< View all news

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

August 9, 2023

Photo: Courtesy of Diane Bondareff

It’s 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 England’s favorite teams as they competed in the U.S.

American Express sponsors Brighton & Hove Albion, one of the participating English professional men’s 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 Albion’s 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 team’s 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 women's team and inclusive teams for players with disabilities.

Leading the club’s 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, Amex’s Senior Vice President and General Manager of Global Network Services North America, and a packed house of colleagues at Amex’s 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: What’s your perspective on Brighton & Hove Albion's partnership with American Express?

PB: It’s a fantastic partnership with so much synergy. We’ve grown this partnership from what started as a community-based sponsorship to now a global partnership that we’re thrilled about.

When the club first started working with American Express, we didn’t even have a marketing department or partnerships team. Now, we’ve got people that run the partnership every day, and with the growth in Premier League coverage and our global profile, we’ve been able to build a truly mutually beneficial relationship.

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

PB: It’s probably the best job in the world and at times the worst. It’s the best because I’m 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, I’m putting all my trust into the team which can be unpredictable. It’s a fun job because every day is different. It’s about trying to set a clear vision, and motivating people to get behind that vision. Ultimately, we’re in the results business where we are delivering for our owner, fans, and community.

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

PB: Well, it all started with failure. I didn’t 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 wasn’t 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. I’ve been fortunate to have people who have believed in me throughout my career, but you need to work hard – there's no substitute. I didn’t have enough talent, but I worked hard to make the most of what I had – and I still do that. I keep getting up in the morning and thinking I’ve 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 we’re always tweaking it to push ourselves further in a way that we’re 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. There’s no ceiling to what we can achieve – we have to just believe in ourselves and enjoy special moments like this time in the club’s 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. It’s fast, competitive, and skillful. You’ve 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 you've got millions of fans across the world. I just think it's the amazing togetherness that football inspires is really special, and I know I’m biased, but I don’t think there’s another sport that comes close to it.

WS: We’re in the middle of the FIFA Women’s World Cup. How important is women’s football to Brighton & Hove Albion?

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

And off the pitch, we employ increasing numbers of women. I’m 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 Albion’s U.S. tour and the fan experience with American Express, visit here.

Multimedia Files:

< View all news