The chief executive of the Premier League and chairman of the EFL will be grilled by MPs today, who want to know how they have let clubs in the lower leagues of English football reach the very brink of extinction.
Richard Masters and Rick Parry are up before the Department of Culture Media and Sport Select Committee after failing to agree a rescue plan for EFL clubs that have been financially crippled by the coronavirus pandemic.
It is more than eight months since the pandemic gripped Britain and there is still no agreed package for struggling Championship, League One and Two clubs that are heavily dependent on match day income, which has been curtailed.
The Premier League has failed to agree a rescue plan for EFL clubs facing financial crisis
Rick Parry, chairman of the EFL ( left) and the Premier League’s chief executive Richard Masters (right) will appear before MPs on the DCMS Select Committee tomorrow
The MPs will have an hour to quiz the Premier League’s Richard Masters and EFL’s Rick Parry and they then have a separate session with the chairman of the Football Association, Greg Clarke.
Sportsmail has spoken to fans, MPs and experts and asked them what they would put to the trio who run English football.
‘I would ask Rick Parry, ‘are you not ashamed you allowed the game into such a precarious state in the first place?’ said MP Ian Mearns, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Football Supporters.
Chairman of the DCMS select committee Julian Knight has called in Parry and Masters
10 QUESTIONS MPS SHOULD PUT TO THE PREMIER LEAGUE’S RICHARD MASTERS AND EFL’S RICK PARRY
Sportsmail has canvassed the opinion of football fans, clubs and experts to identify 10 questions MPs should put to Richard Msters and Rick Parry, when they appear before the DCMS Select Committee today.
1.Is it acceptable that eight months after the COVID-19 pandemic gripped Britain, there is still no agreed rescue package for EFL clubs, some of which have been pushed to the brink of extinction?
2.What is the point of the Premier League offering financially-crippled EFL League One and Two clubs loans, which they can’t pay back? Why not offer them £50m in grants and solve the problem?
3.Does the Premier League finally accept that a rescue package for EFL clubs has to be without strings attached, or seeking commitments to long-term changes, like those in Project Big Picture?
4.Do you agree the Premier League depends on the EFL for players and competition and the top tier has a duty to look after the English league right down the football pyramid?
5.Is football incapable of governing itself? When faced with its biggest-ever crisis, the response has not been to help, but to plot how to further vested interests.
6.Why did the EFL reject the private equity offer from TPG Capital for £300m without putting it to the clubs? And what is the league’s view of using private equity to fund a bailout now?
7.What role did Greg Clarke play in the development of Project Big Picture?
8.What exactly are the agreed priorities of English football? Does the Premier League, FA and EFL have one set of aims for the National Game? And if so, what are they?
9.Do you support the Government’s commitment to undertake a fan-led review of football to help identify shared priorities and a sustainable structure for the national game?
10.Are you ashamed of the precarious situation EFL clubs find themselves in and the disastrous response of football to the Covid crisis, which has left clubs on the brink, allowed vested interests to pursue their own agendas and ripped off fans with a vastly overpriced pay-per-view scheme?
‘And it is clear the Premier League saw the Covid crisis, through PPV, as an opportunity to sweat the asset – the club’s fans – and they should be absolutely ashamed of that, too.’
The Premier League charged fans £14.95 to stream matches not included in broadcast packages, to the fury of fans who donated £300,000 to food banks, rather than pay the fee.
Meanwhile, the EFL is making life-saving loan payments to eight clubs and that is expected to be 20 by the end of the year, ibut there is still no rescue plan.
The Premier League has offered a mixture of loans and grants to support Leagues One and Two
The Covid crisis has highlighted the fact that the numbers just don’t add up for many lower league clubs, which were teetering near the brink even before fans were banned from grounds and their income dried up.
Few would disagree that what is needed is long-term is a restructuring of English football so wealth is shared a little more equitably and all clubs have the chance to survive.
However, the short-term crisis has to be dealt with first and while football authorities and clubs are adamant government must play a role, the Premier League will have to make a significant contribution to any package.
The EFL has introduced a £50m emergency loan fund for clubs on the edge of administration
Project Big Picture, the controversial power grab by the country’s biggest clubs led by the owners of Liverpool and Manchester United, tried to bring the short-term solution and long-term restructure together.
It tempted clubs in the lower leagues to accept their proposals by making a bail out conditional on accepting huge structural reforms that would have made the Big Six Premier League teams even more powerful.
The EFL clubs enthusiastically endorsed it only for the Premier League sides to turn it down, ultimately delaying any workable bailout and contributing to further delay.
Gary Neville is leading a ‘Manifesto for Change’ which seeks to restructure English football
‘The covid situation began in March, we are now six weeks from Christmas and government is expecting football to sort itself out and we are still waiting,’ said David Davies, former executive director of the FA.
‘Why is it so difficult to come up with an agreed response to Covid?’
Davies is part of a high-profile group called, ‘Saving the Beautiful Game – A Manifesto for Change’, that includes former Manchester United defender and now Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville and former FA chairman, David Bernstein, campaigning for independent regulation of football.
Clubs in England’s lower leagues have struggled financially, especially during the pandemic
The group believe there has been no coherent response to Covid because football is governed by competing interests, which have never agreed shared aims for the national game.
‘What are the agreed priorities of English football?’ asks Davies. ‘I would challenge them to give me their answers.
‘As someone who worked at the FA for 13 years, I never knew what the agreed priorities were and that is because there were not any.
‘And that has been brilliantly illustrated in Covid.’
Kevin Miles of the Football Supporters’ Association wants an regulator for the game
MORE QUESTIONS FOR PBP
Football finance expert, Kieran Maguire, would like MPs on the DCMS Select Committee to probe a little deeper into what EFL clubs were offered as part of Project Big Picture (PBP).
Maguire believes the figures put forward in PBP encouraged lower league clubs to support it, but he claims they are misleading and have muddied the waters around a short-term bailout for the EFL and longer-term reforms.
PBP offered clubs a bail out dependent upon accepting the overall proposals.
These included Premier League decisions would be made by nine “long-term shareholder” clubs with six carrying a majority, reducing the top tier to 18 clubs and providing the EFL with 25% of joint Premier League and EFL net TV revenues.
However, this looked – and was – too good to be true, says Maguire. He says that because PBP proposed Premier League clubs would play less matches and crucially, they could sell eight of their own games each season, the amount of shared broadcast income would be reduced.
‘Most owners think they would have got 25% of what is being paid out at the moment and that is what is being promoted,’ said Maguire, from the Centre for Sports Business at the University of Liverpool.
‘That does not make sense. If Manchester United and Liverpool are selling their own rights, they will make more money, but the EFL would only get 25% of the rights sold by the Premier League.’
And that is the fundamental point for Kevin Miles, chief executive of the Football Supporters’ Association.
He agrees with Davies that the long-term solution to football’s problems is independent regulation.
‘When faced with this crisis which threatens the existence of many clubs, the response of football’s top administrators is to huddle in back rooms with the biggest financial interests and come up with a plan to seize more power and more wealth for the Big Six.
Eight clubs are receiving life-support loans from the EFL to enable them to pay wages
‘In the same period the EFL commissioned a report into its own governance and refused to implement its recommendations [to appoint three independent directors].
‘Does all of this not amount to final proof that football cannot be trusted to regulate itself and independent regulation is now required?’
Meanwhile, EFL club chairmen are expected to discuss the latest offer of a rescue package from the Premier League when they meet later this week. It includes, £20m in grants, £30m in loans for League One and Two, with an undisclosed amount of money to support Championship clubs that cannot pay their own way.