POWER GRAB OR ALTRUISM?
When Sunday’s big scoop about a mooted shake-up in the English football pyramid broke around noon, it caused much consternation among the country’s press pack. As anybody who has ever witnessed feeding time at the lavish Stamford Bridge media buffet will attest, football journalists are famously fond of their grub. With that in mind, forcing them to abandon Sunday lunch in order to digest the finer points of very elaborate and detailed plans to save football instead was never likely to end well, so it’s no great surprise so many of them seem to have found it thoroughly objectionable.
Hatched by Liverpool’s American owners with the approval of their Manchester United counterparts and run up the flagpole by Football League chief suit, Liverpool fan, former Premier League CEO and suspected trojan horse Rick Parry, Project Big Picture is not entirely without merit, even if it does bear a striking likeness to Edvard Munch’s The Scream. Taking the extremely short-term view, the one Parry and his cohorts want you to take, EFL clubs in danger of going into Covid-related extinction would get a rescue package, the grassroots game would benefit financially, a much-maligned parachute payments system would be abolished and – most importantly – The Fiver gets some much-needed #content to write about on what would otherwise have been a very quiet Monday.
But at what cost, eh? Since news of the plan broke, words like “self”, “serving”, “power” and “grab” have been bandied about by cynics who, while acknowledging Something Needs To Be Done to save clubs from going to the wall, have a feeling the motives of Liverpool and Manchester United might not be entirely altruistic. The government is appalled, the Premier League is appalled and several Football League clubs have also clutched their pearls over a wheeze they feel would scupper their chances of ever hitting the big time. In return for a gesture of apparent largesse that would cost them nothing and help them earn even more, members of the Big Six and three other clubs apparently picked at random from an upturned fez would ultimately seize control of all Premier League decision-making. “I don’t see it that way,” countered Parry, waving his pom-poms on various radio shows. “They care about the pyramid. This will come out, the truth will come out; their passion for the pyramid will come out.”
Of course only time will tell if this hitherto concealed passion is unbridled enough to encourage the Premier League’s richest clubs to help out those less fortunate than themselves in a manner that isn’t so obviously self-serving. They could begin by rowing back on their fiendish plan to remove the Premier League’s all important “one club, one vote” ethos, an idea that flies in the very face of democracy. For now, though, at least a conversation has begun and it is shaping up to be quite the squabble that could ultimately end in a footballing civil war. For lower-league clubs who need financial assistance now, the wait for salvation looks set to go on and on.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“I became too fond of the lifestyle that came with the money. I want to go back in time and hit that young lad on the head with a hammer. Make him understand what a chance it is. That he has something special … something he has to look after” – Nicklas Bendtner opens up to Donald McRae on how he lost his way.
“I am trying to remember the name of a football novel published in the late-1980s, which featured a ragbag amateur team called ‘The Reliables’. I want to gift a copy to a friend of mine, but cannot for the life of me remember either the title of the book or the author’s name. And Googling has drawn a blank. I would greatly appreciate being put out of my misery” – John Bateson.
“Talking up England’s presence, at least compared to Scotland and Norn Iron, in the later stages of international tournaments (Friday’s Fiver) – where they have been eliminated by such behemoths as USA! USA!! USA!!! and Iceland – smacks of the child who follows the older lads around and considers it a badge of honour if he’s smacked one in public. On second thought, given the volume of kudos bestowed on Gareth Southgate’s side after their exit two years ago to Croatia, this comparison may be better than I initially thought” – Matt Richman.
“Andrew Want (Friday’s Fiver letters) claims that, by turning himself into Gunnersaurus, Mesut Özil would increase his ‘pounds per minutes on the pitch’. Is that so? The division of a positive figure by zero can be seen as not defined or as infinite. Either way, there would be no increase by setting foot on the pitch” – Sarah Maurer (and 1,056 others).
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
Gareth Southgate is feeling like a proud dad after watching his young England scamps scrape a 2-1 win against Belgium. “They caused us problems down the sides but we resolved those issues,” he gushed. “To go and win should give them a sense of what might be possible over the next few years.”
Shortbread McFiver is lying down with a damp towel on his heed. Why? Because Scotland have only gone and won back-to-back games!
Manchester City boss Gareth Taylor is refusing to use a baffling penalty decision as an excuse for his side’s 3-1 defeat at WSL title rivals Chelsea. “I’ve heard it’s a shocker,” he sighed. “We just need to focus on ourselves … this won’t define our season.”
West Ham are close to agreeing a fee of around £20m plus add-ons with Brentford for Saïd Benrahma after Bournemouth turned their nose up at a £13m bid for Josh King.
With the team fifth in League Two, Salford City have given manager Graham Alexander the boot. Part-owner Paul Scholes is in the interim hot seat.
Chelsea’s Lucas Piazon, who has made a whopping three appearances in eight years, is sick of being loaned out like a Boris bike. “After a certain point the connection is no longer beneficial for both parties,” he lamented from whichever club he is currently at. “As time passed, I became just another business for them.”
And here’s our pick for goal of the weekend.
STILL WANT MORE?
Arsène Wenger tackles questions from readers, politicians, artists and José Mourinho. It’s very good.
Proper Journalism’s David Conn has a more balanced take on the whole Project Big Picture business.
How Gareth Southgate stumbled on the perfect tactics to beat Belgium. By Jonathan Liew.
Mo Marley, no problems. By Suzanne Wrack.
Come and get your WSL weekend talking points.
There it went. Fabrizio Romano looks back at the pandemic transfer window.
Mars attacks! Luckily, floating football brain in a jar Jonathan Wilson is ready.
Oh, and if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!
‘THIS WINE IS AWFUL. GET ME ANOTHER GLASS’