What strikes me as I read over the following booklet is how young the Internet was in 1996 – 1997. These days it is quite difficult to imagine how new everything was back then. Also it hits me that at the time it was written we had no idea how it was going to turn out, it was all very raw and painful.
Fans United was a major event in the life of Brighton & Hove Albion Football Club. Held at a time when the Club seemed to be about to disappear, it showed what the fans could acheive if they all worked together. Not just Brighton & Hove Albion fans, but all football fans were urged to show up for this game on February 8th 1997. They were to come in their own club’s colours. It was to be an effort to show that you couldn’t mess with football fans and tread all over their dreams. Here is some more about it, along with some names we should all remember with thanks, for their passion and hard work, and love of Brighton & Hove Albion. Thank you.
(I scanned in the following and added them here, can you all read it clearly enough? When I look back at it the writing it’s either really small or really big. If anyone knows what I did wrong, please tell me 🙂 I will transcribe the pages underneath the pictures for now).
Page 1. Fans United, The Internet Connection. Fans United is a child of the Internet and those that use the “information superhighway”. This brochure explains how this historic event was conceived and brought to life, and includes the messages of support that football supporters everywhere have sent the followers of Brighton & Hove Albion F.C.
Page 2. Fans United: A Product of the Internet. For the first time in football history, a major event has come about purely because of the “information superhighway”, the Internet. This in itself makes a worthwhile story. The fact that the event itself is unprecedented makes it even more so. In 1994 two brothers from Bexhill, Bryn and Ryan Harding, set up a site on the “World Wide Web” at college in Aberystwyth related to Brighton & Hove Albion Football Club, the Albion Web. It was completely unofficial, but provided up-to-date information to exiled supporters and a means of discussion as the club descended into crisis. Although the Hardings’ site closed when Bryn left Aberystwyth in 1996, Ryan had also set up the Seagulls Mailing List via the teltec company in the Republic of Ireland in Febrary 1995. This allowed any of the “Internet Seagulls” to send messages to all other subscribers for debate. In the summer of 1996, a new web site was set up by Gary Crittenden, an Albion fan living on the Isle of Man. His Seagulls Server rapidly took over where the Albion Web left off, and quickly became a lively forum for debate and a noticeboard for protest action against the club’s directors as well as keeping exiled supporters all over the world informed of the ever-worsening situation. In November 1996, John Palfrey from Worthing called a meeting of local Internet users to discuss how the new telecommunications technology could be used in the fight to save the club. Those present agreed to “e-mail” supporters of other clubs, particularly those with Focus DIY stores nearby (the chain belonging to the Albion’s owners), with a view to soliciting support for demonstrations, picketing, etc. Unofficial club historian Tim Carder was one of those present, and was allocated the Lancashire area. Using the Soccernet web site to track down his allocated clubs, he asked followers of teams such as Oldham Athletic, Preston North End and Manchester City if they would be willing to put links on their own web sites to a special campaign page, a site which would inform football fans all over the countty how they could help a fellow club in its darkest hour. The response was overwhelmingly in support of both the Brighton fans’ cause and the idea of providing the link to the special campaign pages. When Tim Carder “e-mailed” Gary Crittenden to suggest the idea of a campaign site on the Seagulls Server, the Isle of Man computer wizard responded positively and set up the pages within a few days using data supplied by Tim. The site grew rapidly, providing information on the history of the crisis and the principal “players”; addresses and maps of all the Focus stores; suggestions on “How to Help Us”; and a “Latest News” section to keep enquirers up-to-date on the current situation. Importantly, Tim also suggested a Campaign Guestbook, similar to the guestbook Gary already offered Albion fans, but intended for messages of support from followers of other clubs. In addition, graphic artist Roger Gray provided a simple but effective logo (see cover) that was offered to other web site maintainers to link to the Brighton campaign pages.
Page 3. Other clubs were contacted and most quickly adopted the logo and link. even followers of Crystal Palace, the bitterest of local rivals, willingly supported the crusade to save a fellow club. As word of the campaign pages – and the logo – spread around the Internet, the messages of support came flooding in from all parts of the country and from all clubs. Indeed, football followers all over the world now know about the Brighton crisis – much to the embarrassment of the Football Association. Few football fans could fail to be moved by the genuine and heartfelt wishes of all those who have signed the Guestbook to see Brighton & Hove Albion survive. Any Brighton supoprter who feels at the end of their tether need only look at the Campaign Guestbook for a few minutes to be bolstered once more to fight for their club. Among those signing the Guestbook was 15 – year old richard Vaughan from salcombe, devon, who wrote on 11th December: “It makes me sick what is happening to your club and it’s an insult to your fans. I’m a Plymouth fan and I think that one week when we’re away I’m going to come up and support your protest. I think it would be a good idea of LOADS of fans from different clubs turned up at Brighton (with their shirts on) and joined in. It would show that we’re all behind you 100%.” This excellent idea was seized upon by Warren Chrismas, and “Internet Seagull” living in Bromley and working in London. In conjunction with Gary Crittenden, Warren designated Saturday, 8th February, when Brighton play Hartlepool United, for Fans United. (No Premiership fixtures are scheduled for that day because of international matches, giving many fans the opportunity to make a final visit to the Goldstone Ground.) The information was soon put onto the Seagulls Server, and a special Fans United Guestbook, opened for those intending to participate on teh day, filled up quickly. the concept hained further encouragement when Warren delivered a copy of the Campaign Guestbook to an enthusiastic Danny Baker for his Wednesday night show on radion 5 Live. As support for the day came in from innumerable fans and clubs, Brighton & Hove Albion Supporteres’ Club, together with BISA (the Brighton Independent Supporters Association), fanzine “Seaside Saga” and other groups and individuals, took up the task of organising events, attractions and accommodation for the big day, as well as liaising with the police and the Albion’s administration. Fans United is a unique event born from the ideas of football fans using the Internet. Such is the power of the “information superhighway”, and such is the involvement of the money men in football these days, that it is unlikely to be the last.