August 2011 had been a long time coming for Brighton and Hove Albion fans. The Goldstone Ground, Brighton’s stadium for 95 years, was sold off to a developer in times of financial hardship meaning that since 1997 they had been without a permanent home. A two-year ground share with Gillingham followed by years of residence at the Withdean Athletics Stadium meant Brighton had nowhere to call their fortress. But then along came Falmer.
The American Express Community Stadium will celebrate its 5th anniversary when it welcomes the Seagulls back for their first game of the 2016/17 Football League Season and it would be fair to say that the Albion have come along leaps and bounds since they first called it ‘home’. Moreover, the stadium has arguably undergone more change than the club it hosts; an in-built plan to expand the capacity was completed by 2013 which mean more match day revenue for Brighton.
While it’s evidently true that a new stadium will likely bring a club new, exciting revenue and, rightly or wrongly, money is now the key in the modern game, the Amex has undoubtedly facilitated Albion’s meteoric rise. Football economist Swiss Ramble has documented the fact that since 2009 Brighton’s total revenue has grown by a staggering and unprecedented 473%. The name given to this surge? “The Amex Effect”.
Promotion from League One in 2011 was followed by successive play-off charges in 2013 and 2014. None of those achievements come close to 2015/16, however, where a nail-biting final day draw against Middlesborough was ultimately not enough as they slipped back into the play-offs and crashed out to Sheffield Wednesday. Nevertheless, this sort of consistent challenging can only be seen as a good thing in the bigger picture; a sign of a team with a future. The Amex Effect indeed.
And on closer inspection, it would appear that the exponential growth of the revenue stream as well as footballing success is not the only thing that the Amex Stadium is responsible for. As well as the obvious benefits for the number of jobs it has created, whether that be increased ground staff, stewarding, catering or marketing, it appears that the Amex also serves as a commodity for the community.
Indeed, in addition to the sports tourism which the Amex generates in its millions, both with Brighton and the recent 2015 Rugby World Cup, recent reports suggest that the stadium complex is set for further expansion to benefit more than just sports fans. A new 150-bed hotel would serve as a match day commodity for travelling fans as well as a conferencing centre, and is predicted to provide around 82 new jobs and roughly £6m for the local economy. Perhaps more importantly is the second new expansion awaiting approval: a brand new cancer facility fitted with MRI machines capable of providing crucial radiotherapy for sufferers of the disease.
As executive director Martin Perry has stated, Brighton and Hove Albion will always take priority for the Amex Stadium. This should and will remain the case; however, what it has exhibited in its five years on the Falmer site is an incredible potential to provide astonishing local benefits and increased versatility. Not too bad for five years’ work.