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Chief Executive: 'We Can't Wait To Get Started'

CEO Neil Hart sees Premier League re-start as crucial launch pad for Clarets

9 June 2020

Clarets Chief Executive Neil Hart insists the club aims to keep moving forward – starting with the return of the Premier League in just over a week’s time.

With the league on hold since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic, football and life as we know it at Turf Moor has been put on hold.

But the top-flight will soon be back in action and – on the proviso it is deemed safe to start playing again – Hart believes it will be a galvanising force.

“It’s massive step forward,” he said. “Clearly over the last couple of months there’s been a lot of uncertainty. Uncertainty brings concern, not just about the health and well-being of staff and players but of the nation.

“There has been lots in the Press around finances and the losses that clubs could encounter and are encountering, so the fact that we have a start date of 17 June – and we will follow quickly on the 22 June – and the first three fixtures are out, I think, is a massive step forward.

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“We can all feel really positive about that and from a Burnley point of view there are fans across the town and up and down the country, actually, who can’t wait to see those nine games live on their TV screens.

“Burnley fans – and football fans in general – can look forward to a feast of football, right through to the back end of July and hopefully we will get there with no hiccups.”

The Clarets are due to kick-off their final run of nine games at Manchester City in the final game of the opening weekend and Hart added: “From our point of view, we’re delighted to get there.

“We’ve always been strong advocates for getting re-started; we wanted to get back to training, we wanted to get back to playing because we felt that was the right thing to do and was in the interests of the integrity of the competition and we’re delighted we’re almost on the brink of that now.

“From the outset we always felt, once it was safe to do so, we want to play and we want to get the Premier League season back on because we always felt that was the right thing to do, for our supporters and for our stakeholders and it’s great we’re nearly there.

“The manager has always been a strong advocate of that and I know he, his staff and the players are delighted and buzzing to be back in training.”

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The Clarets returned to initial non-contact training on 19 May with a lessening of the restrictions subsequently allowing for group training and practice matches against other clubs – two of which Sean Dyche’s men will play this week.

Regular testing of players and staff has continued to take place – in line with the rest of the Premier League – with Burnley’s Barnfield Training Centre and Turf Moor both turned into sterile environments to mitigate the spread of the virus as much as possible.

Changes at Turf Moor have been made in line with the back-to-action protocols issued by the government and the Premier League, with the Clarets due back at home for the first time since lockdown when they entertain Watford on Thursday, 25 June.

No fans will be admitted with all remaining games played behind closed doors, but with an enhanced broadcast package being put together – including added player and manager access through interviews and extra cameras and potential background crowd noise and imagery in place – it is believed games will still be an attractive proposition for fans starved of football.

“Supporters and fans are the lifeblood of any football club, so engaging with them and keeping that dialogue going is really important,” said Hart, who has met with supporters’ representatives in virtual meetings since the lockdown began.

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“We’re sorry we can’t get supporters in the ground. That’s where we always want to be, obviously, but with the current pandemic and with the challenges we are facing with social distancing, which is the right thing for us to be doing, we just cannot do that.

“That is, unfortunately, the compromise to get football back on, so what we are doing is looking at an enhanced broadcast package. First and foremost, having all of our fixtures on TV is fantastic and looking at fan engagement opportunities along the way.

“I’m sure the supporters will get a really good broadcast product they can engage with and they can watch in their living rooms up and down the country.”

The return of football and completion of the 2019/20 season will limit potential losses of television revenue for clubs.

But there will still be some reduction, while clubs are also facing the loss of match-day revenue with the Clarets missing income from their final four scheduled home matches of the campaign – and possibly more in the future.

That will mean financial challenges for Burnley going forward as they look to keep competing at their current level.

But with the mid-table Clarets heading into the resumption on the brink of securing a fifth successive season of Premier League football and with a robust infrastructure in place, Hart remains upbeat about the future of the club in testing times for the industry.

“That’s not just football. That’s the global economy and certainly our UK economy is taking a massive hit,” the chief executive, who took over the reins in March, told Clarets Player HD in a wide-ranging interview watchable in the above video.

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“We will be like any other business; this will cost us. There’s a clear loss of revenue into Burnley Football Club.

“But this club has been incredibly well run over the last five, six, seven years and credit to the board and my predecessors and we are going to continue that mantra.

“I’m positive. As a club we are resilient, we are strong, we’re unified and we will ride this out and we will come through this and hopefully it won’t be too long before we’re back to normal.

“It’s testament to the job Sean has done, with his staff and players, that we are sitting 10th in the league in another fantastic season.

“I’m by no means going to start speculating on the football side but I’m confident we can go into those games and be very competitive. We know we have a fantastic manager who will prepare the squad incredibly well with his staff, so they will be ready to go.

“We will go into those games and see what they bring. Once we’ve completed the season we will move into the summer period and discussions are on-going regarding the start of next season.

“There’s a window of opportunity to get that underway and I’m confident we can do that with our counterparts at other clubs up and down the country and then we’ve got to keep taking the club forward.

“If you look at the trajectory of the club over the last five years, there’s a piece of work around maintaining that.

“But in some areas it’s about building upon that and there are some key pieces of work to be done.

“From the boardroom into myself and the senior executive team we’ve got to navigate the club through those challenges and I’m positive we can do that.”


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