The high-flying Brighton & Hove Albion Seagulls are pushing for promotion to the Premier League, ready to join the Canaries of Norwich and the Eagles of Crystal Palace in feasting at the top table. But just like the club itself, who faced down a financial crisis in the mid-nineties, so too have the Seagulls undergone rapid evolution - starting life as the Shrimps. Well, not exactly, as the Goldstone Ground crowds never cried “Come on you Shrimps!” supporting their team, the nickname never being a moniker for a club known throughout its early life simply as the Albion. In 1950, the Brighton Standard ran a competition for a nickname for the club. Funnily enough, the winning name of the “Brovions” (work it out) never caught on.
The club adopted their first crest around this time, a simple calligraphic affair featuring the club initials, coinciding with their rise to the Second Division in 1958. Their run in the Second Division lasted four years, and the club didn’t reach the same heights again for any length of time until 1977 under the helm of Alan Mullery. There were a number of identity crises in the intervening years, as evidenced by changes in the crest design and nickname.
Badges were employed sporadically by the club in this period, with both at the time incorporating the two town’s coat of arms. The first featured both coat of arms while another featured a hybrid version of both arms, although this was never used on club shirts, instead being used on club stationery and match programmes. The hybrid took the more distinctive features of both crests - most notably Brighton’s Dolphin crest.
Following advice from the Football League in 1972, warning that any club badges with heraldic aspects may have copyright issues, Brighton & Hove Albion F.C. ran a competition for a new nickname. Among the contenders were Seasiders, Bluebirds, Goldstoners and Diehards, but the overwhelming favourite was Dolphins. The club were slow to adapt to the nickname, with a new crest not arriving until 1975, and shouts of the Albion still ringing around the ground. A simple silhouette crest, which again did not feature on club shirts, the dolphin was a result of the popular dolphinarium at Brighton aquarium. However, a sea change at the club was on the horizon, prompted in part by a set of high-flying birds, the newly-christened Crystal Palace Eagles.
Previously known as the Glaziers, Crystal Palace had undertook a more successful rebranding as a fierce rivalry gripped the two sides in a bid for promotion from the Third Division. The Eagles sang impressively in their Selhurst Park roost, but after a group of Albion fans met on Christmas Eve 1975 in the Bosun pub, they were greeted to chants of “Seagulls, Seagulls” in the return fixture at the Goldstone the following February. Lee Philips was the mastermind behind the new nickname, with Derek Chapman, later a director at the club, also being present on that fateful night.
The nickname had a galvanising effect on the club support, and in 1977 the club crest reflected the change. The seagull roundel crest was the first crest to be a permanent fixture on club jerseys, while seagull-branded merchandise also became available, the dolphin livery never catching on. The roundel crest was used by the club for 21 years until 1998, when a new shield was implemented. This followed the financial problems faced by the club, who in 1995 decided to sell the Goldstone Ground. Club historian Tim Carder describes the period from 1995 until the 1997 takeover as “club civil war,” with the fan-backed Dick Knight takeover signalling peace.
To mark the new beginnings of the club, now ground-sharing with Gillingham and in the Third Division (fourth tier at this time), the shield image was unveiled. The new crest referenced the club nickname below the seagull image, while also adding an additional colour with red outlines and shading. The “dual arms crest” was re-introduced to celebrate with the club’s centenary year in 2001, as the Seagulls won the Third Division.
Following a series of highs and lows across the lower divisions, Brighton & Hove Albion established themselves in the re-titled Football League Championship in 2011, now with a new home in the American Express Community Stadium at Falmer. To coincide with the club’s first permanent home in 14 years, a new badge was commissioned, with a return of the roundel design present until 1998. The updated version sees the seagull flying to the right; somewhat going against heraldic tradition but signifying a club moving in the right direction. With automatic promotion to the top flight a strong possibility this season, the last change to the crest may yet be the most significant of all.
TGP would like to offer a special thanks to Tim Carder, Brighton & Hove Albion F.C. Club Historian, for providing the information for this article.
Also, a special thanks to Paul Hazelwood, Brighton & Hove Albion F.C. Club Photographer, for providing the images for this article.
All images courtesy of Brighton & Hove Albion F.C.