A week is a long time in politics, but a week in the politics of football? Well, that’s another level altogether. First up there was ‘Project Big Picture’ which was roundly kicked into touch days later by the Premier League clubs.
The man with the plan, English Football League (EFL) Chairman Rick Parry, went on the offensive claiming it was the FA who instigated it all to begin with. This came after his Chief Executive threw in the towel, just four months after taking the job on. Oh and the EFL rejected a £50m bailout from the top teams.
Into the chaos rides Gary Neville and a eclectic bunch of household names, including Olympian Denise Lewis and former FA Chair David Bernstein, to present the media with their take on where we should go, with the publication of - to give it its full title - ‘Saving the Beautiful Game - Manifesto for Change’.
Take away the fact it sounds like a 6th form politics project, there’s a lot that makes sense. And, let’s be fair, Gary Neville doesn’t have to stick his head above the parapet, but he feels compelled. Or as he says, “It has been proven over the last six months that football has struggled to bring everyone together and proven to be incapable over a 25-30 year period of transforming the money in the game into something that works for everybody. I want the best Premier League in the world, but I want sustainable football clubs.”
He’s calling for independent regulation of the English game, and a new way of distributing funds to the wider game, based on a fair levy payable by the Premier League. Both very commendable ideas. But will football listen? Are the powers that be really going to allow themselves to be independently audited after years of running the show themselves?
So much uncertainty surrounds the game and how it’s run right now. But here’s what’s crystal clear - the natives are restless. Covid has changed the world we live in. Nothing remains untouched. And that includes football. Gary Neville’s plans are not a response to ‘Project Big Picture’, this wasn’t cooked up overnight.
He’s seen a real opportunity for change. And that’s the other thing that’s become crystal clear in this long week of political football - change is gonna come.