February 6, 2023



Brighton chief executive is opposed to use of neutral Premier League venues | Brighton & Hove Albion

3 min read

The Brighton and Hove Albion chief executive, Paul Barber, has voiced opposition to the idea of finishing the Premier League season at neutral venues.

Clubs were told on Friday that holding matches at selected Premier League stadiums would be a prerequisite if the 2019-20 season is to be completed. Five of Brighton’s nine remaining games were due to be played at their Amex Stadium, and Barber fears the loss of home advantage could unfairly harm their chances of survival.

“Clearly, we must all be prepared to accept some compromises, and we fully appreciate why playing behind closed doors is very likely to be necessary … to fully support the government’s efforts to contain the spread of coronavirus,” Barber said on the club’s website.

“But at this critical point in the season, playing matches in neutral venues has [the] potential to have a material effect on the integrity of the competition,” he added. “The disadvantages of us not playing in our home stadium and in familiar surroundings, even with fans very unlikely to be present at the Amex, are very obvious,” Barber said.

The latest proposals to restart the English top-flight season were largely well received in Friday’s conference call, but Brighton are among a number of clubs who have reservations that the use of neutral venues would create an uneven playing field.

“All five of our home matches are very difficult but four are against some of the biggest clubs in European football,” Barber added. The Seagulls’ remaining home games are against Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Newcastle.

Barber accepts “there may also be some benefit from playing our remaining four away matches [against Burnley, Leicester, Norwich and Southampton] at neutral venues” but added that “the fixture list simply isn’t equally balanced at this stage of the season.

“We didn’t play our first 29 matches of the season in this way,” Barber said. “In our opinion, one thing doesn’t cancel out the other.”

West Ham’s vice-chair Karren Brady has said there are ‘a lot of obstacles’ to restarting the season.
West Ham’s vice-chair Karren Brady has said there are ‘a lot of obstacles’ to restarting the season. Photograph: Arfa Griffiths/West Ham United FC via Getty Images

Barber also said suggestions the Amex could be one of the Premier League stadiums used as a neutral venue were just speculation. The league are reportedly likely to use eight to 10 different venues, with out-of-town sites such as Brighton’s home preferable to maintain social distancing.

“We haven’t been asked if we would consider our stadium being used as a neutral venue for any remaining Premier League matches by our colleagues at the league, the government or the police. At this point we haven’t been approached to have such a discussion either, so I am unable to say why our stadium has been included in the reports.”

The West Ham vice-chair, Karren Brady, has said every Premier League club wants to complete the season but has warned there are “a lot of obstacles” to overcome.

“At Friday’s meeting, every club said it wants the season to restart,” she wrote in her column for the Sun. “We all know it is going to take a lot of working together, good faith, careful thought and compromises if we have any chance of that happening.”

“The only common theme from all the clubs is that any compromises have to be fair and uphold the integrity of the game,” Brady added. “There are a lot of obstacles to overcome and no doubt many compromises to make.”

Brady, whose side are currently outside the relegation zone on goal difference, has detailed a four-phase strategy for a return to action, with the first – isolated training sessions – already under way. Phase two would be a return to group training, phase three the restart of domestic games, and the final stage would see the return of international matches.

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