It may seem like an unlikely rivalry to most, but Brighton and Crystal Palace share real hatred for each other. This game is not a derby, because over 40 miles separates the clubs, but it does have a derby feel to it. The game between the two sides is also nicknamed the ‘M23 Derby’. Brighton even changed their nickname from ‘the Dolphins’ to ‘the Seagulls’ in direct opposition to Palace’s ‘Eagles’.
The rivalry between Brighton and Crystal Palace dates back to the 1970s, where the two clubs had some heated games. Games between the two had some added bite before that, as they played each other numerous times in the years before, but that’s when the rivalry really kicked off and things became bitter between the two clubs.
The Brighton/Crystal Palace rivalry began during the 1976/77 season, when both played in Division Three: today’s League One. Brighton appointed Alan Mullery as their manager, while Crystal Palace appointed Terry Venables. These two already shared a bit of a rivalry, as they played together at Tottenham. Mullery was appointed Tottenham captain ahead of Venables, and their rivalry began. There was never any hate between the two, though.
Mullery and Venables were both expected to get their clubs promoted at the first time of asking. And they both did. Brighton finished second with 61 points, with Crystal Palace one place below them, with 59 points. But it was the games between the two that season that started the rivalry.
Crystal Palace went unbeaten in the five games they played against Brighton, with a win and a draw in the league and a win and two draws in the FA Cup. The first game of that season between the two was played at the Goldstone Ground: Brighton’s home. It finished 1-1, with play being stopped for a short time because of smoke bombs being thrown onto the pitch. In the second league game, Crystal Palace beat Brighton 3-1 at Selhurst Park, but the rivalry had begun before this game.
The teams were drawn to play each other in the first round of the FA Cup. They played out a 2-2 draw at the Goldstone, so a replay would be necessary at Selhurst Park. But this game finished in a 1-1 draw, so there would have to be a third replay played at a neutral venue. That game was postponed twice because of bad weather, but the game eventually went ahead at Stamford Bridge on November 6, 1976. The Brighton/Crystal Palace rivalry can be dated back to this day.
Paul Holder scored in the 18th minute to give Crystal Palace the lead. During the game, Brighton striker Peter Ward scored, but this goal was disallowed for handball, but he only handled it because Crystal Palace defender Jim Cannon pushed him.
The real controversy came late in the game. With the score still 1-0, Brighton were awarded a penalty. Brian Horton scored to draw them level, but the referee awarded a retake. The reason was that there had been encroachment by players, but the only players to approach the ball were Crystal Palace players, so the goal should have stood. The Palace goalkeeper, Paul Hammond, saved the second penalty and the Eagles went on to win the game 1-0.
After the game, Brighton boss Mullery was furious. He argued with the referee over the penalty incident. But as he walked off the pitch, a Crystal Palace fan threw hot coffee over him. Mullery told the Guardian: “As I was walking up the tunnel a load of boiling hot coffee was thrown over me by a Crystal Palace supporter. So I pulled a handful of change out of my pocket, threw it on the floor and shouted, ‘That’s all you’re worth, Crystal Palace!’ And I’d shout it at anybody who did that.”
As Mullery was led away by police, he flicked ‘v-signs’ at the Palace fans and shouted abuse at them. He was fined £100 for bringing the game into disrepute and warned.
Brighton finished fourth in Division Two in the 1977/78 season: missing out on promotion by goal difference. Crystal Palace finished ninth. The two games they played ended up as draws: 1-1 at the Goldstone Ground and 0-0 at Selhurst Park.
Both teams again aimed for promotion from Division Two in the 1978/79 season. In the two league games they played, Crystal Palace earned the bragging rights: beating Brighton 3-1 at Selhurst Park and drawing 0-0 at the Goldstone Ground. But the league went down to the wire this season, further fueling the rivalry between Brighton and Crystal Palace.
Brighton finished their season top of the league, but, because of postponements throughout the season, Crystal Palace still had a game to play. They played Burnley at Selhurst Park in front of 50,000 fans and won 2-0. The Eagles won the league on the final day of the season and pipped Brighton to the title by a single point.
Both clubs played in the First Division in the 1979/80 season, with Crystal Palace finishing 13th and Brighton finishing 16th. But Brighton had the bragging rights this season: beating Crystal Palace 3-0 at the Goldstone Ground on Boxing Day and drawing 1-1 at Selhurst Park.
In 1982, Alan Mullery was appointed as Crystal Palace manager, which didn’t go down well with the fans because of their rivalry with Brighton. The decision was met with hostility and attendances at Selhurst Park fell. He lost both of his games against Brighton and left in 1984.
In 1985, Crystal Palace’s Henry Hughton – brother of Chris Hughton – dived in for a tackle on Brighton fan favourite Gerry Ryan. The horrific challenge broke Ryan’s leg in three places and ended the Irishman’s career. There were scenes of violence among fans after this game, with clashes being some of the worst seen between the two.
Brighton and Crystal Palace met again in 1989 as their rivalry continued. There were five penalties awarded in the space of 27 minutes at Selhurst Park, with Crystal Palace being awarded four of them. The Eagles missed three of them, but still won the game 2-1. Palace were promoted to the First Division that season, while Brighton remained in the Second Division.
In the 90s, Brighton really struggled on and off the pitch. They regularly spent time in the bottom two divisions, while Crystal Palace were in the top two. In 1997 and 1998, Brighton were almost relegated from the Football League entirely, but narrowly survived on both occasions.
Selhurst Park was the venue for the first meeting between Crystal Palace and Brighton for 13 years. Brighton were managed by former Palace boss Steve Coppell. Andy Johnson scored a hat-trick as Palace won the game 5-0.
The teams met occasionally in the few years that followed, with Crystal Palace having a better record against their rivals.
Glenn Murray’s Brighton contract was up, and he was set to leave on a free transfer. He ended up signing for Crystal Palace.
In November of that year, the clubs met for the first time in six years, at Brighton’s new Falmer Stadium. Brighton led for most of the game after taking the lead through Craig Mackail-Smith just seven minutes in. But after 80 minutes, Crystal Palace equalised through Wilfried Zaha. Darren Ambrose put the Eagles ahead after 89 minutes, and Glenn Murray scored in stoppage time to make it 3-1 and ensure Palace won it.
Brighton and Crystal Palace met in the Championship play-off semi-final in May 2013, with another huge game adding to their rivalry. The first leg finished 0-0 at Selhurst Park, meaning it was all to play for at the Amex Stadium in the second leg.
When Palace arrived at the Amex, they were greeted by human excrement, which was smeared all over the toilet floor in the away dressing room. This only motivated Palace, though, and they went out and won 2-0, with Zaha scoring twice. Palace went on to beat Watford 1-0 in the final and gain promotion to the Premier League.
Glenn Murray returned to Brighton in 2016, on loan from Bournemouth. He then signed for the Seagulls permanently the following year.
In the 2016/17 season, Brighton secured promotion to the Premier League as they finished second in the Championship, behind Newcastle. Murray scored 23 goals for Brighton that season. They would join their fierce rivals in England’s top division once again.
Since Brighton were promoted to the Premier League, there have been some fiesty encounters between them and Crystal Palace, as their rivalry continues. There have been some exciting, goal-filled games and some trouble between fans off the pitch.
In November 2017, there was trouble around the Amex when Palace came to town. Palace fans without tickets tried to gain access to the ground, with some reportedly getting in through a fire exit. Brighton closed the turnstiles six minutes into the game, with many Palace fans who had tickets being unable to get in and being left disappointed.
Sussex police later had to apologise to Crystal Palace fans, as they claimed that Palace fans tried to gain entry to the stadium armed with “knives and knuckledusters”, but this never happened. They claimed weapons were found, but that wasn’t the case. There certainly was some violence, though, as two stewards were hospitalised; one with fractured ribs.
The game, which was their first encounter as Premier League clubs, finished 0-0.
In other games since then, there have been plenty of goals and some drama.
In January 2018, Brighton beat Crystal Palace 2-1 in the FA Cup, with Glenn Murray scoring a late winner. This was the first time VAR was ever used in English football.
In April 2018, Crystal Palace beat Brighton 3-2 at Selhurst Park, with all the goals coming in the first half.
In December 2018, Brighton took a 3-0 lead into half-time at the Amex. Shane Duffy was sent off for violent conduct after a headbutt on Patrick van Aanholt. Luka Milivojevic scored a second-half penalty for Palace, but they couldn’t turn the game around.
There have been a lot of great games between Brighton and Crystal Palace, as their rivalry adds to the occasion whenever they play each other. Games will continue to be fierce between the two as they battle it out in the Premier League.
Brighton and Crystal Palace have had a fierce rivalry since 1976, and will continue to add to that in the years to come.
“History of the Brighton – Crystal Palace Rivalry” is part of our in-depth series, with a new article being published every week.