Brighton and Hove Albion chief Paul Barber says playing the remaining Premier League fixtures at neutral venues would be unfair to the competition.
Barber understands the needs to finish the schedule, and is okay with playing behind closed doors, but thinks losing out on home-field advantage would be a bridge too far.
Brighton plays a brutal schedule the rest of the way, and will be joined by relegation-threatened clubs in making this rallying cry; Our friends Sky Sports say that West Ham also has a strong preference to avoid neutral venues.
Here is the crux of Barber’s argument,
“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.”
Here’s the thing, though: Some clubs are going to be disadvantaged regardless of how this shakes out. Say no one is relegated and two to three teams are promoted; At some point, at least one lower division will be playing less matches next season or seeing a drastic change to their current competition.
Every solution is going to have losers, and that’s terrible when jobs are on the line.
Brighton, it should be noted, has behaved admirably during the pandemic and this isn’t a “shoot the messenger” situation. The Seagulls spoke out on behalf of clubs being relegated off a shortened season, and their club is safe in that scenario.
Other clubs have looked much worse making the same point much earlier, arguing for the voiding of a season because they’ve performed poorly (Scotland has been a mess, with Dundee and Rangers sloppily making appeals to the greater good while amplifying their own interests more than anything else).
What’s the best answer to the predicament placed on our sport by this horrendous virus?