Project Big Picture

If you have to explain a joke, it's a rubbish joke. So here goes - he's a Sheffield Utd supporter who has appeared here out of nowhere and proceeded to make 3 massively long posts.

Crap attempt at humour - I admit it.
Lol got confused cause you quoted my post. So guessed you were calling me an United fan. My bad.
:dierpochhug:
 
This really isn't about cutting the PL to 18 clubs, or scrapping the league cup/charity shield, or changing the relegation rules, or sending vast quantities of money to the lower leagues to bail them out of this Covid situation.

This is purely about an opportunistic attempt to scrap the current PL rules of one club one vote and replace it with a mechanism which will mean that the big 6 can do whatever they want moving forwards, including the previously muted European Super league which they haven't given up on.

The rest of this is just smoke and mirrors.

Once they have that control they can overturn all this stuff they are proposing here, they could change the PL to 10 clubs with no relegations...ever if they wanted too.

The point is, don't buy the proposals, understand what the main goal is here.
Spot on, although I actually think it goes further.

I reckon that United and Liverpool saw this plan as a holding pattern until the vile scheme for a Eurocunt Super League is up and running
 
This isn't just about "Project Big Picture" although it touches on it, it's more an article about how the movers and shakers of the PL's big 6, and their intentions and thinking have evolved. And there's a couple of paragraphs specifically about how Levy has become one of the more respected voices in that group:


In the eyes of those present, it was the ultimate “them and us” episode — the moment the illusion of solidarity across the Premier League was shattered once and for all.

It was a Premier League shareholders meeting in November 2016 and, while media coverage beforehand had focused on the safe-standing debate, by far the biggest issue at stake that day was the need to find a new broadcast partner in China.

Among several proposals on the table, the most popular was from pay-per-view company PPTV, who were offering £523 million for the right to stream every Premier League match in China over the three-year period from 2019-20. After the pros and cons were debated at length, an executive from one of the bigger clubs ventured they were going to have to go away and think about it. No, said the league’s executive chairman Richard Scudmore; this had to be decided here and now.

And so, as they broke off for coffee and biscuits, a remarkable scene unfolded. There, in full view of their counterparts from the other 14 clubs, the executives from Woolwich, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur formed their own huddle in a corner of the room and proceeded to debate among themselves, in hushed tones, before reaching a consensus that they then took back to the table when the full meeting resumed.

“It was just so brazen,” says an executive from one of the other 14 clubs. “A few things had emerged before that about them having their own meetings. There had been a growing sense of a divide between the biggest clubs and the rest of us. But that really seemed to cement it in everyone’s minds.”

The 20 clubs ended up agreeing to accept the PPTV deal — a decision they ended up regretting when the Chinese broadcaster withheld last season’s main payment, leading to a bitter split last month. But nobody could have foreseen that. What was abundantly clear was that the “Big Six” meant business.

“They weren’t even trying to be discreet about it anymore,” says another executive. “There were the six of them and the 14 of us and that was how it was going to be from now on.”


There have been occasions over recent years when the Premier League’s gang of six have flexed their muscles and their smaller competitors, further down the food chain, have been left cowering in their wake.

A case in the point was the change to the distribution of overseas broadcast revenue in 2018. Previously it was split 20 ways, but, as of last season, the distribution model changed to reflect league performance — a widening of the divide, with more income for those who, by virtue of Champions League or Europa League qualification, soaring commercial profile and packed stadiums (with packed hospitality suites), needed it least.

It all comes back to an attitude that was summed up in 2011 by Ian Ayre, who at the time was Liverpool’s managing director. “If you’re a Bolton fan in Bolton, then you subscribe to Sky because you want to watch Bolton,” he said. “But if you’re in Kuala Lumpur, there isn’t anybody subscribing to Astro or ESPN to watch Bolton — or if they are, it’s a very small number. The large majority are subscribing to watch Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea or Woolwich. So is it right that the international rights are shared equally between all 20 clubs?”

The other 14 clubs argued against that one, but seven years later, the elite finally got their way. It coincided with another of those sporadic threats to cut the Premier League down to size — moving from 20 clubs to 18 in order to accommodate a long-planned expansion of the Champions League — and eventually enough of them, led by Everton, Leicester City and West Ham United, ended up falling into line for a two-thirds majority to be reached.

This week has brought a very different experience for the six. The so-called “Project Big Picture” caused so much ill feeling among the rest of the league that even the two architects, Liverpool and Manchester United, agreed that it would not be endorsed or pursued by the Premier League. Steve Parish, the Crystal Palace chairman, called for solidarity and Martin Semmens, Denise Barrett-Baxendale and Karren Brady, chief executives of Southampton, Everton and West Ham respectively, criticised the plan and above all the secretive way it had been cooked up.

“Project Big Picture” is dead, in that form at least, but the bigger clubs will not be deterred in pushing for more. “They always want more,” one executive from outside the elite says. “A greater share of the revenue and a greater say in what happens.”

To an extent, it has always been thus. That is how the Premier League came about in the first place, a breakaway led not by a “Big Six” but by a “Big Five” from the men in charge of Woolwich, Everton, Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur, persuading the other top-flight clubs to split from the Football League in order to secure their own television rights deals.

The balance of power in English football has been fairly fluid over the years, as seen by the way Everton have faded from the powerful position they held in the 1980s, Tottenham have come and gone and come again and Chelsea and Manchester City, enriched and transformed by wealthy owners, have forced their way onto the top table.

In theory at least, that group could continue to evolve; hypothetically, Everton could make it seven, or one of the six might run into hard times and slip away into relative obscurity, as Everton did in the 1990s. Fortunes rise and fortunes fall. That is the way it has always been in team sport; even Manchester United were relegated in 1974, six years after winning the European Cup.

The concern shared by many, though, is that, with the divide between the richest clubs and the rest getting wider and wider (and this applies even more in many other leagues across Europe), the now-established order is becoming locked in. This “Big Six” threaten to become unassailable in a way the “Big Five” of the 1980s never was. And to judge by some of the proposals in “Project Big Picture”, where the Premier League’s existing one-club-one-vote would have been replaced by a structure whereby power is concentrated among the nine longest-serving clubs (with six votes required), that is the whole point of the exercise.


What is driving all of this? “A lot of people would use the word ‘greed’,” says one executive at another club. “I don’t like that word, so I would prefer to use a different word: certainty. They want guarantees that their income is going to go up and up and up. They want to be the clubs getting the UEFA money every year and taking the biggest share of TV money from the Premier League. And here we come to a certain irony because the Premier League success story is based on unpredictability and competitiveness and it feels very much like some of those clubs are trying to make it more predictable and less competitive. They want it to become a two-tier competition — even more than it already is.”

The six regard themselves and, to varying degrees, each other as global franchises with a global outlook at ownership and European ambitions on the pitch. There is a feeling that the other 14 hold the six back, which one executive points out is deeply hypocritical because it is the financial gulf within the Premier League — a product of elitism in the “super club” era — that has caused many of the 14 to temper their ambitions and focus on consolidation rather than trying to threaten the elite.

There was tension during those regular Zoom conference calls during lockdown, when the bigger clubs felt some of the smaller ones were putting obstacles in the way of “Project Restart” because they feared relegation. The bigger clubs felt the concerns being raised about COVID-19 protocols were parochial, ignoring the bigger picture of a league that desperately needed to honour its broadcast commitments and the competition as a whole. On a more personal level, Liverpool and United were among those who would have been unduly penalised had attempts to null-and-void the season been successful. Yet at the same time, it has long been felt that the elite clubs’ lack of interest in the parochial — in life beyond the “Big Six” and, in particular, beyond the top 20 — is the greatest threat to English football as we know it.

Over the past 10 seasons, those six clubs account for 54 out of 60 top-six finishes in the Premier League. Only once (Leicester City, spectacularly, in 2016) has a club from outside the “Big Six” finished in the four Champions League places. Woolwich and Manchester United have gone through darker, more turbulent periods than they could have imagined, but they have never finished lower than eighth and seventh respectively. Leicester and Everton can boast two top-six finishes over the decade and Newcastle United and Southampton one apiece. And now, faced with burgeoning ambition at Everton, Leicester, Wolverhampton Wanderers and perhaps Aston Villa and a resurgent Leeds United, the six seem more focused than ever on shoring up their dominant position.

There is a feeling among the other clubs that “Project Big Picture” was a cynical move to exploit the desperation felt across the EFL due to the loss of revenue since the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Some feel the “Big Six” have sought to capitalise on Scudamore’s departure in 2018. His successor, Richard Masters, spent a year as interim chief executive while a club-led nominations committee offered the job to Susanna Dinnage and David Pemsel, both of whom resigned before taking office. Masters has tried to exert his authority since taking charge in the most trying circumstances, but that post-Scudamore interim period did little to curb some of the excesses of the elite clubs.

A source at one of the “Big Six” clubs puts it in more diplomatic terms. “The view is that the Premier League is such a great product because those six are the clubs that have the best players, we drive the interest and we are the real draw,” he says. “It’s a question of whether we are capturing enough value relative to contribution when it comes to domestic and international TV rights. It’s no more complicated than that.”

It is complicated, though, because the Premier League success story has been founded on the idea of collective approach among the 20 clubs. And it is certainly complicated when it comes to some of the relationships involved.


The fierce rivalry between Manchester United and Liverpool dates back decades, on the pitch and on the terraces. But even through the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, relations at boardroom level were almost always cordial.

Over recent years, with the Glazer family and Fenway Sports Group (FSG) finding they have more in common than a background in American sport with Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Boston Red Sox respectively, there has been a climate of renewed collaboration, particularly when it comes to strategic issues in English and European football.

It all adds up to the Americanisation of the English football business. There are Russian owners and owners from all over the Middle East and Far East, particularly China, but American investors got their hands on what are arguably the crown jewels of the Premier League: the Glazers with Manchester United in 2005, FSG with Liverpool in 2010 (after three years under the calamitous ownership of Tom Hicks and George Gillett) and Stan Kroenke, owner of Kroenke Sports & Entertainment, taking over at Woolwich in 2011.

If Abramovich bought Chelsea in the hope of establishing himself as a respectable figure in the western world (as well as having a bit of fun) and Sheikh Mansour bought Manchester City as a soft-power tool for Abu Dhabi, then there is no doubt that the American takeovers at Woolwich, Liverpool and Manchester United have been about maximising revenue and building the asset up and up. In the short and medium term, that meant selling the brand, driving up commercial revenue year after year. The long term? Those ideas about creating new tournaments and taking Premier League games abroad have not gone away. Neither have fantasies about selling their own television rights abroad, away from the Premier League’s collective approach.

A source close to Liverpool’s ownership group FSG explains: “You must remember that in the States, these guys, who also own the Boston Red Sox, hold the majority stake in a cable channel — New England Sports Network. This generates a tremendous amount of cash for those games that are not sold centrally through MLB. They are carried on their own network and this is a consistent and hugely lucrative revenue stream.”

John W Henry, Liverpool’s principal owner, sought advice from and exchanged ideas with United’s Joel Glazer almost from the moment FSG bought the Merseyside club a decade ago. Indeed, the terms of Project Big Picture are on their 18th version since talks began in 2017 and it is true that there were initially plans to unveil the proposal in April before the pandemic threatened to curtail last season altogether. One source close to FSG is keen to point out that the Glazer-Henry axis “isn’t a super-close relationship” but adds that what brought it closer was their shared enthusiasm for Financial Fair Play (FFP) as they pushed for tighter, UEFA-style regulation in the Premier League.

“That’s how it blossomed,” the source continues. “Look at some of the collective angst over Manchester City shirking the rules. That’s when the Liverpool, United and Woolwich guys — and eventually Bruce Buck (the Chelsea chairman) — started spending more time together and they all got closer and it eventually reached the point with these latest proposals, which, ironically, Manchester City were invited to.”

They recognise that irony at Manchester City, where they remember the executives in charge of Woolwich, Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham writing to Scudamore in 2013 — on Woolwich letter-headed paper, no less — to urge him to “curb the inflationary spending which is putting so much pressure on clubs across the entire league”. They certainly remember a group of nine clubs, which also included Burnley, Leicester, Newcastle and Wolves, writing to the Court of Arbitration for Sport to express their misgivings about Manchester City’s breaches of UEFA’s FFP regulations.

Like Chelsea in the seasons that followed Abramovich’s 2003 takeover, City, under Sheikh Mansour, spent years facing up to the establishment with an attitude of, “If you can’t join them, beat them”. Eventually, by dint of on-pitch success and a rising global profile, they forced their way into those cosy little gatherings — or at least most of them, anyway.

In October 2017, Avram and Joel Glazer, United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, then-Woolwich chief executive Ivan Gazidis and Henry were all photographed at dinner at Locanda Verde restaurant in Tribeca, New York. It is get-togethers like these that have fuelled the notion of a two-tier division within the Big Six: between the three ultimate establishment clubs, Woolwich, Liverpool and Manchester United, which all American owned and very much business-oriented, and the rest. Tottenham may ultimately force their way into that sub-group, but Chelsea and City are nothing like so well integrated.

At executive level, there are WhatsApp groups and Zoom calls between the six clubs and, it is widely presumed, between Woolwich, Liverpool and United as a trio. At ownership level, those three clubs connect through Stan Kroenke, Henry and Glazer. One source laughs when asked whether Abramovich has made an appearance in any of those Zoom meetings. Chelsea have Buck, the American lawyer who used to go shooting with Scudamore. Buck is “clubbable”, to borrow a word popular in those circles, in a way that some of his counterparts are not. Buck took a leading role in the Premier League’s audit and remuneration committee and he was the man who presented the idea of a £5 million whip round for Scudamore at a shareholders’ meeting when the executive was due to depart his role in November 2018.

Ferran Soriano, the Manchester City chief executive, attracts intrigue. Among the other five clubs, he is casually referred to as “the terrorist” of the group — not a disparaging label, they insist, but one that reflects some perceived rogue, outspoken tendencies when it comes to Premier League politics. Soriano is a great advocate of allowing the leading clubs to set up B teams to exist within the established English league structure, as in his native Spain, though the club’s support for that proposal predated his arrival.

Others, though, describe Soriano as a highly-skilled diplomatic and political operator, as he would surely have to be in order to run the City Football Group so smoothly and managing Pep Guardiola deftly while also satisfying his masters in Abu Dhabi. City are regarded as “slightly detached” from the other five.

One source makes an analogy from The Great Gatsby, saying that City are acutely aware that they would be seen as “West Egg” (i.e. new money) rather than “East Egg”. Soriano, therefore, chooses his battles and his moments carefully; his club certainly distanced themselves from the drawing up of “Project Big Picture”, but they liked many of the ideas within. They pride themselves on an innovative outlook and a willingness to look beyond English football’s traditional outlook. To some of the clubs outside the elite, this is terrifying. Among those within, it attracts curiosity and suspicion in almost equal measure.


Chelsea have been through that process, as the nouveau-riche club. If we are talking about old money vs new money, we can go back to 2003 when they were bought by Abramovich, who, according to the Woolwich vice-chairman David Dein at the time, “has parked his Russian tanks on the lawn and is firing £50 notes at us”.

There was deep suspicion from Chelsea towards the established elite — and vice-versa, particularly once they lured Peter Kenyon from Manchester United to take over as chief executive. One former United boardroom executive recalls the “intense shock” at Old Trafford. He says: “There was no player they could have signed that would have made a statement so big as it was to lure Peter away from us.” Chelsea were perceived as rogue upstarts but they played up to the mantle. Kenyon first upset the Football Association by attempting to lure England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson, as he had previously attempted to do at Old Trafford, and sources recall Jose Mourinho partially being appointed due to his “anti-establishment” rhetoric.

While Chelsea were aggressive in what they considered the love and war of the transfer market, pursuing Rio Ferdinand from United and Ashley Cole from Woolwich, the club started to work the football political spectrum more carefully. Buck, Abramovich’s long-serving lawyer, became a diplomatic presence, establishing influence on Premier League committees and he immediately organised a meeting with the Glazers after their takeover of United in 2005. Fearful United’s American owners may have aspirations to break away from the collective Premier League agreements over the distribution of television money, Buck wanted to reassert Chelsea’s commitment to the shared model.

As Chelsea were rising up, the last thing they needed was for United to pull away. David Barnard, the Chelsea club secretary, would later take a place on the FA’s International Committee. Kenyon, meanwhile, had forged strong relationships with UEFA while at United and had particularly strong links with clubs such as AC Milan, Atletico Madrid, Galatasaray and Barcelona. By the time Chelsea had reached a Champions League final in 2008, they felt empowered at the Premier League table but remained under threat in the European circle.

The Chelsea hierarchy felt that FFP was initially an attempt to curb the financial excesses of the Abramovich regime. By the time it came to fruition, at UEFA in 2011 and in the Premier League two years later, Abramovich was trying to move towards a more sustainable approach and, with Chelsea becoming more “East Egg” in outlook, the more obvious targets of any clampdown were City and, at a European level, Paris Saint-Germain.

A Chelsea source insists to this day that FFP “started as a plan to thwart Chelsea”. But there was a sense of paranoia about the primacy of United, Liverpool and Woolwich in the corridors of power at the Premier League and UEFA. “Chelsea felt marginal decisions went against them,” says one source close to the Big Six clubs. “Mourinho was convinced that Woolwich benefited from more home games than away games after Champions League midweeks. He used to make noises about David Dein’s involvement. He claimed Manchester United benefited from their close relationship with Sir Dave Richards (the former Premier League chairman). There was an imperative to join that club and be closer to those decisions.”

There was particular angst at Chelsea over the Mikel John Obi case, when they were ordered to pay Manchester United £12 million to compensate them for the Nigerian midfielder’s breach of the contract he had signed at Old Trafford. “Chelsea as a club felt hard done by over that,” a former Premier League club executive says. “I remember very clearly our perception at the time was that the Premier League was in United’s pocket. If you fast-forward to 2008 or 2009, it didn’t really feel like that anymore.”

Maybe it was a Mourinho thing. (And perhaps it says something about a spirit of collaboration, as well as his reputation, that there were figures at United and Tottenham who consulted the Chelsea hierarchy when it came to appointing him and getting tips on how to stay on his good side.) The former Chelsea manager has taken conspiracy theories with him to United, surely the most establishment club of all, and now to Tottenham, where, after recent refereeing decisions, he proclaimed that “I don’t feel Tottenham is respected according to what the club is. No respect”.

And yet, perhaps for the first time since Irving Scholar and Alan Sugar made them a serious player among the “Big Five” who led the Premier League breakaway in the early 1990s, Tottenham are commonly viewed as one of the elite once more. They were conspicuous by their absence from a “Big Five” meeting with the American businessman Stephen Ross at the Dorchester Hotel, London, in early 2016, when a proposed expansion to the International Champions Cup (ICC) was under discussion, but eight months later Daniel Levy, their executive chairman, was very much among the six who formed their own separate huddle to talk about the Chinese television rights deal.

Some put Tottenham’s elevated status down to American admiration — among owners and potential commercial partners alike — for their stadium and infrastructure as well as the consistency shown in becoming regular Champions League participants in recent years. Others are more inclined to put it down to Levy’s persistence and a feeling that “you would much rather have Daniel on your side than against you”.

Levy is an unusual among the big beasts of the Premier League in that, as well as being the club representative who speaks up at shareholder meetings, he negotiates transfers and much else. He has been part of this scene for just under two decades and, through his belligerent approach in the transfer market, has made enemies at just about every club at some stage. But he also commands a level of respect that others do not. It used to be Kenyon and then David Gill, his successor at United, who was the lead voice in the Premier League meetings. These days Levy’s voice is among the most persuasive, something the rest of the “Big Six” have slowly come to embrace.



So what next? “They’ll go away and work on another proposal,” says one source. “At any one time, there are various projects being worked on and various consultancies working on different proposals for how things should look in 10 or 20 years’ time. And you can be certain that, whatever comes next, whether it’s about Champions League expansion or changes to the Premier League, it’s going to be about getting more money and more influence for the biggest clubs.”

That same source raises a few interesting questions, though. “They seem to be working on the basis that there are these markets available and there are pots of money. But what if those pots of money don’t exist? They’re spending all this time and energy trying to chase something at the end of the rainbow. But what if the pot of gold is what is already right in front of them? We’ve got a Premier League that has grown and grown beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. Do they need to go chasing more? Might it not be counter-productive to jeopardise the Premier League’s unique selling point, its competitiveness, by increasing the divide between themselves and the rest? Might that actually do them more harm than good in the long term?”

Other proposals have been made or will be made: one led by the Conservative MP Damian Collins with the backing of the Football Supporters’ Federation, which has long pushed for a fan-driven approach to reform of English football governance; another led by a group including former FA chairman David Bernstein, the former Manchester United and England defender Gary Neville and Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester.

What is certain is that the “Big Six” will continue to push for more money, more power and more space in the calendar to play in other competitions, whether that means an expanded Champions League, an expanded Club World Cup or, quite feasibly, an extension of the International Champions Cup pre-season format run by Ross and his Relevent Sports business partner Charlie Stillitano, who has just about every leading Premier League club executive (and some of the managers, such as Mourinho and previously Sir Alex Ferguson) on speed dial.

The proposals in “Project Big Picture” included the suggestion of a gap in the schedule every five years for a major summer tournament. It also included a proposed abolition of the Community Shield. This would create the space for a bigger international pre-season tournament involving all the world’s leading clubs. One mantra among the biggest clubs, from Madrid to Munich, from Manchester to Milan, is a desire for more matches between the very biggest clubs. “This,” as one source puts it, “is where all major clubs align.” An expanded ICC tournament, potentially with UEFA’s backing and far more prize money, remains a genuine possibility and initial presentations were made to Europe’s elite clubs and the continent’s governing body earlier in the year. The competition organisers are confident of striking a deal but have also warned Europe’s top clubs that the funding will only continue to reign in if the competition is taken more seriously, featuring first-team players, a group stage, a knockout, a final and a trophy presentation. In short, it cannot be seen as a pre-season jolly. The ICC organisers see potential, particularly as there are also doubts over FIFA’s ability to fund a proposed Club World Cup.

The “Big Six” were willing to offer immediate financial assistance to EFL clubs, which have been hit so hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, in exchange for greater control of governance of English football in general and of the Premier League in particular. There are elements of their proposals that are certain to be watered down, or softened, but their priorities — more money, more power, more certainty of future revenue streams — have not changed one bit.

If there is one crucial thing the “Big Six” are perceived to lack, it is an ability to win friends and influence people among the other 14 clubs. The post-Gill regime at United, led by Woodward, is considered too aloof — or simply too preoccupied with wooing commercial partners or, more starkly at times, firefighting — to cultivate beneficial relationships among the lower Premier League clubs. When the bigger clubs have got their way, it has frequently been by scare tactics, warning what will happen to the Premier League if the biggest clubs decide to go all-in with Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Juventus and the rest and commit to the “Super League” concept that rears its ugly head every time the UEFA broadcast rights cycle comes up for renewal.

There was a time when all 20 Premier League club owners were on speaking terms, whether cordial or not. These days, with more diverse, far-flung ownership regimes, it is no longer such a priority to wine and dine the opposition directors on match days.

There is, also, a feeling that the Premier League centrally has lost an element of control over its elite clubs since the departure of former CEO Scudamore, who exited in November 2018. He made a significant concession during his last hard-fought round of television rights, granting a greater proportion of international television rights to the leading clubs, and some suspect he saw the landscape changing.

One source explains: “Scudamore was extremely astute, working his relationship with clubs, maintaining visibility at games in boardrooms. He had a touch and feel for where debate was heading. He might hunt with Buck but he’d be at a boardroom at Norwich or Reading on a Tuesday night, so everyone felt valued. You could see him at two games at different stadiums on the same Saturday. Scudamore ran a tight ship because he had the autonomy and respect of stakeholders after securing huge television deals. None of this is a criticism of the new CEO Masters, who inherited a unique set of circumstances, which nobody could have predicted. The big issue here is a changing broadcasting landscape. Scudamore was an amazing success in the Premier League with everything he did and he saw what was coming. He jumped at the right time. The famous New York meeting a few years caused huge shockwaves and Richard made the concession in the last rights’ deal. You could not get a bigger signal of where it was going. American owners are used to closed shops and less risk than they associate with European football.”

As relationships splinter, another executive suggests the men leading the biggest clubs are nothing like as “clubbable” as you might expect. Peter Moore, who recently left his position as Liverpool chief executive, was certainly not a mover or shaker in Premier League circles. Woodward is seen as more charismatic in some regards than Gill, but less persuasive. Woolwich have never adequately replaced Dein, who was so adept at the political side of things as well as well being a shrewd, well-connected football operator, but in terms of political influence nor have they replaced Gazidis, who is now at Milan. Vinai Venkatesham is still learning the ropes. For now, Woolwich, in a state of transition, are hanging onto the coat-tails of others, rather than being the driving force they were in Dein’s years.

“There have been a lot of changes at those clubs and there aren’t so many close relationships at boardroom level anymore,” one executive says. “Instead you end up with these awkward alliances between clubs who are rivals on the pitch but have roughly the same vision off it. They spend so much time talking to each other away from the rest of that you get the feeling it’s become a bit of an echo chamber. They want more money and they want more votes. Well how are they going to get that if they just go off in secret and come up with a plan that excludes the rest of us? It doesn’t work. This week has demonstrated that.”

And yet almost every significant development in the European football industry over the past two or three decades has served to widen the chasm in financial resources and outlook between the haves and the have-nots — or in the case of the Premier League, the haves and the have-lots. And still they want more. More money, more power, more certainty. They will always want more. That is the one thing they have in common.
 
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