Albion’s chief executive and deputy chairman Paul Barber has responded to reports in a number of today’s national newspapers suggesting the American Express Community Stadium is to be one of a small number of neutral venues selected by the Premier League to help complete the current season.
He said, “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 – and 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.”
Some newspapers reported that the use of a small number of neutral venues may be the only way to complete the Premier League season to ensure social distancing policies are maintained, and Albion was named as one of a number of clubs against such a move.
Barber added. “We do of course understand that in the very difficult circumstances we are facing that every option must be considered – but that should only be when safe to do so for all concerned and, if and when we reach that point, we are not in favour of playing our remaining matches at neutral venues.
“Clearly, we must all be prepared to accept some compromises, and we fully appreciate why playing behind closed doors is very likely to be a necessary compromise to play our remaining games while continuing to fully support the government’s efforts to contain the spread of coronavirus. But at this critical point in the season playing matches in neutral venues has, in our view, potential to have a material effect on the integrity of the competition.
“Five of our nine remaining matches due to be played at the Amex – all five matches are very difficult but four are against some of the biggest clubs in European football.
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“The disadvantages of us not playing the league’s top teams in our home stadium and in familiar surroundings, even with 27,000 Albion fans very unlikely to be present at the Amex, are very obvious.
“Clearly, we must accept there may also be some benefit from playing our remaining four away matches at neutral venues but the fixture list simply isn’t equally balanced at this stage of the season, and we didn’t play our first 29 matches of the season in this way. So, in our opinion one thing doesn’t cancel out the other.”
Barber reiterated his message from the club’s recent media conference, adding, “We remain entirely focused on completing the season if we can, provided the prevailing conditions are safe for our players and staff.
“Our income and with it many jobs and livelihoods in our industry at all levels of the game relies on us finding a way to re-start matches at the earliest possible opportunity, but safety and fairness for all concerned are paramount.”