton & Hove Albion celebrates its 123rd anniversary, but do you know the history of how the club came into being?

The first professional outfit in Sussex was actually Brighton United, who played in the Southern League from 1898 to 1900, when the club was wound up, owing nearly £1,000. Several of the players went to the amateur club Brighton & Hove Rangers, who had competed in local football as North End Rangers for some years, and now wanted to move into a position to take over as the premier club in the area. They had to move to a new ground and found Home Farm – which is now known as Surrenden Field, and just over the other side of London Road from what is now Withdean Stadium.

Rangers played in cup matches and friendlies only in 1900/01, and a large ground with a covered stand was never anywhere near full. All the same, they did well enough to be asked to join the Southern League for the following season. But events got ahead of them, and suddenly the town was left with a place in the Southern League but no club to fill it, as Rangers folded.

The Goldstone Ground was first used by the club in 1902.

So, very suddenly, Albion was born on 24 June 1901, at a meeting at the Seven Stars pub in Ship Street. John Jackson, who had been trainer-manager of Brighton United and who was involved in the growth of Brighton & Hove Rangers, organised and addressed the meeting. Jackson was, without a doubt, the most influential figure in the early years of professional football in the area.

The new club was to be called Brighton & Hove United, with Jackson repeating the job he’d done at Brighton United, and they arranged to play at the Sussex CCC ground at Eaton Road, Hove. But the well-established club Hove FC objected to the name – it was a time of friction between professionals and amateurs, and Hove didn’t want people to think they were associated with their new neighbours. They were also worried that gates at their new home, the Goldstone Ground, would be affected. So, the name was changed to Brighton & Hove Albion before the 1901/02 season began.

Jackson went to work, signing experienced players and professionals he’d known in his Brighton United days and the Albion had a fantastic start to their first season, winning all eight of their home games in Southern League Division Two, but after topping the table for months, they fell away with three late away defeats in what were then called ‘out’ games, and finished third.

Something that proved very significant happened towards the end of that season. With the County Ground being used for cricket, Albion needed somewhere to play a friendly against Southampton Wanderers on 22 February 1902, and it was played at the Goldstone Ground. Albion won 7-1, and played there several more times that season, including a league fixture against Chesham.

Hove FC only had a short lease on the Goldstone, and couldn’t attract the gates to cover the terms. So, they offered the Seagulls-to-be a groundshare arrangement, and with disappointing gates at the County Ground making income a problem for Albion, they accepted.

And what a season it was! Albion’s first-ever promotion was completed less than two years after they formed. It took a play-off (or Test Match as they called it then) to do it, a 5-3 win against Watford at West Ham’s Canning Town ground putting them in amongst the strongest teams in the south of England. Gates soared and the Albion soared with them…