January 31, 2023



Neutral venue issue is not top clubs v bottom six, says Brighton chief | Football

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The Brighton chief executive, Paul Barber, has insisted that clubs at all levels of the Premier League are concerned about resuming the season at neutral venues and is adamant there is not a divide between the the top teams and relegation-threatened sides.

Barber said clubs at various levels of the division have concerns about the fairness of changing the format of the competition mid-season.

Top-flight clubs will hold a conference call on Monday to determine how the season could be restarted but as well as concerns over health risks, the biggest sticking point appears to be the suggestion of playing games at neutral venues, something the national policing unit has publicly welcomed.

“I don’t think it’s a big-six clubs v bottom-six clubs issue,” Barber said of neutral grounds. “I think clubs at every level of the league have concerns about neutral venues. I think there are clubs at different levels that have an issue with neutral venues and I think there is concern about the fairness element.

“The reality is we are three-quarters of the way through the season, teams have got a large number of home games left or a small number of games left, they have got big teams to play and smaller teams to play. In our case we have got four of the six biggest clubs not just in the league but in Europe and, at our ground, traditionally we have done OK against those teams.

“It’s not just about the crowd – we have built our training ground over the last four or five years, spending tens of millions of pounds, to replicate the stadium conditions as best as we can.”

Barber, who added that Brighton have not been approached to host matches as a neutral venue, said the club have taken steps to ensure pitches at the Lancing training base match the size and quality of surface at the Amex Stadium.

“All of that is designed to maximise whatever home advantage you can gain,” he said. “Just to simply strip that away three-quarters of the way through the season seems unfair. We have been open and transparent all the way through in our communications and we have been the same on this issue.

“We don’t think it’s right, we don’t think it’s fair. Whilst we respect we are in a very difficult situation and we want to be as collegiate and supportive as possible, we can’t support something that is going to put our club at a disadvantage.”

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