Barber and Brighton prepared for backlash if they opt to use government furlough scheme

Paul Barber believes football clubs have been unfairly criticised for using the government furlough scheme and said Brighton are prepared to face any potential backlash should they chose to take that route.

Premier League clubs such as Newcastle, Tottenham, Bournemouth and Norwich were heavily criticised for utilising the job retention scheme. Liverpool were forced to reverse their decision as they came under heavy fire from the media, former players and their supporter groups.

Barber, the chief executive and deputy chairman, admits they could still use the scheme if it's the best option for the business - even if it's unpopular with fans.

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It has proved controversial for Premier League clubs as many feel player wage cuts could and should be directed towards helping non-playing staff members.

Paul Barber

Brighton continue to negotiate with players on salary cuts or deferrals. The first team squad remain on full pay and have been given time off until May 1.

Financial figures from 2017-18 showed Brighton's wage bill was £78m from a turnover of £139m.

"Nobody likes bad publicity," said Barber, who along with head coach Graham Potter and technical director Dan Ashworth took pay cuts last week. "Football clubs seem to have been unfairly attacked for using a scheme designed for all industries, without exception.

“If using the job retention scheme is the right thing to do for the future sustainability of jobs at our club, then we must be prepared to ignore the criticism.

“As company directors, we have a fiduciary responsibility to act at all times in the best interests of the business we’re responsible for. In this case, the football club.

“In a national emergency, where our business has been closed down, that may well include using government-backed schemes like the job retention scheme.”

Barber also added they are being guided by the club's “strong and defined values” as they make a number of difficult decisions during the largest crisis the modern day football industry has ever faced.

That includes providing facilities to the NHS as the Amex is likely to house a Covid-19 testing centre among other uses.

“In these situations you need to be guided by the club’s values, which are very strong and very defined. And also what you instinctively think about what is the right thing to do.

“We have offered the stadium as a field hospital and we are very close to agreeing for the stadium to be used as a testing centre.

“We are offering the stadium for storage use, for training, for NHS staff. Likewise, the training ground.

“I think in these circumstances, it is a little bit like when we had the terrible Shoreham air disaster in 2015. You react instinctively.

“We feel a little bit helpless so anything we can do that simply eases the burden on the NHS, supports the NHS or the emergency services or the local authority, I think is the right thing to do.”

Albion lost £21 million after tax for last season and were on course to run at a deficit once again this campaign. Chairman Tony Bloom continues to fund the club during the Premier League suspension.

Barber said: “I have a responsibility as chief executive to my main shareholder, my only real shareholder, Tony Bloom to do everything I can to reduce the financial burden on one man.

“It’s different if you are a publicly quoted football club or you have a large group of very wealthy shareholders or there are other clubs in an even better position than that.

“But we are not. We are reliant on one person who has already invested over £300 million in his local football club to give it the opportunity to play in the Premier League and, with that, generate a huge amount of incoming benefit to the city and the surrounding area.

“We are trying to do what we can to look after our own business without relying on the government. But, at some point, I can’t rule out moving to furlough if we exhaust every option to reduce our costs.”

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