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Brighton chief’s ‘integrity’ fears in neutral venues plan


London (AFP) – Brighton chief executive Paul Barber fears plans to complete the Premier League season at neutral venues could have a “material effect on the integrity of the competition.”

As the tournament wrestles with how to finish the campaign which still has 92 games to play, the idea of using up to 10 neutral venues for the behind closed doors games is seen as the only means to guarantee safety.

“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 told the Brighton 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 were due to be at home for five of their remaining nine matches as they fight for their Premier League lives.

Barber worries the loss of home advantage could prove critical – even without fans.

“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,” Barber said.

“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.”

Britain’s Press Associaton claimed the Premier League will look at using between eight and 10 stadiums, with venues likely to be chosen for ease of ensuring social distancing – which would appear to favour more out-of-town sites.

Some reports had even named Brighton’s Amex Stadium as among the stadiums under consideration.

However, Barber said it was speculation at this stage.

“We haven’t been asked if we would consider our stadium being used as a neutral venue for any remaining Premier League matches – by our colleagues at the league, the government or the police.

“So I am unable to say why our stadium has been included in the reports,” he said.

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