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General
Falmer Stadium
The Amex
Falmer Stadium - night
Full name American Express Community Stadium
Owners Brighton & Hove Albion
Location Falmer, Brighton, East Sussex
Built December 2008
Opened July 2011
Tenants Brighton & Hove Albion
Capacity 30,750
Field dimensions 105 m × 69 m (344 ft × 226 ft)
Highest attendance 30,003
(vs Wolverhampton, 4 May 2013)

Falmer Stadium, known for sponsorship purposes as the American Express Community Stadium, or simply The Amex, is a football stadium near the village of Falmer in Brighton and Hove and is the home of Brighton & Hove Albion F.C.. The stadium was handed over from the developers to the club on 31 May 2011. The first competitive game to be played at the stadium was the 2010–11 season final of the Sussex Senior Cup between Brighton and Eastbourne Borough on 16 July 2011. The first ever league game was against Doncaster Rovers, who were also the opponents in the last ever game played at Brighton's former stadium, the Goldstone Ground, 14 years earlier.

In May 2013 it was announced that the stadium would host games during the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

History

Plans

The plans were initiated by Brighton & Hove Albion after the club's previous home, the Goldstone Ground, was sold by the club's former board (consisting of Greg Stanley, Bill Archer and David Bellotti) to developers in 1995 with no new home arranged.

When the club was evicted at the end of the 1996–1997 season, it ground-shared for two seasons at Gillingham’s Priestfield Stadium, 75 miles away in Kent.

Two years later, the club returned to Brighton as tenants of Withdean Stadium, which was upgraded to Football League capacity requirements and later expanded when Brighton reached Division One (now the Football League Championship) in 2002 following two successive promotions.

The site at Falmer was identified during the 1998–99 season and it was hoped that the stadium would be ready in the early to mid-2000s. However, subsequent delays in gaining planning permission meant that the club would have to wait until August 2011 before being able to play their home games there – more than a decade after the stadium was first proposed.

The stadium is also being considered for becoming a major music venue. On 1 and 2 June 2012, Brighton DJ Fatboy Slim played two nights at the venue. The success of these shows may lead to the stadium becoming a regular music venue.

Planning permission

Planning permission was given by the unitary authority of Brighton and Hove in June 2002, with the intention of the stadium being ready for the 2005–06 season. The plans for the stadium were fought by neighbouring Lewes District Council and local residents. While the stadium lies completely within Brighton and Hove, the once vacant field to the north-east of the site is in Lewes. Bennet's field as it is known is now used for parking.

Further complications were due to both vacant fields, and the campus of the adjacent University of Sussex, being included in the South Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, although outside the National Park. This led to the designation of the stadium plans being the subject of a separate planning inquiry by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.

John Prescott, then Deputy Prime Minister, approved the plans on 28 October 2005. However, Lewes District Council immediately mounted a new legal challenge to the stadium plan. In April 2006, Prescott admitted that he had given his approval based on the misconception that only a small part of the stadium site lay on the Lewes side, and withdrew it.

Hazel Blears, the Secretary of State responsible for planning, re-affirmed the approval on 25 July 2007. Her decision went against the advice of planning inspectors. Lewes district council, Falmer Parish council and the South Downs Joint Committee (the three main opponents) announced shortly afterwards that they would not mount a high court challenge. On 4 September 2007, the deadline for appealing the new grant of permission expired and the club received full permission to proceed.

Construction

On 27 November 2008 the Buckingham Group signed the construction contract for the new stadium and began preparation work on the site on 17 December. The stadium is set three storeys down into the ground. 138,000 cubic metres of chalk was excavated for its construction, which was put on the field on the south side of Village Way. This has been estimated to prevent 20,000 lorry trips taking the chalk to landfill.

Construction at the site officially started on 17 December 2008 and finished in May 2011. The stadium was designed with scope for expansion, and plans were put in place to increase the capacity.

The stadium was designed by London-based Architects, KSS. The stadium capacity has been expanded, with an extra seating tier being installed above the East Stand (Family stand), which increases the stadium attendance to a total of about 30,000 seats. The deal with American Express Europe, Brighton and Hove's biggest private-sector employer, confirming the naming rights of the stadium was announced on 22 June 2010. The Stadium uses Hawks to scare away pigeons. This stops them nesting in the stadium.

Opening

The stadium officially opened on 30 July 2011, hosting a friendly match against manager Gus Poyet's old club Tottenham Hotspur, the home-side narrowly losing 3-2. The first competitive match was held on 6 August 2011, when Brighton beat Doncaster Rovers 2–1, after being 1–0 down.

The stadium set its first record attendance with 21,897 against Liverpool. They were also the first away team to win a competitive match at the stadium, beating Brighton 2–1 in a League Cup tie in September 2011. The stadium however witnessed it first ever league defeat in its history when fierce rivals Crystal Palace came from behind to win 3-1.

On 2 January 2012, Brighton & Hove Albion submitted an application to Brighton and Hove City council to increase the stadium capacity by a further 8,000 seats as well as to add additional corporate boxes, new television facilities and a luxury suite. This was granted unanimously by Brighton & Hove City Council's Planning Committee on 25 April 2012. The stadium was expanded to 27,250 by the start of the 2012-13 season, 27,750 by December 2012 and will stand at 30,750 by the end of the 2012-13 season.

A new record attendance was set on 15 December 2012 when 26,684 saw Brighton draw 0–0 with Nottingham Forest. This record attendance was broken on 26 January 2013, when 27,113 attended a 3-2 defeat against Arsenal in the fourth round of the FA Cup Less than two months later and the record was broken again; this time 28,499 people watched Brighton beat Crystal Palace 3-0 on 17 March 2013. This record was broken once again on 4 May 2013, on the last league game of the season against Wolverhampton Wanderers, 30,003 attended the game. This figure has not been beaten to date.

Average attendances

Season Season Average Highest Gate Lowest Gate
2011–12 20,028 20,968 18,412
2012–13 25,705 30,003 21,740
2013–14 27,283 29,093 25,725

Layout

The West Stand is the largest three-tiered stand, which holds 11,833 fans, including 14 luxury boxes and the premium fans' 1901 Club. The East Stand (including the Family Stand) holds 5,404 fans, with 10% reserved for away fans during cup games. The North Stand has 2,688 seats. The South Stand, is for visiting away supporters which contains 2,575 seats.

As well as football matches, the stadium is also designed for other sports such as rugby and hockey, and music concerts, conferences and exhibitions. The stadium's drinking outlets offer real ales from two local breweries, Harveys and Dark Star, both organisations having supported the club's appeal for a new stadium at Falmer, along with special guest beers from breweries local to the away teams.

The stadium also incorporates a banqueting and conference facility, a nursery school/crèche, 720 square metres of teaching space for the University of Brighton, 1,200 square metres of office space, the club shop for tickets and merchandise and above it the 200 capacity bar/lounge named Dick's Bar after the club's life president, Dick Knight.

Transport

The stadium is close to the A27 Brighton by-pass, linking it northbound to the A23 and M23 motorway towards London and southbound to the A270 and the city centre. There is pre-paid parking available for 2000 cars on the University of Sussex and the Falmer Academy sites. The club runs several park and ride services to the stadium. One of these is at Mill Road situated at the A23/A27 intersection, which holds 500 cars. Another is at Brighton Racecourse, holding approx. 700 cars. The third site is at Mithras House (Brighton University) on the Lewes Road, holding approx 300 cars. Match tickets include free travel to the stadium by train (from stations as far as Shoreham-by-Sea, Haywards Heath, Lewes and Seaford), bus, and park and ride. The stadium is served by Falmer railway station which is a nine-minute journey from Brighton railway station and seven minutes from Lewes railway station, both of which are served by trains from London.

The Wealden Line Campaign promotes the creation of direct rail services from London via a "Brighton Main Line 2" (BML2). This would mean supporters could reach Falmer without the need to change trains at Lewes station or Brighton's busy main terminus.

The site also includes: a new link road from the A270 through the southern edge of Stanmer Park to the Sussex campus; a new high capacity footbridge over the railway at Falmer station; a transport interchange/coach park to the south of the stadium across Village Way; a 1,000-space car park at Falmer High School; alterations to the A27/A270 road junction, including a new flyover; a combined footpath/cycleway; a 150-space car park for club officials, players and disabled drivers; 220 cycle spaces.

Awards

In May 2012 the stadium won the New Venue Award at the Stadium Business Awards.

External links

Brighton & Hove Albion
Brighton & Hove Albion Brighton & Hove Albion Football Club

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Anfield (Liverpool) · Bramall Lane (Sheffield United) Emirates Stadium (Arsenal) · Carrow Road (Norwich City) Etihad Stadium (Manchester City) · Falmer Stadium (Brighton) · Goodison Park (Everton) · King Power Stadium (Leicester City) · London Stadium (West Ham United) · Molineux Stadium (Wolverhampton Wanderers) · Old Trafford (Manchester United) · St. James' Park (Newcastle United) · St. Mary's Stadium (Southampton) · Selhurst Park (Crystal Palace) · Stamford Bridge (Chelsea) · Tottenham Hotspur Stadium (Tottenham Hotspur) · Turf Moor (Burnley) · Vicarage Road (Watford) · Villa Park (Aston Villa) · Vitality Stadium (Bournemouth)

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