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Barber opposed to a closed shop in Europe

At last week’s Leaders Sport Business Summit at Twickenham, Albion chief executive and deputy chairman Paul Barber supported Lars-Christer Olsson’s comments in opposing a ‘closed shop’ in European competitions.

By James Hilsum • 14 October 2019

By Paul Hazlewood
Paul Barber

Olsson, president of European Leagues, the trade body that represents leagues across European football, praised the Albion and spoke about his desire for the Seagulls to compete on the biggest stage one day, while Barber highlighted the importance of every club having the option to play at the highest level.

He said, “I spoke at the European Leagues meeting earlier in the year, where I argued, on behalf of the Premier League, that the beauty of football, particularly in Europe, is the opportunity for all clubs to progress based on merit. In our case, from League One to the Championship and then to the Premier League.

"From the Premier League, you then have the opportunity, if you’re good and successful enough, to qualify for European competition. But if that opportunity is closed off to clubs like us by changing the qualification structure and format of European competitions, it would take away so much of the aspiration for clubs, and so much of the excitement for fans.

“The opportunity for a club of our size to progress and play against clubs from across Europe that the fans have watched on TV for decades, would be wonderful.

“To have that taken away, would, in my opinion, be a huge mistake. Not just for English football, but European football as a whole. We don’t want closed shop European competitions, we want that meritocracy to prevail to keep the dream alive.”

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Barber on Connolly and UEFA reforms

Barber was quizzed on what can be achieved for the so-called less fancied clubs, highlighting Leicester City’s recent foray into the Champions League, and both Aston Villa’s and Nottingham Forest’s European Cup successes from yesteryear as the ultimate examples.

“Nottingham Forest, Aston Villa and Leicester City are clubs that you could say are unfashionable in terms of the European elite, both back then and now.

“But why should the dream die for fans of those clubs? Those clubs are very well supported and are very important to their respective cities and communities.

“To see clubs like these, and ours, have the opportunity to progress in Europe by being successful in their own country, is something all football fans dream of, so let’s keep that dream alive and hope European competitions stay open for all clubs to qualify for.”

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