Seagulls Over Burwash Article – April 2024

Ups and Downs, Final Ten and European Problems 

Supporting Brighton and Hove Albion over the last forty-five years has certainly been a roller coaster ride. From being in the old First Division doing the double over the then European Champions, Nottingham Forest, only to plummeting down the divisions and avoiding dropping out of the Football League by a mere two goals. There then followed a period of yo-yoing between the lower leagues before finding a permanent home at the Amex Stadium. The final piece of the jigsaw was put into place when the club was promoted to the Premier League in 2016. Since then, a gradual improvement from season to season culminated in the club finishing 6th in the Premier League and qualifying for the Europa League at the end of last season. 

This season started in spectacular fashion for the Seagulls with four wins in the first five League matches and, at one point, they briefly topped the table (I have that screen shot saved on my phone as it may never happen again!). The group stage of the Europa League went to plan with the Albion topping a difficult group containing European big guns, Marseille, Ajax and AEK Athens. With players like Mitoma, March, Fergusson and Pedro all playing the best football of their careers, supporters were dreaming of silverware and Champions League qualification by finishing in the top four. However, football is a cruel mistress and fate decreed that the first team would be decimated by injuries. First, Solly March succumbed to a hamstring tear that finished his season. Then injuries to Kaoru Mitoma (ankle and back), top scorer Joao Pedro (thigh), James Milner (thigh), Jack Hinshelwood (foot), Evan Ferguson (knee), Joel Veltman (knee), Pervis Estupinan (muscle injury) as well as numerous other shorter-term injuries meant that, on occasions, up to ten first team players were unavailable for selection. 

This had the inevitable effect of disrupting the team and the performances lacked the usual understanding between players and slick cohesion of play. The results became erratic with good victories against Crystal Palace (4-1) and Sheffield United (5-0) sandwiched between pastings by Luton (4-0) and Fulham (3-0). The early season balloon of optimism was then well and truly burst when Brighton played the first leg of the Europa League knockout round against Roma. De Zerbi’s depleted team was bullied, intimidated, outplayed and ultimately well beaten 4-0 in the 67,000 sold-out Olimpico Stadium in Rome. This effectively ended the Albion’s chances of progressing in the competition, unless, that is, they pull off the fight-back of all fight-backs in the second leg at the Amex…….

So, this season has been a microcosm of the Albion’s history over the last 50 years or so. Plenty of highs with lows in equal measure. The roller coaster continues. To paraphrase a certain Mr Gump, “Brighton and Hove Albion is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get”. And it is this that makes it so much fun. If you win all the time, it means nothing and sport without jeopardy is worthless. The fear, or on occasions, the expectation of losing makes winning so much sweeter. And while there is no longer an opportunity for Brighton to add to their very sparsely furnished trophy cabinet this year, there are still ten Premier League matches to go. Brighton currently sit eighth, one point behind West Ham who occupy the Europa Conference qualifying seventh place and five points behind Manchester United who are in the final Europa League position, some injured players will return soon and the Albion can make a push for more European competition next season. It may all come down to the final game of the campaign against Manchester United at the Amex on May 19th.

This season was the first time in the 123 year history of the club that Brighton and Hove Albion has competed in a European competition. The matches against some of the biggest clubs in Europe have not only been a challenge for the players and coaching staff but has provided the supporters an insight into the fan-bases that follow these clubs. There is no doubt that all of the European clubs that Brighton have played this season have large followings of very passionate supporters. These supporters create an intense atmosphere that adds drama and excitement to the matches. That is definitely a positive aspect of their fan base. However, there is a darker side to many European clubs’ support. The culture of ‘ultras’, extreme supporters who follow their clubs and dress in a paramilitary manner, is common to many of the larger clubs, including Brighton’s recent opponents, Roma, Marseille, Ajax and AEK Athens. In many cases, there is a extreme right wing influence within these ‘ultra’ groups. The most infamous is the Lazio ultras, the Irriducibili, that is known for it’s open support of fascism and far-right politics, even in the modern day. Associated with these ultra groups is a level of violence that has been largely eliminated from UK football since the 70s and 80s. Intimidation and harassment of opposing fans is commonplace. During the recent match in Rome, two Brighton supporters were stabbed before the match. It was claimed that this was the work of the notorious Fedayn firm, whose name mean devotee, who are renowned for attacking and robbing visiting supporters, often using knives and heavy buckled belts. 

Following inexcusable fan violence in the early 1980s, culminating in the Heysel Stadium disaster where rioting Liverpool fans caused the death of 39 people, English clubs were banned from all European competitions. This initiated a concerted effort by the English clubs and football authorities to eradicate violence and antisocial behaviour from English football, including terrace bigotry such as racism and homophobia. Whilst it has taken a long time and there are still issues that need addressing, English football is now much more inclusive and football matches are far more family-friendly than 25 years ago. Sadly, there seems to be little appetite amongst the European football authorities to take similar action and ban countries where football violence, extremism and bigotry is commonplace. Perhaps they fear that such bans would leave too few countries in their competitions to make them viable? 

For further information on joining Seagulls Over Burwash and details of forthcoming events, meetings or coach travel, please visit our website at or email me at Alternatively, please feel free to contact our Chairman, Mr Teskey O’Neil, on 01435 884344 or

Simon Forster