How Brighton were a voice of the EPL dur­ing shut­down

The Star (Jamaica) - - Front Page -

When Manch­ester City wanted some tips ahead of the Premier League restart, the de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons turned to a team try­ing to avoid rel­e­ga­tion.

As play­ers were sud­denly or­dered home and sta­di­ums emp­tied, Brighton be­came a voice of the league dur­ing the three-month coro­n­avirus pan­demic shut­down. The south-coast club’s board­room lead­ers, coaches, and play­ers guided not just their own sup­port­ers, but the league’s

wider fan base through an un­prece­dented time in English foot­balling history.


Fi­nan­cial strug­gles for clubs even in the world’s wealth­i­est league. Health fears about re­turn­ing to train­ing — let alone play­ing — too soon. Con­cerns about not be­ing al­lowed to play in home sta­di­ums.

For 11 weeks out of the last 12 — on a Thurs­day or Fri­day — gain­ing reg­u­lar on-the-record ac­counts of the trep­i­da­tions of a Premier League club was just a Zoom call away for the me­dia. Brighton’s de­ci­sion to not step away from ques­tion­ing dur­ing the pan­demic of­ten meant that the thoughts of their owner, chief ex­ec­u­tive, man­ager, or play­ers set the tone for the pub­lic de­bate about how and when the league would re­sume.

“We haven’t set out to be the dom­i­nant voice,” Brighton CEO Paul Bar­ber said from his sofa at home dur­ing one of the Zoom calls. “It’s just been a by-prod­uct of what we’ve done.”

It was a rare chance for Brighton to dom­i­nate the news agenda at times. Larger clubs, like Manch­ester City, know that they will be the sub­ject of ra­dio phone-ins and back-page trans­fer spec­u­la­tion even with­out there be­ing any games.

“It, maybe, just fills a small gap in peo­ple’s lives,” Bar­ber said, “when foot­ball can­not be played.”

Now the com­pe­ti­tion is re­sum­ing, the rest of the league is catch­ing up with Brighton. With so­cial dis­tanc­ing still en­forced, even as the na­tional lock­down is eased in Eng­land, video calls will re­place me­dia go­ing to club train­ing grounds to speak to man­agers for match pre­views.


Manch­ester City’s Raheem Ster­ling, right, scores a goal dis­al­lowed for off­side dur­ing the English League Cup semi-fi­nal second-leg match be­tween Manch­ester City and Manch­ester United at Eti­had Sta­dium in Manch­ester, Eng­land, Wed­nes­day, Jan­uary 29, 2020. Brighton’s head coach, Gra­ham Pot­ter

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