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Greg Clarke 'under pressure amid inconsistencies over his role in Project Big Picture talks'


Greg Clarke ‘under pressure amid inconsistencies over his role in Project Big Picture talks’ after FA chairman ‘initiated the process in January in talks with Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck’, despite trying to distance himself from it this month

  • Greg Clarke ‘discontinued his involvement’ in Project Big Picture in late spring 
  • But Clarke reportedly instigated the whole process with a meeting in January
  • The FA chairman met Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck, who then invited execs from Manchester United, Liverpool and the EFL to discuss the radical plans
  • EFL chief Rick Parry last week stated that Clarke instigated Project Big Picture 

FA chairman Greg Clarke is under pressure to reveal his full involvement in the Project Big Picture proposals after he reportedly initiated the process with Chelsea chief Bruce Buck in January. 

Two days after the proposals were leaked to The Telegraph, Clarke was highly critical of the plans to reshape English football, revealing he ‘discontinued his involvement’ in late spring ‘when the principal aim of these discussions became the concentration of power and wealth in the hands of a few clubs with a breakaway league mooted as a threat.’

But The Guardian are now reporting that Clarke initiated the whole process back in January, in a meeting with Buck who later invited Ed Woodward, John Henry and Rick Parry who are the leading execs at Manchester United, Liverpool and the EFL respectively. 

FA chairman Greg Clarke is under pressure to clarify his full involvement in Project Big Picture

FA chairman Greg Clarke is under pressure to clarify his full involvement in Project Big Picture

Clarke reportedly met Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck to first discuss the proposals in January

Clarke reportedly met Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck to first discuss the proposals in January

The report states that the FA chairman is understood to have attended every meeting held between February and May 19, the date of the last meeting. 

It adds that Clarke said in a document written in March that the coronavirus crisis, as well as the threat of a European club breakaway, ‘offers an opportunity to reshape English football.’

By the end of April, the proposals were said to be very similar to the ones eventually leaked on October 11.  

Last week, Parry accused Clarke of instigating the divisive Project Big Picture, which included radical proposals for a Premier League 2 and B teams in the EFL. 

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.  

Parry’s email to the EFL board last week begun 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.’

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

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

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 last 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. 

‘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.

Clarke repeated he walked away from talks when the threat of a breakaway league was mooted

Clarke repeated he walked away from talks when the threat of a breakaway league was mooted

‘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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