By Tony Attwood
So this morning I wrote up my little piece on the Liverpool and Manchester United proposals for reforming the Premier League, checked that neither Northamptonshire nor any of its surrounding counties have suddenly been locked down, found they hadn’t, drove through a bit of Leicestershire, into Rutland, into Leicestershire again (the border is very strange in this part of the kingdom), had a very pleasant lunch, came back and found a lot of irate messages telling me I was quite wrong about the Liverpool chair having been lying over the “What are they smoking at Arsenal?” affair
Sadly quite a few were not suitable for publication, but a few got through. But then on checking the newsmedia just to see if the government has found out how to use Excel spreadsheets yet, I found that Liverpool! and Manchester United “have been forced into an embarrassing climbdown over their push to reform English football after a tense meeting of the Premier League’s 20 clubs on Wednesday.”
At least that is how the Guardian put it. They say that 14 clubs were “believed to be strongly against the change in governance – with the league and the Football Association sharing their view. At Wednesday’s virtual conference call, the Premier League chairman, Gary Hoffman, called for unity after an unedifying week and the Everton chief executive, Denise Barrett-Baxendale, demanded an apology from Liverpool and United, who were represented by Tom Werner and Ed Woodward, club chairman and executive vice-chairman, respectively.”
It will indeed be interesting to see if Liverpool and Manchester United ever manage to apologise. Certainly the reports say that Werner and Woodward refused to apologise there and then, “feeling that they had nothing to apologise for. They claimed to have merely been discussing a list of ideas, to have been brainstorming some forward-planning, and it was unfortunate that they had leaked into the public domain.”
The Guardian reporters suggest that such an explanation “led to incredulity in some quarters.”
Anyway that little exercise is over leaving behind a lot of ill-feeling and complete mistrust in the executives of Liverpool and Manchester United, as there is against Rick Parry, chair of the Football League who reportedly supported the scheme.
Indeed in a separate article that Guardian says that “the anger generated by Project Big Picture has left some clubs unwilling to hand over money while Rick Parry is the EFL’s chairman. The offer is expected to be worth £140m – payable in loans and grants – but that would be some way short of the £250m the EFL is seeking as it reels from the impact of Covid-19. An identical proposal has already been rejected by the EFL.”
Elsewhere it is said that “The former Football Association chairman David Bernstein and other grandees are expected to make an intervention on Thursday… by calling for independent regulation” [of the whole of football]. The problem with that one is that the FA have shown themselves completely unable to regulate their breakfast, let alone their own domain, which is hardly a good recommendation for them to regulate the Premier League or indeed the whole of professional football. One only has to remember the multi-million pound bid for the world cup to be held in England which got just two votes (one of which was England).
Indeed in any world other than football, the complete mismanagement of the Charity Shield’s finances by the FA would have been enough to wind the body up. Also it is notable that back in 2016 three former FA chairmen called for independent regulation of football – something they undoubtedly did having seen the mess of the regulation of football by the current FA board.
But if that is not on the table for the Premier League clubs they now have to agree how on earth they can work together on two separate projects.
First money needs to come from somewhere to help save the clubs in the Championship and Leagues One and Two. Second is the question of how to move forward after the fiasco of the Liverpool / Manchester United power grab – given that some clubs are outraged by the behind closed door plotting by these two.
The Premier League has offered the English Football League something like £33m to the League One clubs and £16m to the League Two clubs. The Championship clubs have been offered loans – and the reason for that very clearly is that no one wants to give the Championship clubs money so that they can spend it as before – on ever enhanced player salaries which simply lead to ever greater debt.
The statement from the clubs said that the “Premier League shareholders agreed to work together as a 20-club collective on a strategic plan for the future structures and financing of English football, consulting with all stakeholders to ensure a vibrant, competitive and sustainable football pyramid.”
I’m sure they will, but I suspect the delegates from Liverpool and Manchester United are going to have a pretty rough time of it.
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