Pre-game could get a new look outside the Amex
Albion supporters have been given a hint of how their new-look pre-game ritual could work in a year or two.
The club have initial plans to develop a fans area between the North Stand and Falmer station.
It would accommodate supporters looking to socialise before a game.
The idea has been likened to the sort of set-up popular outside Bundesliga venues in Germany.
Or something akin to the social areas you might find outside a sports venue in the USA – though for pedestrians rather than a tailgating scenario.
But the new development will not be up and running for a while yet as the club wait for the right time to make the financial investment and ensure their planning is just right.
Paul Barber, Albion’s chief executive and deputy chairman, revealed the plan at a fans forum this week.
He likened it to the type of thing he often saw first-hand when working for MLS outfit Vancouver Whitecaps.
Barber said: “What we want to to try and create there is a covered area where people can get together with family and friends from other parts of the stadium.
“Have a better food and drink offer.
“Have somewhere maybe for the kids to run around safely.
“And generally try and create an extended matchday, particularly for those early-season and late-season games when we’ve got much better weather.
“And then, even when we haven’t, to be able to get under some sort of canopy and enjoy a beer or burger or something before you go through the turnstiles.
“It is something I think we very much want to do.
“We’ve got the planning permission in principle, we are tweaking the design.
“As soon as we have got a little more cash in the bank to invest again, then we will look to do that.”
Albion already welcome supporters to enjoy a beer and chat on concourses around the stadium before and after a game.
But this would be a step up from that and would almost certainly prove hugely popular among fans.
There is a sizeable area outside the ticket office which has been used for catering vans and sometimes a bandstand down the years.
But Barber sees potential to make better use of it.
He said: “When I was in North America, in the MLS, we used to do a lot of it and it was great.
“Fans loved it, sponsors loved it and food and drink suppliers loved it. What’s not to like about it? We have just got to find the money to do it because we want to do it properly.
“We want to do something for families because it’s not easy if you are turning up early for a game to keep children amused.
“Running off a bit of steam would be good as well.
“We will be looking to do all those sorts of things over the course of the next season or two.”
Barber, pictured, was also asked about the possibility of safe-standing at the stadium His reply was very much in line with how Albion have always viewed the issue at their now almost 11-year-old home.
He said: “We have always said we would be open-minded but we would have to consider the cost versus the investment Tony (Bloom) has already made.”
Albion would not make the change without significant proof of a strong appetite for safe-standing within their fanbase.
They are keen to remind fans it would not be anything like the old days of terracing some of them still recall fondly.
Barber added: “It would not add revenue or capacity.”
The most likely area for safe-standing would appear to be the back rows of the North Stand.
But the chances of it actually happening currently appear remote.