Barber: Return of fans first small step towards normality

Albion chief executive looks forward to welcoming fans back to the Amex on Saturday.

By Bruce Talbot • 26 August 2020

By Paul Hazlewood
Albion chief executive Paul Barber.

Paul Barber says Saturday’s game against Chelsea – the first match in England with fans present since March – is a ‘first small step to a return to normality.’

Albion’s chief executive and deputy chairman was reacting to the news that the government has given permission for the Amex friendly will be played in front of 2,500 supporters.

Barber said: “It’s a big opportunity to demonstrate to the government and public that we can stage an event safely. It is the first small step to a return to normal.”

It has been six months since the Amex last staged a match and the club have undertaken exhaustive work behind the scenes to be able to stage Saturday’s friendly.

“Inevitably, because it’s a pilot, we will be testing how the procedures we are putting in place have worked and if they don’t why and what we need to do better.

“The DCMS (Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport) and the Premier League have been incredibly supportive throughout this process. Like ourselves, and every club in the football pyramid, they want us to be back to normal as soon as we can and we’re taking the first steps towards that on Saturday.


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Potter relishing fans' return

“We want to strike that balance between ensuring we comply to the guidelines around things like social distancing and making it an enjoyable football experience.

“In many ways it’s about building confidence and trust again for supporters because this will be a different matchday to the one they are used to because safety and minimising risk are obviously very important.”

Barber estimates that Albion lost a seven-figure sum for each of the five Premier League games played behind closed doors to complete last season and the same financial pressures are being felt by clubs throughout the country.

“Going forward those sorts of losses at even the biggest clubs are not sustainable, and then there is the loss of non-matchday revenue as well,” added Barber.

“Our business is playing in front of full stadiums and the sooner we can do that - providing it is safe to do so - the better.

“Saturday will be a small crowd but it’s an important psychological step and hopefully it will be a success and other clubs can pick up the mantle.”