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Paul Barber, CEO and Deputy Chairman of Brighton & Hove Albion, Discusses the U.K. Football Clubís Journey with Amex

Photo: Courtesy of Diane Bondareff
Photo: Courtesy of Diane Bondareff

Itís an exciting time for U.K. football as the†inaugural Premier League Summer Series†just wrapped up, having welcomed fans to cheer on six of Englandís favorite teams as they competed in the U.S.

American Express sponsors Brighton & Hove Albion, one of the participating English professional menís football clubs on the U.S. tour who played sold-out matches in Philadelphia, Atlanta and New Jersey.

The tour came off one of Brighton & Hove Albionís best seasons, and†the new 2023-24 season will start on August 11, 2023.

American Express has been a sponsor of the team for more than a decade with multi-faceted contributions that include Amex branding on the teamís jerseys, naming rights to their stadium and training ground, and an award-winning volunteer program with the Brighton & Hove Albion Foundation. Amex also supports the womenís team and inclusive teams for players with disabilities.

Leading the clubís success is Paul Barber, Brighton & Hove CEO and Deputy Chairman, who joined the club in 2012 and who has recently been honored as CEO of the Year by the Premier League. He sat down for a fireside chat with Will Stredwick, Amexís Senior Vice President and General Manager of Global Network Services North America, and a packed house of colleagues at Amexís NYC headquarters. Barber talked about his journey as a leader in football, his vision for the club, and the global fan experience.

See excerpts of their conversation below.

WS: Whatís your perspective on Brighton & Hove Albionís partnership with American Express?

PB:†Itís a fantastic partnership with so much synergy. Weíve grown this partnership from what started as a community-based sponsorship to now a global partnership that weíre thrilled about.

When the club first started working with American Express, we didnít even have a marketing department or partnerships team. Now, weíve got people that run the partnership every day, and with the growth in Premier League coverage and our global profile, weíve been able to build a truly mutually beneficial relationship.

WS: What is it like to be the CEO of a major sports club?

PB:†Itís probably the best job in the world and at times the worst. Itís the best because Iím doing something that I love, and administrating at the top level of a game is a privilege and a pleasure every day. But ultimately, once the guys go out onto the field, Iím putting all my trust into the team which can be unpredictable. Itís a fun job because every day is different. Itís about trying to set a clear vision, and motivating people to get behind that vision. Ultimately, weíre in the results business where we are delivering for our owner, fans, and community.

WS: Youíve had a really interesting career journey. How did you get to where you are today?

PB:†Well, it all started with failure. I didnít achieve what I wanted to as a young footballer and started out playing at a relatively low level. And once I figured out that it wasnít going to be a very lucrative career, I had to get my head together and started studying marketing and communications. I knew I always wanted to get back to working in sport - particularly football - and when I got the break to work with The Football Association (FA), that was an amazing opportunity to work with a national team with people who were heroes of mine growing up. While I was starstruck for the first few months, I realized that football was just another business, and I had to focus and deliver. Iíve been fortunate to have people who have believed in me throughout my career, but you need to work hard Ė thereís no substitute. I didnít have enough talent, but I worked hard to make the most of what I had Ė and I still do that. I keep getting up in the morning and thinking Iíve got more to do, and that keeps me energetic, enthusiastic, and wanting to perform.

WS: Brighton & Hove Albion represents an inspiring journey throughout the years. How do you continue to raise the bar and keep everyone motivated?

PB:†We have a very clear vision for the club, but weíre always tweaking it to push ourselves further in a way that weíre setting high targets and managing them very carefully in order to deliver. This season, finishing sixth as our best ever position and qualifying for Europe, is a new high bar for us.

Sport and success, though, very rarely go in straight lines. You have bumps in the road and those are opportunities to build resilience and to learn. Our club is still on this journey, and we continue to increase resilience where every bit of resilience that we have prepares us for the next bump, so we ride it that much easier. Thereís no ceiling to what we can achieve Ė we have to just believe in ourselves and enjoy special moments like this time in the clubís history.

WS: Why do you think the popularity of the Premier League and English football is surging among a global audience?

PB:†In any game and any week, anyone can beat anyone. Itís fast, competitive, and skillful. Youíve got some of the best athletes in the world, some of the biggest brands in world football in front of you and playing in this arena, and youíve got millions of fans across the world. I just think itís the amazing togetherness that football inspires is really special, and I know Iím biased, but I donít think thereís another sport that comes close to it.

WS: Weíre in the middle of the FIFA Womenís World Cup. How important is womenís football to Brighton & Hove Albion?

PB:†It started with creating a womenís kit around two decades ago and professionalizing the womenís game. Thatís when we started this journey that takes womenís football really seriously. Weíve built specialized training centers and conditioning equipment designed for women, and it has helped to improve their athleticism. We want our womenís team to be as successful as our menís team.

And off the pitch, we employ increasing numbers of women. Iím proud of what we started over 20 years ago and hope that women at our club believe that they can be anything they want to be in our club.

To read more about Brighton & Hove Albionís U.S. tour and the fan experience with American Express, visit†here.

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