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Barber: Worst of times brought out the best in us

Chief executive on how commitment to our community was at the heart of Albion's response to the coronavirus crisis.

By BHAFC • 12 June 2020

By Paul Hazlewood
Albion chief executive Paul Barber.

Over the last three months, the Covid-19 pandemic has created unique challenges for everyone in our society.

They have been the worst of times, with more than 40,000 people in the UK succumbing to the virus. Others, including colleagues at the club, have been very ill and although the disease still continues to affect thousands of lives, we are grateful that for now it appears we are over the worst.

Covid-19 has impacted in so many other ways too on our normal lives. The economic turmoil will be felt for some time to come. Already thousands of people have lost their jobs or main source of income. Even if the virus fades away the reality is that things are going to be extremely difficult for millions of people, who will need the support of their friends and family more than ever.

From the very early days of the crisis, when we began getting in touch with more than 4,000 of our vulnerable supporters to make sure they were okay, to the formation of the Albion As One fund we have tried to reach out to the communities of Brighton & Hove and the county of Sussex.

We didn’t do this to create headlines or publicity, but because at the heart of the club is a commitment to our community, including those people who stood by Brighton & Hove Albion when we were going through some very difficult times.

By James Boardman
Thousands of meals have been delivered throughout Sussex thanks to a partnership between AITC and the Caring Foundation

I don’t think anything the club has achieved during the crisis illustrates this better than the Albion As One fund. Thanks to a magnificent starting donation from Graham Potter, his players and staff, Albion As One has raised more than £370,000 to support a variety of charities good causes in the city and throughout Sussex, who were identified by the players as ones they wanted to help. Everyone has come together to support Albion As One: players, directors, coaches, staff and fans. Truly, a brilliant team effort.

From the outset, we wanted to support the wonderful NHS staff who have worked so tirelessly during the pandemic to save lives. I wasn’t surprised that our special limited-edition home shirt, which raised funds for local NHS charities, quickly sold out because I knew our fans would want to show their support as well. We’re also looking forward to welcoming 1,000 NHS workers to a game at the Amex when it’s safe to do so while an NHS testing centre has been in place at the Amex since mid-April and will operate as long as it’s needed.

There are other initiatives which we should all be proud of. Since mid-April we have delivered 1,000 meals a week thanks to the support of The Caring Foundation; Albion in the Community have moved a lot of their regular community delivery online; and we made sure our matchday staff were looked after financially when it became apparent we wouldn’t be able to open up the Amex for our remaining games of the season.

The way in which everyone associated with our club have responded to the crisis should make all of us feel extremely proud. The worst of times have brought out the best in us, as I knew it would. Never has our mantra of ‘together’ been more appropriate.

Paul Barber - chief executive and deputy chairman

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