Football, by Mike Wilson –
Shortly before Brighton and Hove Albion almost earned a replay against Arsenal, Albion chief executive Paul Barber joined North West Sussex Seagulls members at the Holbrook Club.
After some initial club business, Mr Barber took to the floor and introduced himself.
Very much a football man and having played at a reasonable level, he was business adviser and commercial director at the FA before joining Tottenham as chief executive and Vancouver Whitecaps.
During his 14 years at the FA, he had seen Albion fans win their long struggle to save the club from possible extinction and was sympathetic to their battle to get a new ground.
After summarising his first six months as Albion chief executive, which he described as amazing, Mr Barber held a very lively Q&A session with the 40 Albion fans in attendance.
Questions covered such varied topics as the new Financial Fair Play rules, Albion’s finances, ticket prices and payment schemes, travel subsidies, extending the platform at Falmer station, the new training ground and academy at Lancing, catering at The Amex, the ‘safe standing’ debate and sitting at away matches.
Mr Barber didn’t duck any of the awkward or difficult issues, answering them head-on, and members of the audience were impressed with the way he presented himself.
He said Albion had made a giant leap, from being a League 2 club with 6,000 fans at Withdean to The Amex experience with a stadium that will soon seat 30,000. The infrastructure was in place for the club to achieve its goal of Premier League football.
Albion would need to invest in the team and new players in order to fulfil their dreams, but Mr Barber said that the new £25 million training ground would help attract players.
Fans needed to accept that the club had moved to the next level, so it needed to be more focused on business and more commercially aware.
Mr Barber said Albion would manage costs closely, while maximising diverse revenue streams including sponsorship, corporate hospitality and events such as pop concerts and international football and rugby matches.