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We welcome the players, staff and officials of Newcastle United to the American Express Community Stadium for tonight’s Premier League fixture which, in the continued absence of supporters in our stadium, is being broadcast live on Sky Sports
This will be the eighth meeting of our two clubs since we were both promoted from the Championship in 2017, a sequence that has seen us record three wins and four draws.
It was way back in September that we recorded the last of those three successes against the Magpies, a 3-0 win at St James’ Park, in what was our first away match of the new season. This fixture was also broadcast live by Sky Sports, who, along with BT Sport, Amazon and the BBC, continue to provide fans of all Premier League clubs with such excellent coverage of all Premier League matches while the lockdown continues.
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Our latest away match in the Premier League, this time against Southampton last weekend, also saw us run out winners. Goals from captain Lewis Dunk in the first half, and Leandro Trossard in the second, helped secure a 2-1 victory along the south coast at St Mary’s stadium. After our recent frustrations, both home and away, the three points were a deserved reward for our players’ recent performances and persistence.
We are all aware that there remains much work for us to do to ensure we can maintain our Premier League status for a fifth successive season. There is, however, still a lot of football to play after tonight’s game too.
Everyone at the club remains entirely focused on achieving our goal, and we are also all acutely aware that there are a number of other clubs around us, not least Newcastle United, with a similar objective.
Looking ahead, we have a tough run of fixtures against three of the Premier League’s current top seven teams, including visits to Manchester United and Chelsea, and a home match against Everton. Since joining the Premier League, we have secured positive results against all three of these teams, and we will approach these games with the same confidence and positivity that have characterised our performances this season.
Off the pitch, and despite numerous very public warnings regarding the potential consequences of misusing social media in connection with our club’s name or identity, we took the very difficult decision to ban one of our own season-ticket holders for associating our club’s name and identity with a grossly offensive and totally unacceptable message directed at another Premier League club and its supporters.
We are not the internet police. We cannot monitor every platform. And neither can we act on every slight on our club or on every derogatory comment connected to us. We will, however, act when discriminatory, abusive or highly offensive comments are posted using the club’s name or identity as some kind of endorsement, numerous complaints are received, and where we can clearly identify the supporter responsible.
🗣 'We simply will not stand for this abuse.'@OfficialBHAFC chief executive Paul Barber says club will use all available legal resources to identify perpetrators of online abusehttps://t.co/w6TXm4tYdy | #NoRoomForRacism pic.twitter.com/O8jTnZbJJ0— Premier League (@premierleague) March 20, 2021
When inappropriate social media behaviour is identified or brought to our attention (or when our staff receive abusive emails, letters or phone calls), the club has a responsibility (and duty of care) to use its judgement, internal procedures, and our highly experienced security team to decide when to act, and how and when it is best to investigate. Either way, a zero-tolerance policy for such behaviour means just that.
We are fed up with removing hundreds of inappropriate messages from fans of rival clubs from our own platforms each month, and we will not tolerate our name or reputation being brought into disrepute by a very small number of individuals associating with our club. Frankly, it is almost as depressing to read some of the nonsensical excuses and justifications for such behaviour; in any case, it cuts no ice.
We use a well-established and consistent process to investigate such matters, a tariff to determine what, if any, sanctions need to be applied to inappropriate behaviour – and also when it is necessary for us to refer certain matters to the police or other authorities for further investigation. Our supporters’ charter sets out a clear policy for appealing any sanctioning decisions should there be a justifiable reason for someone doing so.
We have been greatly encouraged by the hugely supportive response to our stance from the vast majority of fans, including many from other clubs, and from the local and national media. For those who feel sanctions are harsh or unwarranted, the message is very simple: don’t post discriminatory, abusive, bullying or grossly offensive messages on social media, and the club won’t need to apply sanctions.
The last thing anyone at the club wants is to issue sanctions to our own supporters. However, our chairman has invested hundreds of millions of pounds restoring the prospects of Brighton & Hove Albion, while our staff, commercial partners and the vast majority of our supporters have combined to forge an excellent reputation for our club throughout football.
We will not allow the mindless behaviour of a few to ruin either.
It is also timely that tonight our football club highlights the Premier League’s No Room For Racism campaign. We are all, sadly, aware of the increase in online racist abuse within our sport and that’s why it’s so important to reiterate the message: racism will not be tolerated anywhere.
As a football club, we continue to work hard to act where it is deemed appropriate, whether that’s to support our players, should they experience racist abuse online or, once fans return to the Amex, to ensure our stadium is an environment free from such criminal behaviour. Rest assured, as a football club, we will always act to combat racism and all forms of discrimination.
More positively, it was encouraging to hear Richard Masters, the Premier League’s CEO, confirm that it is the League’s desire to stage the final two match rounds of the current season with supporters in stadiums. This proposal would give all 20 clubs the opportunity to stage one home match each with the lower of 10,000 fans or 25% of stadium capacity, to include some provision, we believe, for away fans too.
Assuming Government markers are met between now and then, the League’s plan would see fans back in all stadiums for the first time in what will be close to 14 months. Save for our pre-season test event and two home Premier League matches earlier this season – which saw a combined home fan attendance of just 6,500 people – it will be wonderful to see fans back here for the first time since Palace’s visit in February 2020.
Looking further ahead to next season, and the prospect of much larger numbers of fans returning to the Amex and stadiums up and down the country, we will soon be launching details of our season-ticket packages for next season. Rest assured, we intend to reflect the current economic and health climate with a number of new features to add even greater value for those renewing.
Our 1901 Club membership renewal programme is now underway, with packs outlining our lounge refurbishment programme and pricing for the next five-year period hitting doormats during the past week. The early reaction from existing members has been excellent with our sales team already reporting an excellent response to the images of our new lounges and a very positive start to the renewal period.
With the country’s vaccination programme proceeding at pace and infection levels still falling, we share Richard Masters’ optimism in welcoming some fans back to the Amex before the end of this season.
Our main efforts though will be ensuring we are ready to welcome everyone back in August when hopefully the Government’s markers will have been met in full, and our sport, along with the rest of the country, can start its recovery.
Enjoy tonight’s match, and thank you as ever for your support.