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EFL chief Rick Parry accuses FA chairman Greg Clarke of instigating divisive Project Big Picture


He started it! EFL chief Rick Parry accuses FA chairman Greg Clarke of instigating divisive Project Big Picture with Manchester United and Liverpool

  • Rick Parry accused FA chairman Greg Clarke of instigating Project Big Picture
  • The EFL chief sent an email to the EFL board detailing his points on Thursday 
  • Clarke tried to distance himself from the divisive project earlier this week

Football’s bitter civil war escalated on Thursday with EFL chief Rick Parry accusing FA chairman Greg Clarke of instigating the divisive Project Big Picture.

In an email sent to his board, Parry claimed Clarke, along with Manchester United and Liverpool, had ‘initiated this process’ for a major reform of the sport, including radical proposals for a Premier League 2 and B teams in the EFL.

Clarke tried to distance himself from the project earlier this week, claiming he had walked away from the discussions several months ago and saying the FA could use their so-called golden share to block any fundamental restructure.

EFL chief Rick Parry has accused FA Chairman Greg Clarke of instigating Project Big Picture

EFL chief Rick Parry has accused FA Chairman Greg Clarke of instigating Project Big Picture

But the account by Parry paints a different picture.

Explaining his own involvement, Parry says Clarke invited him to a meeting in February with representatives of Liverpool, United and Chelsea to discuss proposals for a radical shake-up that was outlined in a discussion document  

Clarke had co-authored. Premier League chief executive Richard Masters was also invited but declined to go because he would not attend an informal meeting that did not involve all 20 clubs.

These latest revelations at the end of an extraordinary week will embarrass Clarke and the FA, although there is no appetite at Wembley for him to consider his position.

Three of the most senior administrators in the game are engaged in open conflict, with Clarke pitted against Parry while, as MailOnline revealed yesterday, the latter is also engaged in a war of words with his Premier League counterpart Gary Hoffman.

Clarke distanced himself project earlier this week claiming he had walked away from talks

Clarke distanced himself project earlier this week claiming he had walked away from talks

Parry’s email to the EFL board begins by stating he needs to clarify some points. ‘First of all, it was Greg who initiated this process,’ he writes, adding that he has attached details of a strategy document ‘that Greg produced’.

‘You’ll see that the document highlights the role that the major clubs should play in bringing about change given the alternatives that are open to them,’ he continues.

‘He also raises a number of contentious issues such as Premier League 2, B Teams and the exclusion of League One and League Two clubs from EPPP (the Elite Player Performance Plan).

‘For the avoidance of any doubt, this is not to say that Greg was personally in favour of these ideas, but that they warranted discussion.’

Parry concludes: ‘I made it clear from the outset that some of these were absolute non-starters from an EFL point of view and it is clear that they did not find their way into the Project Big Picture proposal.

‘They were firmly rejected by Liverpool and Manchester United, which does confirm their understanding of the importance of the pyramid.’

Clarke responded to Parry’s claims on Thursday by reiterating he had walked away from the discussions when the threat of a breakaway league was mooted and insisted that his involvement was cleared by FA chief executive Mark Bullingham.

Parry is also engaged in a war of words with his Premier League counterpart Gary Hoffman

Parry is also engaged in a war of words with his Premier League counterpart Gary Hoffman

‘I was part of early discussions which involved a number of Premier League clubs, with the knowledge of senior FA members,’ Clarke said.

‘It is an important part of my job to work together with key stakeholders across the game to discuss and evaluate potential improvements to the structure of English football that would have a positive long-term effect at every level of the game.

‘The paper captures a summary of what areas and issues were discussed at an early meeting.

‘I encouraged Premier League and EFL involvement in these discussions for greater transparency across the game.

‘The EFL joined but the Premier League had an interim chair at the time and the acting CEO made the decision not to attend, which is understandable given the outbreak of Covid-19 and their focus on league matters.

‘As the discussions progressed I and others were unhappy with the direction of travel in terms of major redistribution of money and power to bigger clubs and the mooting of a breakaway. I confirmed earlier this week that at this point I made the decision to discontinue my involvement.’

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