Return of fans likely to be next season, says Barber

Albion’s chief executive updated supporters at an online forum on Wednesday

By Bruce Talbot • 18 February 2021

By Paul Hazlewood
Albion chief executive Paul Barber.

Chief executive and deputy chairman Paul Barber has not ruled out the possibility that fans could return to the Amex before the end of the season but says it’s more likely to be next season.

Speaking at an online forum for supporters on Wednesday he said, “The good news is that the number of infections seems to be coming down quite rapidly and vaccinations are being implemented quickly, but I think we are quite a way from having fans back in the stadium.

“If I was being my most optimistic it would be great to think we could have a small number of fans back before the end of the season but realistically it’s probably more likely to be next season, so I think we’ve all got to be prepared for that. Anything before then would be a massive bonus and give everyone a boost.

“Everyone in football is hopeful we could get people back before the end of the season because we’ve still got quite a few months to go and games to play but we’re also realistic. It’s not going to be a priority for the government. We have been supportive and followed their guidelines to the letter and we would support them if they felt a slower return was more appropriate.”

By Paul Hazlewood
Fans returned for two Premier League games earlier this season.

While fans are not allowed, all games will continue to be shown live by the Premier League’s broadcast partners, but financially it is vital supporters return as soon as it is safe to do so.

“We have got an important financial gap we need to fill as quickly as possible and we can’t allow ourselves to be lulled into a false sense of security because every game is live on TV and that TV money is intact,” added Barber.

“We are still missing a large amount of revenue as we saw from the losses we reported earlier this month. It’s important we get fans back as quickly as possible, but people’s safety is always going to be paramount.”