Today, about 30,000 fans of Brighton & Hove Albion FC will be travelling to Cardiff for the Second Division playoff final against Bristol City. The Sunday Times uses this as a peg to cover a local politics issue that I have been following for a few years: The controversy surrounding the construction of a new football stadium in Brighton. The Telegraph finds the same angle.
In 1998, I wrote about the club’s plan to build a 22,000-seat stadium in Falmer for the student newspaper at Sussex University, which is just across the railway lines from the proposed site. Things have stalled since then, and the football club continue to occupy a tiny, 7,000-capacity converted athletics track at Withdean.
Now it’s become a national issues: Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott will have to decide whether the plans should go ahead. If Brighton win today, it will add urgency to the club’s argument that the plans should go ahead, because, as the BBC reports, they will need a facility capable of supplying the revenue for a First Division team. The stadium fiasco has been hurting the club: In the year ending June 2003, The Albion posted ordinary trading losses of £891,000, wrote off £267,000 against the costs of developing Withdean, and spent £890,000 the planning application and public enquiry for Falmer.
Update: Brighton 1, Bristol City 0.