Brighton and Hove Albion match day student experience

Albion match-day – A student’s experience

Football tends to get a bad press: irate players, bad-mouthed fans and a backwards attitude towards race and gender seemingly always on the minds of our tabloids. While one member of our group wasn’t expecting her football initiation quite as willing to pardon the fact she was, a) female, and b) repelled by rivalry, these four writers of the University of Brighton’s The Verse were pleasantly surprised by how wrong their expectations had been…

Beginning with a grand tour around the grounds themselves was nothing but a prerequisite for how the day was to pan out. An impressive new build, the American Express Community Stadium goes above and beyond all the expected facilities with a separate family room and entertainment for all ages. It also boasts an entire wall sporting the stadium’s highlights in its history so far – each moment as told by fans.

As most students will probably agree, the most important parts of a sports stadium are its bars, and the AMEX is no exception. On our visit to BHAFC, we got the chance to visit both stadium bars, as well as the numerous beer tents outside. It’s worth noting (as we did) that these bars have a tendency to fill up well before a match is due to begin, so we’d recommend getting in there early. Surprisingly, the price of a pint isn’t too ridiculous; at £4.20, it’s not exactly the cheapest but it’s by no means the most expensive around Brighton. The bars offer a good selection of draughts and lagers, as well as some hot and cold food. For the real ale drinkers, there is a catering van nearby, offering a wide selection of some of the finest ales brewed in Sussex.

So far it seemed all of the AMEX’s features, along with a bar brimming with memorabilia from local sporting champions, made for an all-inclusive, friendly atmosphere that did not appear to advocate the negative sides of football. Perhaps the most illustrative example of this was the stadium’s South Stand bar, which is always decorated in the visiting team’s colours and sells their local brew, which actively encourages both home and away fans to mingle before the game – certainly a forward-thinking club in a forward-thinking town. But, with half an hour to kick-off, we couldn’t help but wonder how the game itself would unravel.

After our pre-amble around the stadium, the four of us sat down in the East Stand hoping to see Brighton & Hove Albion extend their lead at the top of the Championship. With Brighton top and Preston languishing in the lower reaches of the league, it certainly looked like it had another three points written all over for the Seagulls.

Despite Albion’s consistent battering of a resilient Preston defence, the day ended short of something for the Brighton faithful to get excited by. While Bobby Zamora’s appearance gave fans hope that he would score the match winner for a third game in a row, it seems a goalless final result was written in the stars when Gaëtan Bong was stretchered off injured in the 90th minute, leaving the Albion to play the closing stages with ten men.

Though there was certain contrast in the faces of home and away fans leaving the stadium, no aggression ensued. We can confidently attest that the AMEX Stadium does not evoke expectations of violence in its hosted football games. With a great atmosphere encouraging all ages, fans and genders to visit, it seems that the AMEX Stadium has a simple ethos – anyone is welcome to come and share their love of the game.

Our day as a whole was a fantastic experience, enjoyed by both fans in our group and a newly initiated football newbie. We all went away with a great impression of the AMEX – eagerly recommending a stadium visit to anybody with an interest in football.

By Matt Heath, Charlotte King, Michael Stokoe and Luca Van Dresh

www.seagulls.co.uk

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