It’s funny how the perception of the Amex by away fans is influenced by the result on the day or club rivalries. I grew up on the North Stand at The Goldstone and over the years watched it deteriorate before my eyes and finally disappear all together. Memories of the old place live on in the mind and we as fans move on, in our case a couple more ‘homes’ and a decade or so later of campaigning we finally landed (using the seagull pun of course) at The Amex.
I’ve travelled all over the country watching football and would consider myself a bit of a connoisseur of football grounds. I look on the Amex as the model that many new stadiums will follow, despite what many fans have said leaving the Amex with one or no points.
You won’t find Palace fans, being our fiercest rivals that have anything nice to say about it, they would rather a crumbling, worn out stadium that is crying out for investment or demolition then 21st century facilities but hey they are from Croydon after all! Bristol City fans disliked it (lost 2-0) Liverpool fans loved it (won 2-1) Blackpool fans were undecided (drew 2-2) a pattern is forming!
Some fans are what you would call ‘old school’ and really don’t want to move on, it’s okay to have tradition and history at a ground but you can rebuild that somewhere else. This is our first year and already we’ve had some great moments that will go down in the modern history of the club, these will be superseded in time but that is how it works isn’t it? People have their favourite spot to stand or sit in the ground, you can still have that but there is now an opportunity to find a new one, a new place to call your favourite. Traditions have to start somewhere, they are not predetermined to be traditions, they just happen naturally.
Brighton to their credit have had the opportunity to build a stadium with one thing in mind, us, me and you, the fans. I’ve found that being well over 6 foot I have scraped many knees on the seats in front of me at stadiums around the country, been too close to the person next to me who’s personal hygiene leaves a lot to be desired and in some instances (take note Liverpool) can’t even see the whole pitch from my seat! The Amex gives us plenty of leg room, a bit of personal space and great views and to top it off all seats are padded. The concourses are huge; plenty of room to move around, watch the TV’s, have a beer, indulge in one of the selection of real ales, all at pub prices as well, a bite to eat and even admire the many pieces of art on display; art on display in a football stadium? Whatever next!
I’ve heard a few rumblings of discontent about the lack of pubs near the stadium. This is another “it’s because it’s what we’re used to” reason. Well from the clubs perspective would they rather you spend money at the ground or in a local pub? This is easily answered. What do you get in a pub? Beer, food and Sky Sports which are all available at the ground. The club even bring in beer local to the away team to make them feel at home, change the colour of the lighting in the away end to match that of the team and show pictures of their best players on the wall!
The pre-match experience is obviously welcoming enough in the home ends that the club lead the way in getting people in the ground early, almost half the crowd are in the stadium an hour before kick off! The hospitality doesn’t end there, after the game, you are not ushered out of the ground by stewards wanting to get home for their tea, the whole ground is left open so you can meet up with friends for a drink and maybe another pie, you can go to any stand, even the away end is open to all if you want a chat with the opposition and discuss that contentious penalty decision. It’s a great way to allow for the crowds to disperse, see the day’s results, see where you are in the league and even watch the evening kick off on Sky. Up to three hours after the final whistle people are still enjoying the facilities, all the while providing the club with much needed income.
“It’s too far out of town” I agree with to some extent but show me a modern stadium nowadays that isn’t. It’s not as though it is completely isolated is it? The Amex has a train station where you can step off the train and are virtually on the outer concourse of the stadium; journey time from the heart of the city centre is nine minutes!
We also get the “it’s lopsided” and “another flat-pack stadium”. There is no other stadium like The Amex, it’s unique in that its fantastic curves are designed to mirror the rolling countryside that it nestles into. It is award winning, it’s a beautiful structure, and it’s not even finished so it can look even better. The Amex and the match day experience is different, it’s the future.
At the end of the day away fans only have to visit once a year and whilst I hope they enjoy it but not take the three points with them, they can have their opinions, some love it, some loathe it, some even feel the need to smash a bit of it up (you know who you are) it makes no difference to me because after all I love it, absolutely love it!