English Premiership

Difficult road ahead for clubs says Brighton chief executive

2020-04-24 10:49
Paul Barber
Paul Barber (Getty Images)

Brighton chief executive Paul Barber says clubs are going to have to adapt to the concept of playing behind closed doors.

With Chief Medical Officer Chris Witty suggesting on Wednesday that some social distancing measures could remain in place for the rest of 2020 as the country tries to get to grips with coronavirus, the prospect of playing football matches in front of a crowd diminished further.

It is widely accepted that if the current Premier League season is to be completed it will be behind closed doors, though there are increasing hurdles to overcome for that to happen, with regards to player testing and TV rights.

Hopes of starting next season in front of a crowd are fading, which could have severe consequences for clubs up and down the country.

Barber said: "It's going to be very difficult to play Premier League football behind closed doors.

"It's going to be very difficult for football clubs right the way through the pyramid to not have the benefit of the matchday income that we all rely on. And the lower down the pyramid you go, where the broadcast income is less significant, the matchday income, by definition, is more significant.

"So, I must admit it concerns me hugely for football as a whole, for the industry as a whole. I think that it will put many clubs in a very, very difficult financial position.

"But it's something, by the sounds of it, we are going to have to find a way of adapting to, not just commercially but also from a sporting point of view as well.

"The players are going to have to get used to it. But, again, every week that goes by, every month that goes by, we get more information and we process that information, we start to adapt to the new environment that we're facing, and I daresay that, once again, we will process this information and start to think about our plans and how we adapt to it."

For football to resume even behind closed doors it is going to take the players to be regularly tested and train and play in a controlled environment.

With some NHS frontline staff and key workers still unable to get tested that seems a long way off and Seagulls boss, Graham Potter says footballers should be down the list.

"People are looking at what's happening in other countries and thinking that it can just be transferred across to here," he said.

"We're in a situation far behind other countries when it comes to testing. So, I think footballers and the footballers that I know wouldn't be comfortable if they're getting tested and key workers, frontline people in the NHS, aren't getting adequate testing.

"But, of course, if we get to the point where we can test the nation, we can test people that need it more so than footballers and we get to that point then I'm sure footballers will be happy with that.

"But not until it's the right thing to do for the country and the overall health of the country."

If play can get going behind closed doors, it will present the opportunity for the live sport to return to television and there have been calls for some matches to appear on free-to-air channels so more people can watch them.

- TEAMtalk media


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