Barnsley CEO on Markus Schopp’s future and closure of West Stand at Oakwell

MARKUS SCHOPP will be in the Barnsley dug-out for the Championship derby with Sheffield United at Oakwell tomorrow lunch-time – but whether he remains head coach after it could very well be determined by events.

Barnsley head coach Markus Schopp. Picture: Tony Johnson

The embattled Austrian retains the ‘full support’ of the Reds’ hierarchy, according to chief executive officer Khaled El-Ahmad, but it is fair to say that the bulk of the Reds faithful have lost faith after an 11-match winless sequence and run of just one win in his 13 league games in charge.

On Schopp’s position, El-Ahmad said: “As we speak today, he is the manager and has the full support of the club.

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“Every game continues to be reviewed. Football is pressure whether you are top or bottom of the league.

“As a CEO of a club, I think you have to step away from all the noise, pressure and emotions and try and look at not the short-term solution, but the long-term. 

“There are various implications in this, whether they are financial or the narrative of changing coaches in the fall (autumn), with some of the history Barnsley has. All of that has to be calculated and weighed upon for the best of the football club.”

His opposite number Slavisa Jokanovic may have sympathy with Schopp on a human level, but professionalism dictates he will have none tomorrow.

“All of us are under some kind of pressure, we live that kind of life,” the Blades chief commented.

“The business is not especially fair and I am sure the guy tries to do his best and lift the level of the team. You never know what can come next. I cannot wish him all the best before we play Barnsley but I understand the situation.”

Tomorrow will see the West Stand empty for the first game since Barnsley’s decision to close it due to safety concerns.

The move has affected 1,000 season-ticket holders. A number have relocated to other parts of Oakwell, but some have asked for refunds. The club have pledged that seats will be reserved in fans’ names if a decision is made to reopen, which remains the plan. There is no specific time-scale.

El-Ahmad added: “I will take the heat and do apologise from my perspective as CEO and the club if people felt that we treated them badly, but it all comes from a genuine good place.

“It is not a power play and we are not trying to put one party in a difficult situation. It was made on safety and operational (grounds) and a decision had to be made on where we are. The plan is to open it up (again). Whether it be 50, 200, 500 or 1,000 fans, we are putting together an action plan. But we have to make sure the fire risk and asbestos (regulations are met), so we have all these things which we are trying to cross off to be able to hopefully open it up.

“This is 100 per cent my decision, When I called Jean (Cryne – minority shareholder) and Paul (Conway – co-chairman), they were surprised. I collected the various risk assessments and reports and complaints I had.

“I feel that in the year 2021, a decision has to be made to reassess the security of that (stand) as I am ultimately responsible and signed the document. As a human being, if there is two per cent risk that something can happen, I don’t want to be the person responsible for it.

“There is a different view in terms of what is safe or not in terms of the reports. We are doing it for the safety of the people.”

Earlier this month, Barnsley Council expressed disappointment at the closure of the stand and said that the facility passed an inspection last month.

In a fresh statement, Cllr Sir Steve Houghton CBE, leader of Barnsley Council, said: “The position is the same as it was at the beginning of October; nothing has changed. The council inspected the ground as part of the current safety certificate and found the physical infrastructure (including the West Stand) safe to host professional football.

“Nothing has been raised with us that has changed this decision. This is purely a decision of the football club.”