It was supposed to be over today. Ten years ago, Brighton and Hove Albion’s historic home, the Goldstone Ground, was closed for good. It was sold by frankly mendacious club ownership hoping to walk away with a pretty penny (please, Bellotti, sue me) and since then, the Albion – my Albion – have been without a home ground.
The loss of the Goldstone capped off a disastrous fall from grace: in less than fifteen years, we went from the top division in English football and a replay in the F.A. Cup Final against Manchester United to finishing second bottom in the entire Football League, and ending up homeless.
A Toys ‘R’ Us now stands luridly and insultingly in the exact spot that I spent every other Saturday morning of my teenage years cheering on my team. Still we wait for a new stadium, and it matters not that I’m now 4,000 miles away. My hometown team not having its own home ground takes away something I could locate as part of my roots.
The twists and turns in the tale since are too convuluted and too frustrating for me to recount here and now (see Clubs in Crisis for details), but suffice to say, it’s been a long and hard road for Albion fans since the Goldstone Ground closed. It’s been ten years that has seen the formation of a political party, a hit pop song, 140-mile road trips to home games, and endless debate with local NIMBYs.
And today was supposed to be the day that Ruth Kelly, the Communities Secretary, would decide on a planning application for the new stadium Brighton hope to build in Falmer. Except then Tony Blair went and resigned, Gordon Brown took over, the cabinet was reshuffled, and Hazel Blears replaced Ruth Kelly as Communities Secretary.
So we are waiting again: “Following the recent change of prime minister and subsequent changes of Cabinet positions, the new Secretary of State for Communities, Hazel Blear, has decided to extend the target decision date to ensure she has sufficient time to fully consider the case – the decision will now be issued on or before 25 July.”
Two more weeks. I can wait.