MARTIN SAMUEL: No more glory for underdogs

MARTIN SAMUEL: No more glory for the underdogs – Manchester United and Liverpool’s every waking thought is how they can shut aspiring teams out… now we have the proof

  • Project Big Picture has caused great debate among football fans across England
  • Liverpool and Manchester United are trying to force through the plans
  • They want to shut out aspiring clubs and stop underdogs getting the glory
  • Chief Sports Writer Martin Samuel debates the talking points from the plans 

So what is your favourite part? The £6.25million each the little clubs get to pay towards Daniel Levy’s new stadium, so Tottenham can grow bigger, grow richer, buy better players and stuff them out of sight each year?

Maybe it is the thought of those caring venture capitalists from the Fenway Sports Group and Glazer family fretting over the fate of the English football pyramid. Or the thought that some twerps are actually buying that.

There really is so much to choose from in Project Big Picture, after all — but let’s dive straight in with the mastermind at the heart of it.

Manchester United and Liverpool want to shut out aspiring teams from winning trophies

Rick Parry. The useful idiot.

AV, London

Wrong, AV. There is absolutely nothing useful about Parry. I cannot think of a single individual who has done greater harm to English football in the last 30 years. You can smell his burning pants and his BS from here.

The big clubs miss the point that fans go to matches or pay TV subscriptions because they dream of their team winning.

GunnerJay, Essex

Sadly, Jay, I think you miss the point. The biggest clubs don’t care about anyone else winning. While the rest of football sees Leicester’s title as the greatest thing to happen to the game in the modern era, they see it as the worst. Manchester United and Liverpool’s every waking thought is how they can shut those teams out. At least now we have proof.

No one will watch the Premier League without the big clubs like Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal.

DiabloXI, London

Really? Call their bluff and see. Those three clubs you mention, in their current state, would be mid-table at best in any European super league. Give it a few years and they would be begging to join the EFL just for a chance to win promotion back to the Premier League.

Teams like Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea would be mid-table in a Super League

All clubs that have earned the right to play in the top division should have an equal vote. Why would any club want an unfair advantage? It’s against the very spirit of sport.

Relentless EFC, Shrewsbury

That is all the richest clubs have ever sought. Financial Fair Play, the UEFA coefficients, constantly chipping away at the Premier League’s wealth distribution: everything they do is to achieve that unfair advantage.

I like the reduction to 18 teams and scrapping the League Cup. Less football means more rest. I also like the third from bottom being involved in the Championship play-offs. The rest I’m… meh.

Stephen, London

Just to recap on what Stephen is ‘meh’ about: six big clubs getting to decide the rules, wealth distribution, make-up of the league, identity of the chief executive, and who can own their rival clubs. He is meh about the richest seizing the money, the control and the direction of English football. He is meh about big clubs taking funds from smaller Premier League clubs and giving it to the EFL, while protecting themselves from financial loss with greater enrichment opportunities.

He is meh about destroying the television deal that made the Premier League the most competitive in the world. He witters on about the irrelevant League Cup while shrugging at issues that will kill football as we know it. Don’t be Stephen, everybody. Think. This is a swindle. Shut it down.

The fact that there’s a chance seven clubs can get in the top four and that even more teams from the Championship have a chance of going up is what makes English football exciting and competitive. These plans would destroy it, while lower league clubs struggle to survive.

Bandy, Oxford

And this makes it less likely, because how do you think the rest of the Premier League feel towards Parry now? At a time of crisis, he has tried to screw them to serve his own ends. He hasn’t come up with a plan for how a Premier League donation will be used, he hasn’t done the hard yards to persuade the clubs that it will be directed properly. He has gone into a little room with Manchester United and Liverpool and plotted.

If his ruinous attempted coup fails, he will have done his clubs an enormous disservice. And if he succeeds, he will have destroyed the healthy competition within English football. His supporters claim he is bringing back the financial link between the Premier League and EFL.

They are a little less clear on how that was lost. It was the work of Parry, in his role as the first chief executive of the Premier League. He is the cause of the problem, not its solution. For a moment, imagine if this was Manchester City’s plan, not Liverpool’s. Imagine what the same people would be saying.

Rick Parry has failed to come up with a plan for how the Premier League donation will be used

The way the elite have waited for their opportunity to present this proposal — which has clearly been in the pipeline for ages — is akin to a predator stalking its prey to identify the sick and weak for an easier kill. Covid came along and boom — there was the opportunity. Oh, to see one of the Big Six relegated — it would be an absolute thing of beauty.

Rob, London

It’s a funny thing, Rob. Everybody thinks as a sportswriter you have got it in for their club. It’s not true. You spend your life trying to be fair to everybody. But let’s just say, in recent years, I’m not exactly unhappy when Aston Villa beat Liverpool, or Crystal Palace turn over Manchester United.

My pleasure when Leicester won the league was as if my own team had won it. I was never like that. I was never married to the underdog. I just wanted to see the best team win. And I still do. But I like it more when it’s someone new, from outside that elite group: because those clubs want it all their own way and it isn’t right.

I don’t want to hear Liverpool tell me it ‘means more’ when, in reality, they are owned by venture capitalists trying to destroy the competition in English football for their own ends. It doesn’t mean I don’t still appreciate or admire a good performance.

This isn’t about the players, or the management. It doesn’t affect the reporting of a match. I have friends at these clubs, good people that I like, professionals that I think are outstanding, but there were probably nice people on the Death Star, too, once you got to know them.

That Manchester United and Liverpool fans have such animosity is hugely ironic, considering their clubs have plainly been thick as thieves over this since 2017. Turns out it doesn’t mean more, it isn’t special or unique. Those two are the same. As for Parry, I find if you read every quote of his in Jamie Carragher’s accent, it makes it easier to identify where his motivation and allegiance lies.

Liverpool cannot claim ‘this means more’ when they are owned by venture capitalists 

I’m a Liverpool fan, but this is wrong. I like the idea of reducing the Premier League to 18, better for England and the Champions League. But not at the cost of destroying ambition. No club outside the Big Six would do anything again. You want reward? Win the big prizes without financially doping everyone else.

Mike, Worksop

Good on you, Mike. Financial doping is a phrase that is always attached to wealthy investors, it works just as well reversed, to describe the way the elite clubs are thwarting those who would try to challenge them with protectionist rules.

You think they’d play less? This proposal has the season starting later and it isn’t so the players can go on a spa retreat before the first game. They’ll be travelling city to city playing endless pre-season friendlies.

Michael, Watford

Exactly. The league will start later so the elite involved in FIFA’s new Club World Cup can still go on their lucrative tours.

Martin Samuel should pipe down, given that his beloved Manchester City are also involved. How ironic, 15 years ago they were nothing.

New Ideas, Birmingham

I’m more disappointed with them than anybody, but while City are in the discussions, they are not the driving force. This document is draft No 17, with meetings taking place since January, long before lockdown. As I understand it, there was a gathering of the Big Six last Thursday in which the reveal was discussed and five were against the timing, with Chelsea even saying they couldn’t support it in the current form. Only Liverpool were in favour of this early unveiling, and unsurprisingly Parry went with them.

Manchester City are in the discussion for Project Big Picture but are not driving the plans

Oh, Mr Samuel, you are such a dinasaur.

Chrism1960, Brighton

Maybe, mate, but at least I can spell it.

The Glaziers! I wouldn’t trust them one inch.

Eltelo346, Altrincham

Do your own windows then.

Perhaps it should stay the same, then. Let a good portion of EFL clubs go bust and the Premier League ones can keep their money. They can’t win. Money divided equally, seriously? That’s like saying Avengers: Endgame should give half of what it made, a billion dollars, to Green Book. Why exactly?

SP3633, Liverpool

You tell me, it’s your specious analogy. But why divide money more equally in football? Because it creates a competitive league, and that is a strong selling point. There is a reason the Bundesliga and Serie A generate considerably less revenue. They are predictable.

The one vote one club system here also acts as a check to stop a cabal of rich clubs carving up the system and its spoils. Parry doesn’t think Huddersfield should have the same voting power as Manchester United, but it is the egalite of the Premier League that has built the most successful domestic competition in the world.

This might be disgusting but it was inevitable once American owners bought Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal. They did so to make money, especially out of the TV deal. What you are seeing now, charging £14.95 to watch a game, is just a warm-up. The Holy Grail for FSG, the Glazers and Stan Kroenke is to have their own rights to matches, and you pay for every game.

Redmist21, Port Talbot

Richard Scudamore always believed his greatest achievement was keeping the ratio of revenue between top and bottom as 1.7:1 to ensure competition. Once that is lost, the league loses, too. I didn’t think the £14.95 charge was the thin end of the wedge but after Sunday’s announcement I knew I was wrong.

Former Premier League chief Richard Scudamore kept the ratio of revenue between top and bottom as 1.7:1 to ensure competition

It’s just too much. Make it £5 per game and they would massively increase the uptake, possibly by more than three times. This isn’t something you can afford on a weekly basis.

The High Hat, London

Fair points, particularly that four people paying £5 is better than one paying £15. Here’s what happened. The clubs had released all their matches to the broadcasters and thought that would meet commitments for the season, but the broadcasters still wanted a rebate, claiming loss of exclusivity.

Also, when football is available all day, every day, people pick and choose and audience numbers were actually down by comparison to equivalent matches pre-lockdown. So the clubs began pushing for a system that would take all but selected TV matches out of circulation, while making the rest available to season ticket holders.

This would preserve broadcast exclusivity and would avoid refunds. A season ticket code or voucher system for access could be set against any deposits paid. Couldn’t be done, they were told. Too many complications, including the technology.

However, a PPV system could be set-up, and that would resolve the broadcasters rebate. Now here’s the part that should raise eyebrows. Roughly 80 per cent of the £14.95 goes on facilitating and servicing the scheme. The clubs make around £3 per hit, then it has to be divided. Projections are that clubs will split £40m across the season: so £2m each.

Presumably they simply feared the rebate cost. Maybe it will change to a fairer price particularly if clubs were going to use profits for the EFL bail-out. They might be less inclined now Parry has shown his hand.

Sky Sports and BT Sport announced a pay-per-view service for Premier League matches that are not part of their usual coverage schedules 

Please come and support the lower leagues where you are treated as a fan not a cash cow. Clubs like Torquay United need you just to survive. We’re sick of the greedy, arrogant PL, too.

House Martin, United Kingdom

Indeed. And it’s been a little heavy this week. So to finish, let’s revisit Plainmoor, home of Torquay United. It’s February 17, 1996 and they are playing Hartlepool. I’m in the boardroom as a guest of the chairman, Mike Bateson. A real character. He had a ventriloquist’s dummy that he used to bring out after matches. It made more sense than anything I’ve ever heard from Rick Parry.

About 15 minutes before the match, the club secretary appeared. ‘Mr Chairman,’ he said, ‘the League have been on. They say all clubs must have a minute’s silence for Bob Paisley.’

Bateson looked out of a small window, towards a huddle of Torquay fans sheltering from a downpour beneath a rusty roof. ‘And how are we going to know when they’ve stopped?’ he asked.

That’s all from me. As a very great man once said: don’t let the grubby little opportunists get you down.




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