|Paul Barber - Chief Executive Officer, Vancouver Whitecaps FC|
Monday, 21 February 2011 21:10
By Martin Laurence :
Paul Barber was appointed as Chief Executive Officer of MLS’ Vancouver Whitecaps FC in March 2010 after serving as executive director at Tottenham Hotspur for five years. In his time with the Premier League club, Barber reported to chairman Daniel Levy and was responsible for all of the club’s key operational divisions, including commercial areas, hospitality and ticketing as well as international tours and friendly matches.
Before then he worked as commercial and marketing director at the Football Association (FA), where he was tasked with developing programs for marketing, communications and commercial affairs, including broadcasting rights of the England national team and FA Cup. Barber’s sporting allegiances do not simply revolve around football and he is a fond cricket supporter having served as a non-executive director for Hampshire County Cricket Club.
What could persuade a passionate football fan to give up a place at his boyhood club and travel halfway around the world to a less established league?
Leaving Tottenham Hotspur after five years was very difficult. I was lucky enough to work with my boyhood club, which for me, was a dream come true. I was also lucky enough to spend a similar amount of time with my national team (England), so I feel privileged to have occupied two of the best roles in English football.
However, opportunities such as leading Vancouver Whitecaps FC into Major League Soccer don't come around too often, and moving to North America was just one of those opportunities that I didn't feel I could turn down, either professionally or personally. It's a great opportunity for me and my family to have a different lifestyle and to enjoy taking a club as famous as Whitecaps FC into MLS.
The obvious difference is the fact that football in England is part and parcel of how people grow up in that country. From the moment you walk, you pretty much have a football at your feet. That's not the case in North America. There are many other fantastic sports that are played here, and football is still emerging, growing, and developing. One of the big challenges here is selling the game, as well as the club.
Can football - soccer - compete with the major American sports in the long term?
It was disappointing, but I don't think it is going to derail the great work that has been going on with Major League Soccer, and by football authorities across North America. It's one of those major events on the horizon that you can look forward to and use to support the development of the game, as well as build profile and excitement around it. On this occasion, it wasn't to be - for the United States or England - so we must move on and keep doing the good work we've been doing. As someone who supported England's bid, nothing would have given me more pleasure than seeing FIFA award England the 2018 World Cup and the United States the 2022 World Cup. It didn't happen, so now we build (in both countries) without it.