Brighton oppose Premier League plan to play at neutral venues

The Seagulls’ CEO believes the move would have a damaging effect on the integrity of the competition

Brighton chief executive Paul Barber has said he is against the Premier League’s plan to finish the 2019-20 season at neutral venues. 

With the league suspended since March due to the coronavirus pandemic, clubs met on Friday to try and determine a way to finish out the campaign. 

After the meeting the Premier League reiterated its desire to finish the 2019-20 season, but said no decision had been made yet.

One of the items discussed at the meeting was the prospect of finishing the season in a limited number of neutral venues to help ensure social distancing policies are maintained.

But Barber said he was concerned that such a move would have a damaging effect on the integrity of the competition.

“Clearly, we must all be prepared to accept some compromises, and we fully appreciate why playing behind closed doors is very likely to be a necessary compromise to play our remaining games while continuing to fully support the government’s efforts to contain the spread of coronavirus,” Barber said on the club’s website.

“But at this critical point in the season playing matches in neutral venues has, in our view, potential to have a material effect on the integrity of the competition.”

Brighton have five home matches remaining in the season as they battle to avoid relegation. The Seagulls are currently in 15th place, two points ahead of the drop zone.

“Five of our nine remaining matches due to be played at the Amex – all five matches are very difficult but four are against some of the biggest clubs in European football,” Barber continued.

“The disadvantages of us not playing the league’s top teams in our home stadium and in familiar surroundings, even with 27,000 Albion fans very unlikely to be present at the Amex, are very obvious.

“Clearly, we must accept there may also be some benefit from playing our remaining four away matches at neutral venues but the fixture list simply isn’t equally balanced at this stage of the season, and we didn’t play our first 29 matches of the season in this way.

“So, in our opinion one thing doesn’t cancel out the other.”