The emergence of Manchester United and Liverpool’s Project Big Picture has sent shocks through the football world this week.
The plans, which threaten to completely change the entire landscape of English football, have been met with much skepticism – over splits with EFL clubs to support the proposals – and even more anger.
But who are the men trying to implement change at the top of the game? Here, Sportsmail takes a look at the key players for who they are, what their roles are and what they will do out of it…
Controversial project Big Picture has sent shocks in English football this week
John W. Henry – Liverpool owner
Let’s start with the man who is said to have come up with the idea in the first place. John W. Henry heads the Fenway Sports Group, which owns Liverpool since October 2010.
He also owns the Boston Red Sox and has topped Liverpool’s recent Champions League and Premier League success all through. Needless to say, he and his fellow owners have longed to secure more money at the top of the game.
Henry set up a meeting in Boston in which the ball rolling was set, giving the impression that he had been troubled for years. Plans were drawn up – with Joel Glazer and Rick Parry on them later, and are now at the stage where they want to move forward with their project.
Liverpool, and therefore Henry, would be huge beneficiaries of the plans. This would give him more opportunities to play the game in an extended Champions League and eventually – and most importantly – significantly increase the club’s wealth.
John W. Henry is one of the key players, bringing back the idea for the first time in 2017
Joel Glazer – Owner of Manchester United
Many of the reasons Henry, Joel Glazer were involved in the plan, are purely financial. Unlike Henry, however, United’s recent performances on the pitch have left much to be desired and the opportunity to consolidate United’s place among the big players in the Premier League is a big draw.
The Glazer family began ownership of their share of Manchester United in March 2003 and by June 2005 Joel and Bryan were on the board of directors and the acquisition was completed. He has had an incredible amount of success since then, but over the years – the Sir Alex Ferguson Post – it is fair to say that there has been a steady decline.
Glazer was involved in a conversation with Henry and Parry from the beginning and is among those pushing to get Project Big Picture in line. Like Liverpool, United will benefit financially and this will give them an opportunity to play more games in the extended Champions League.
Joel Glazer (left) teamed up with his rival to put forward huge plans in Liverpool
Rick Parry – EFL President
The current EFL president has been involved in the negotiations since the first meeting with Glazer and Henry in the US to discuss the initial plans. He has become the face of the project in the last few days, speaking in several high-profile interviews.
Although he currently has nothing to do with the Premier League, he was heavily involved in its formation in 1992 and was its first chief executive. He played the biggest TV deal in the history of UK sports during his time there, and has since also been the chief executive of his boyhood club Liverpool.
Now in the EFL, Parry’s plans have a vested interest as it will affect his member clubs. He is also eager to get out of the coronovirus pandemic, with many EFL sides close to oblivion able to return to their stadium without fanfare.
Rick Parry is currently the EFL Chief, but has held top jobs in the Premier League and Liverpool
Greg Clarke – FA President
Although Greg Clarke has so far only played a very small role in the proceedings, he may have the most important say. As the chairman of the FA, it is reported that he was private for project discussions at a modest level.
It is now revealed that the FA – and therefore, Clarke – hold all the cards with their ‘Golden Shares’, enabling them to block any scheme if they feel the need. He was given that power back during negotiations during the founding of the Premier League in 1991.
The FA has never exercised their authority in the entire 29-season history of the Premier League … but now may well be the time when they are worried about plans to change the landscape of English football in a negative way Huh.
Greg Clarke and FA’s ‘Golden Shares’ may be undone by Glazer, Henry and Parry’s plan
Oliver Dowden – Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sports
One of the more vocal men against the project, Oliver Dowden, is the secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sports, and therefore essentially the government’s spokesman on the issue.
He has come out strongly against the plans, calling it a ‘backroom deal’, and has warned that the government could launch a fan-led review into the proceedings.
There are also questions about the effect the coronavirus virus has on the game, and Dowden warns that he will move forward if the Premier League and the EFL fail to reach an agreement to move forward.
For now, Dowden will not be involved, but he will keep a close eye on how far the talks will go, whether he needs to step up.
Oliver Dowden has already spoken out against Project Big Picture and can say one more thing
Richard Masters – Premier League Chief Executive
Leave an idea for Premier League chief executive Richard Masters, who goes a long way ahead of him. Since assuming the helm in November, she has had to steer the ship through a coronovirus epidemic and a failed Newcastle United takeover … and now it.
He has not yet joined the talks, but this week will decide a very disconcerting meeting between the 20 clubs.
He is tasked with preventing a brutal civil war between his 20 member clubs, while trying to navigate through the rest of the epidemic and the withdrawal of fans as government regulations may soon begin.
Richard Masters has made an incredibly difficult start to life as the premier execution of the Premier League