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Is the Futility of the M23 Derby necessary?

Updated: Oct 15, 2019

Brighton and Crystal Palace have been rivals since the 1940s. The sides met 21 times in 12 years with memorable back to back games on Christmas and Boxing day in 1951, in which Brighton won both games.

The rivalry didn’t pick up until the 1970s where Brighton were nicknamed the Dolphins. The Palace fans in 1974 chanted ‘Eagles’ and the Brighton fans counter-chanted ‘Seagulls’ and that’s been the club’s nickname ever since.

Brighton appointed Alan Mullery and Palace appointed Terry Venables as managers in 1976 and that’s where the rivalry took flight into more than fan scrambles. Their hatred for each other ran deeper than the club’s meetings.

At the Goldstone Ground in October 1976, the two sides met in a Third Division draw. The play was stopped three times due to fan disruptions. Smoke bombs were thrown onto the pitch and fans clashed on the terraces, on the seafront and in the city.



Alan Mullery and Terry Venables were teammates at Tottenham Hotspurs between 1966-1969. Venables’ time at Spurs was not as he hoped. The Spurs’ manager Bill Nicholson didn’t appear to like Venables and Venables said that his manager’s negative attitude drained him of enthusiasm and he thought he should’ve been respected more by the fans.

However, Mullery became a fan favourite and a supposed favourite of the manager. He became captain and made 312 appearances for the club and he scored 25 goals. Mullery has spoken out about their dislike for each other and said that perhaps Venables was jealous that he got captaincy before him.

At a meeting between the sides in 1976, what happened gave the rivalry more reasoning other than fans not liking each other. The clubs were drawn together for the FA Cup and it was replayed twice. The first game on the 20th November 1976 ended in a 2-2 draw after extra time and went to a replay. The replay was drawn 1-1 meaning it went to the final replay.

The final game on the 6th December 1976 changed the rivalry between the clubs that is still remembered to this day. Palace took an early lead from Phil Holder in the 18th minute. Brighton’s Peter Ward had a goal disallowed and Brighton were given a penalty in the 78th minute. Brian Horton took the penalty and converted but the Referee disallowed it over claims from Palace players that the Brighton players had moved over the line before the ball was kicked. Horton retook the penalty but this time Paul Hammond saved it. The match ended 1-0 to Palace.

After the game, Brighton manager Alan Mullery went over to the Palace fans and swore at them. He was escorted off the pitch by the police. He supposedly went into the Palace changing room and threw five pounds on the table and said to Terry Venables, “Your team’s not worth that”.

Alan Mullery was fined £100 by the FA for bringing the game into disrepute. He was sacked by Brighton in 1981 and Terry Venables was sacked by Palace in 1980. The rivalry kicked off from there and has become an anticipated game of the season for both sides.



The fans have both caused interruptions at nearly every derby. In the first home derby of the 2018 season, Brighton won 3-1 with ten men. Shane Duffy was sent off in the 28th minute after a penalty appeal from Brighton which was denied. Van Aanholt and Duffy went nose to nose and Duffy seemed to head butt Van Aanholt which results in the Palace player going down theatrically but Duffy earned a red. Leon Balogun came on straight after the Irishman was sent off and with his first touch, the volleyed ball was in the back of the net.

Before and after the game, supporters clashed. Before the game, at the train station where police had to get involved and outside the Amex. A small section of Palace supporters were said to be singing homophobic chants at the home fans. This rivalry runs deep and seems to evoke violence at each derby.

At the reverse fixture, Brighton won 2-1. Ex-Palace player, Glenn Murray, scored for the Seagulls and didn’t celebrate but instead comforted a Palace player which was a class act from the striker. Brighton fans were escorted through the streets whilst being mocked at by the Palace fans. Anthony Knockaert scored against Palace and was later subjected to online abuse from Palace fans referencing Knockaert’s late father. Knockaert has previously deleted his social media in 2017 due to the abuse he has gotten, therefore he ignored the recent abuse.

Brighton fans aren’t saints either. A small section of fans have chanted racial abuse at Wilfried Zaha back in 2018. A Brighton fan also offered to shake Zaha’s hand but then pulled it back before Zaha could shake it and proceeded to racially abuse him.

A Brighton fan was arrested at the fixture where Palace lost 3-1 for throwing at pie at Zaha. Some Brighton Fans have even said if Zaha broke his leg, they’d cheer. There is rivalry but sometimes people take it too far on social media. Zaha even said, he’s happy for a bit of banter but no one should wish ill of players like that.

As a Brighton fan, I understand that the rivalry is intense and that people can get emotional but that’s no excuse to chant abuse or even act on it. This rivalry is one of the biggest in England and it’s a fixture both teams look forward to when the fixture calendars are released. There is a line both team’s fans should know not to cross. The rivalry is fun and despite the result should be taken as banter and it is emotional no matter the result. This applies to not only this derby but to all. Fans should not take it further than the stadium or whatever room they are in. It’s ended and there’s no need for violence or abuse. The next derby is on 14th December 2019 at Selhurst Park.

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