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Brighton chief executive gives inside view on Premier League emergency Coronavirus meeting

Brighton and Hove Albion chief executive Paul Barber has provided an inside view on the Premier League’s emergency Coronavirus meeting held earlier this week, according to the Mirror.

Seagulls chief executive Barber attended the video conference held between the Premier League chiefs and all the executives of clubs in the English top-flight.

The decision to suspend Premier League football until April 4th was met with unanimous approval by all 20 top-flight clubs.

Speaking to BBC Focus as quoted in the Mirror, Barber revealed all the details discussed in the meeting held earlier this week.

When asked whether the Premier League season would be voided, Barber said:

“We don’t want to go down this option because every league starts with an expectation of completing all the fixtures and we really want to be able to do that.”

“Our intention must be to try and complete matches but we’ve got to put people’s health first.”

“At the moment, it’s really hard to imagine putting on a football game in the Premier League in two or three weeks time, it’s hard to imagine that given the scenario that we are in.”

Speaking about teams and their performances so far this season from both the Premier League and the Championship, Barber said: “If we were to freeze the league, then for me it would be incredibly unjust for Liverpool not to be awarded the title because I think everybody in the game appreciates what a fantastic season they’ve had and what a wonderful team they are.”

“But equally, it would be incredibly unjust for teams to be relegated when there is still games to play and the financial consequences of that are difficult, and it’s equally unjust for Leeds and West Brom to not be promoted because we know how hard it is to get out of the Championship, we know how hard it is for teams to even get to this stage of the season in the top two.”

When Barber was asked about solutions that clubs have to the Coronavirus problem, Barber said:

“There’s probably about 200-300 things on this list that we’re working through to try and prepare ourselves for every eventuality. Our priority and the Premier League’s priority is to play out the remainder of the season, that’s what we all want, that’s what the fans want and it’s what the clubs want.”

“But we also have to be realistic, we really don’t know where this virus is heading, where we will be on 4th April, when we intend to start playing games, and whether we can complete the fixture list.

“We’ve got to look at every eventuality, we’ve got to think about people, about the players and our coaches, but we’ve also got to think about the fans coming to the stadium and how they get to the stadium, usually through public transport, and therefore all the implications of that as well.”

“There’s a huge amount to think about and we’ve got the catering contracts, the sponsorship contracts, the tickets we’ve sold, the hospitality.”

“There’s such a large range of things that go into the running of a football club week to week, match to match, and we’re all in the same boat, facing an unprecedented situation.”

“As much as it’s difficult in the Premier League, I also feel for some of our colleagues in the lower leagues who rely so much on matchday income.”

When asked if the decision to suspend Premier League football was a unanimous one, Barber replied saying:

“Yes it was. I think it was absolutely the right thing to do and at this time, we’ve got to prioritise people’s health.”

“As much as we all love football and as much as we wanted 30,000 people at the AMEX today to play Arsenal , it wouldn’t have been the right thing to do and it isn’t the right thing to do at this time.”

When the Seagulls chief executive was asked about a potential 22 team Premier League next season including Leeds and West Brom being promoted, he said:

“I think that is a possible option.”

“To leave the 20 teams in the Premier League as it is would obviously help us and would help others, but to bring the top two teams from the Championship up, give us a larger league for next season, perhaps four relegation spots next season, and then two up again to get the league back to 20 for the following season… it has some merit.

“Clearly there’s a number of details in there that would have to be worked through and a number of issues that would have to be worked through, not least the qualification for European competition places.

“But we are in an unprecedented time and we may need an unprecedented solution for this particular problem.”

When asked about the teams pushing for playoffs in the Championship, Barber replied saying:

“If I was in that position I would really feel for them but I think we’re all in a situation where with games to go, we could all end up in a better place than where we are, and if we can’t complete the season, then we’ve got to look at a quite radical solution to try and get over a short-term hump as it is.

“We could find ourselves delaying the season but then we’d impact another season leading into that if we were to delay for too long, so there’s a whole range of issues here.

“Player contracts come into it because most of those will expire in one form or another on the 30th June, or at least that would be the natural break in many contracts, so if we extended the season into July, August or even further, what would be the implications of that?”

“Would we have the same squads, will we have different squads, would players be able to move teams within that time?

“There are so many implications from delaying the season beyond a certain point and it may get to a point where we have to be pragmatic, we have to be sensible, we have to ask everyone for their understanding and co-operation.

“But as I said before, the most important thing in all of this is that we put people’s health first.

“We’ve also got to put ourselves in a situation where we’re not relying on emergency services to attend stadiums behind closed doors when they could be needed elsewhere in the community.”

Do you think this is the way the Premier League should move forward if we can hopefully win the battle against Coronavirus?