Paul Barber, CEO Vancouver Whitecaps FC: Featured Profile with iSC

February 22, 2011

Paul Barber, Chief Executive of MLS’ Vancouver Whitecaps FC, has taken part in an exclusive Featured Profile interview with iSportconnect news editor Martin Laurence.

Paul spoke of his decision to leave his boyhood club Tottenham Hotspur where he served as Executive Director, a position which he claimed was “a dream come true”, in order to become the Chief Executive Officer with the MLS franchise. Barber felt that the opportunity to lead the Whitecaps was one that doesn’t come around too often, stating that “moving to North America was just one of those opportunities that I didn’t feel I could turn down, either professionally or personally.”

He stated how he believes and admitted that football is still an emerging sport in the US and added that one of the main challenges in his role at Vancouver was “selling the game, as well as the club.” Barber added that he feels that the sport can compete with the major American sports and added that “in Vancouver, more people play our sport than play Canada’s favourite pastime, ice hockey, across the whole of British Columbia.” The Spurs man admitted that, “although it will take a little bit more time than the next couple of years”, he has “no doubt that football will become the biggest sport in North America too.”

Paul also spoke of his disappointment in losing out on the possibility of England and USA winning the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids respectively, stating: “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.”

Among one of a number of major sponsorship deals to have been agreed by the club, Barber spoke of the significance of the Whitecaps kit sponsorship with Bell. MLS commissioner Don Garber recently lauded the club as being ahead of their league counterparts, including David Beckham’s LA Galaxy, in terms of sponsorship revenue, and Paul has had a large part to play in the sides recent successes off the field. Paul revealed that the process of signing a shirt sponsor in Europe with a club like Tottenham is “actually a very similar process” to that in the MLS. He added that the deal with Bell Canada was a “fantastic fit” and that, “To date, they’ve been a first-class partner in every respect. They are a world-class organization.”

Having also worked for the Football Association (FA) before moving to Canada, Mr Barber spoke of the difference between working for a federation and a club, saying: Football federations are, by definition, very political…They’ve got a lot of important governance work to do and a huge number of issues to deal with daily. Inevitably, they are slow moving and can seem to be ponderous.” He added that the nature of working for a club is same in North America as it is in the UK, stating: “Clubs, on the other hand, tend to be faster moving and less hierarchical, therefore quicker to make decisions.”

Paul also spent time as a non-executive director for Hampshire County Cricket Club and spoke of his surprise that the sport was already played in Vancouver. Barber quipped: “I think North Americans would find it hard to believe that it’s possible for followers of cricket to sit through five days’ worth of action and still not have a result!” As his second favourite sport Barber stated that “if you can understand the sport of cricket, then you can very easily become a fan,” but when asked as to whether the game could establish itself as soccer has in Vancouver, he added: “Whether cricket can truly compete with the big North American sports in the way football is at present, is certainly more debatable. I doubt it, to be honest”.

Mr Barber concluded on his interest in iSportconnect and the services it provides, saying: “iSportconnect is an extremely useful way of keeping up to date with the latest news from across the sports business world. The short, sharp electronic headline format makes it an easy, quick and valuable read.”

To read the full interview click here –


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.