Read Paul Barber's Burnley programme notes

The Albion chief executive and deputy chairman speaks ahead of the Burnley game.

By Paul Barber • 19 February 2022

By Paul Hazlewood
Deputy chairman and chief executive Paul Barber.

Welcome back to the American Express Community Stadium for today’s visit of Burnley. We extend our welcome to the players, staff, officials and fans of the Clarets who have made the long journey south from Lancashire for what is our first Saturday mid-afternoon home fixture since August.

It’s also now more than a month since we last played here, and our 1-1 draw with Chelsea under the lights on 18 January was the second successive game against the UEFA Champions League holders, and now FIFA Club World Cup winners, in which we more than deserved our share of the spoils.


MA+ members & STH only - Log-in required

An existing MyAlbion+ membership or season ticket is needed to view this content. Please note that new memberships take 24 hours to be active to view, registering today for Luton Town match streaming will not be valid in time.

Extended PL Highlights: Albion 1 Chelsea 1

Since then our Premier League visits to Leicester City (also a 1-1 draw) and last weekend to Watford (a 2-0 win) saw us continue our impressive league form, while this past midweek’s 2-0 loss at Manchester United – only our second league defeat on the road in this campaign – failed to properly reflect another impressive away performance.

All of this means we go into today’s match on 33 points and in ninth position, a very decent return for the magnificent efforts of our players and staff in this campaign so far – with just under a third of the season remaining and plenty of points still to play for.

Like us, today’s visitors have drawn a large number of their Premier League matches so far this season, but, with spring now on the horizon and the relegation battle hotting up, we know Burnley will be looking to add to their current tally of a solitary win as soon as possible, meaning we can be sure today’s game will be another very tough test.

Talking of tough tests, we exited The FA Cup at the fourth round stage earlier this month with a 3-1 loss at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, in front of an attendance close to 55,000, including 5,700 Albion fans. We were disappointed with the result as we had gone into the game determined to extend our unbeaten run in all competitions to eight games.

With a deep and talented squad, we take the cup competitions seriously, not least because as each season passes, we know they not only represent opportunities for our club to show further progression, but also because they provide valuable minutes for players across our entire squad and help us to generate much-needed additional revenue.

By Paul Hazlewood
David Weir has taken over as technical director.

Last week saw us confirm Dan Ashworth’s departure from our club after more than three years as our technical director. Dan worked closely with me, Graham and the chairman during this time, and he has significantly contributed to ensuring that all of our technical areas work well together to deliver the highest possible standards. It is, however, part of our club’s DNA to ensure we succession plan in all areas to minimise the impact of losing key staff.

In this regard, David Weir has immediately stepped up to become acting technical director, while fellow Scot and former club captain, Gordon Greer, will take on the role of acting loans manager.

As is good practice when replacing any senior member of staff, we will be running a detailed search process to identify Dan’s long-term successor, but we certainly hope and expect that David, having only recently been promoted to assistant technical director, will be a candidate. In the meantime, we wish Dan well for the future.

Change of any kind can, of course, be unsettling for individuals and for organisations, but it can also be energising and enabling for both. We are very well set up to ensure we build on the excellent foundations Dan has helped to lay, but also to take our various technical areas forward with confidence and renewed ambition.

Earlier this year, The FA went through a significant change of its own when Debbie Hewitt became the governing body’s first female chair. Tony Bloom, non-executive director Ray Bloom and I met Debbie, a lifelong Liverpool fan, for the first time earlier this month and were impressed by her early grasp of the issues currently facing our sport.

The FA’s response to the recent Fan-Led Review of English football, authored by Tracey Crouch, sits high in Debbie’s in-tray, and we were able to use the time we had with her to explain our club’s governance structures, our approach to fan engagement and our strong and deep commitment to both the men’s and women’s game.

Another area of concern for The FA’s new chair, as it is for all of us who work in and support football, is the recent rise in unlawful and antisocial fan behaviour. As ever, we are talking about a very small minority of mindless individuals using football matches as a platform to vent, and in so doing, often spoiling a great day out for the majority.

Pitch incursions, bottle throwing, use of flares, discriminatory chanting and any kind of violent behaviour will all see the perpetrators facing criminal action as well as lengthy bans from attending matches. With sophisticated CCTV in use at most Premier League stadia, it’s really hard to understand why anyone would engage in behaviour of this kind.

Sadly, we are not immune to the type of behaviour being reported at football stadiums elsewhere in the country, and we have seen a significant increase in the number of incidents here. Rest assured, however, we will not allow a decade of work to establish the Amex’s reputation as a safe and welcoming environment to be ruined.

Instead, our tolerance – and that of the vast majority of law-abiding fans – for any kind of unlawful or antisocial behaviour in or around our stadium will continue to be set at zero, and we will continue to make every effort to identify and eject anyone responsible, and, wherever appropriate, we will also seek their subsequent arrest and prosecution.

We have a legal responsibility to ensure the safety and security of employees, players, coaches, officials and anyone whose work takes them pitchside. So, to be clear, this means fans must stay behind, and well away from, the pitch perimeter walls at all times. Anyone who fails to observe this very clear instruction will face serious sanctions.

All of our players and staff want fans to enjoy themselves when we score goals, but nobody at the club wants fans to come onto the pitch or over perimeter walls to join the players’ celebrations, or to rush onto the pitch to seek selfies or players’ shirts at the end of a match. We would appreciate everyone respecting this polite request.

On a much more positive note, it’s really encouraging to receive emails, letters and even calls from supporters prepared to help identify those responsible for the worst examples of recent behaviour, and also to hear fans’ support for the great work of our matchday staff, whose patience and resilience has been sorely tested this season.

We are also extremely grateful for the fantastic support we are getting at both home matches – the next three of which are fully sold-out, with tickets already changing hands over the exchange in large volumes – and away from home, where our fans are making huge efforts and personal sacrifices to get behind our players. It’s really appreciated.