Barber urges fans to write to MPs

Chief executive and deputy chairman says supporters can play their part in returning to stadiums.

By Paul Camillin • 15 October 2020

By Paul Hazlewood
Chief executive and deputy chairman Paul Barber.

Albion chief executive and deputy chairman Paul Barber has welcomed confirmation that on 9th November, Parliament will debate the possibility of letting fans return to matches as a result of a fan-led petition, which has reached over 190,000 signatures.

He is now urging Albion fans, and football fans everywhere, to write to their local MPs to express their views on the safe return of fans ahead of what will be a crucial parliamentary debate next month.  

Yesterday, secretary of state for culture, media and sport Oliver Dowden admitted there had been real inconsistency in that fans remained absent from watching football outdoors in stadiums while some indoor venues are being permitted to hold events with large numbers of people.  

Barber said, "Here in Brighton & Hove we have had tremendous support from local MPs, such as Peter Kyle, Caroline Lucas and others. 

"Our local politicians know all too well how important this club is to their constituents; they learned that during our club’s fight for survival and battle for the stadium.

"They also know how important the fan’s voices are and have seen the tremendous benefit and impact the success of the club has had locally on so many levels, including economic, social and community. 

"However, that should not stop our supporters writing to their MPs on this issue and urging them to support a safe return of fans, as soon as possible.” 

Barber is also calling on more clubs to add their own support to calls for consistency and fairness in the rules – which permit theatres and other venues to operate at up to 50% capacity.

"Clubs like us in the Premier League are suffering huge additional losses without fans but for clubs further down the football pyramid, the return of fans could be the difference to their very survival of this crisis. We need everyone to speak up at what is a critical time for all of us."

Speaking on the overall position on the proposed safe return of fans, Barber told supporters on a two-hour-plus Q&A session on Tuesday evening, “We hope to get fans back in the stadium safely before the end of the year. 

"Two months is a long time with this virus. When people said to us back in April that we would be playing Premier League football again in the middle of June, albeit behind closed doors, at that point it seemed impossible for us to even contemplate.

"At that point there were nearly 1000 people a day dying, the NHS was completely overwhelmed, people were in lockdown and couldn’t get to their workplaces. 

"But we were being advised by the government at that time to prepare to play football again in the middle of June. It seemed highly unlikely it would happen, but it did, and it was very successful. 

"If we get any indication before Christmas that we could have fans back in the stadium safely, we have got to be prepared and ready for that, and as our pilot event at the Amex showed, we are. 

"If this doesn’t happen and we go into the New Year, we have still got 11 games at home [in the second half of the season]. There will still a huge amount of football for our fans to see at that point."