Barber: Season likely to be completed behind closed doors

Update from Albion's Chief Executive as Premier League clubs meet on Friday.

By Bruce Talbot • 17 April 2020

By Paul Hazlewood
Chief executive and deputy chairman Paul Barber.

Chief Executive Paul Barber believes it’s most likely that the Premier League season will have to be completed behind closed doors.

But it is the club’s intention that if this is the scenario, fans would be able to watch all Albion’s remaining fixtures on television.

Premier League clubs are due to meet again today [Friday] to discuss plans to re-start the season at some stage five weeks after the campaign was halted because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Barber said, “If I was a betting man, which I'm not, I would say it’s most likely our next game will be behind closed doors.

“Every week that goes by with the news getting worse even that becomes more difficult and of course it is hard to contemplate playing football at the moment.

“If we did come back, I suspect the Government’s restrictions on safe distancing would still be in place so we’re likely to play behind closed doors. What that looks like in reality is another matter.

"We’re not great fans of playing behind closed doors. We’ve got four huge home games out of five when a home crowd would be of a significant benefit to us. Secondly, it’s not the product we all sign up to as clubs, players and broadcast partners. And of course players want to perform in front of a large crowd every week.

By Paul Hazlewood
Albion's home matches with Leicester and Newcastle both have new start times.

“But if we do end up playing behind closed doors it is our intention that they are all screened live. That will need to be worked on but if our fans aren’t allowed in then we definitely want to make sure you can watch. There’s a very good chance that all the games will be available.”

The finances involved made it ‘absolute sense’ to try and finish the season, according to Barber.

“There is £762m still owing to clubs in the League from the season’s broadcast contracts and that’s a very significant reason to play if it is safe to do so," he added. "And 100,000 jobs are sustained by the Premier League, so it makes absolute sense to finish the season.”

Barber believes the absence of live sport from our TV screens for what could end up being three months might mean the product is valued more in the future.

He said: “There is a feeling that the appetite for live sport could be even greater after this crisis because people will realise how much they have missed it and how important it is to our daily lives and if we that is the case then I think so will broadcasters and sponsors.”