BY ANDREW MCSTEEN
Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish was a guest on Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football show – and branded the newly-formed European Super League “abhorrent” to all football fans.
Twelve clubs announced yesterday that they had agreed to join the new competition – with Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, both Manchester clubs and Tottenham the English entrants.
UEFA have threatened to throw those participating clubs out of their domestic leagues as well as barring players from representing the countries.
Steve Parish was speaking to presenter David Jones and pundits Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville.
Steve Parish: Well we all know it’s been brewing for a long time, don’t we? From the leaking of Project Big Picture, you know, the constant things that we deal with in the Premier League really, which are the attempts to load the dice.
We might look back on this though and think that this is actually quite a good day for football, or yesterday. Because what we’ve seen is people massively overplaying their hand, in my view. It’s quite strange because you know they were getting their own way on so many things I mean, not many people know I was sort of shouting in the wilderness about the fact that they were looking to get this coefficient through so that they can leapfrog teams in some instances.
Even next year in the Champions League, I don’t think people realise, but 30 per cent of the money will be awarded to teams based on their history of being in the league over the last few years.
So, they’ve been chipping away in the background, and they’ve actually been, by stealth, getting these things through, and it’s been very difficult sometimes to get people to pay attention because they’re quite remote, they’re in a few years’ time.
So it feels like yesterday at the moment was a bit of a gift. I don’t know what day they thought that anybody would react well to this or it would all be okay, but you know to unite Sadiq Khan, Boris Johnson, Emmanuelle Macron, Jurgen Klopp, every football fan in the country, you guys (Sky), every chairman other than the top six, every chief exec together on a Sunday afternoon is quite some talent.
I’m really, really encouraged by the outpouring from everybody and I think we may actually get into a very good place I hope after this.
David Jones: So right now as things stand are you quite confident that this will not happen?
Steve Parish: Well, this is Kerry Packer circus all over again. I can’t even imagine that they’re going to get five teams that will join them. So they’ll play in some quasi-friendly competition, with all of their players banned from playing internationals, with all the clubs banned from their leagues. You can’t say never, and that they might not be prepared to do it.
And then even then, I’m not sure that they quite understand where governments, stand in this. The Premier League is the jewel in the crown in many ways of England and Great Britain. It’s a fantastic outwardly-looking piece of soft power that we have around the world. I just don’t think the British Government are going to let that walk away. I don’t think other governments in Europe are going to allow these things to happen.
What about clubs like Ajax who are going to be permanently locked out of this thing?
Apparently, they spent six months thinking about this or even longer, it just strikes me as extraordinary the miscalculation of the public mood.
Jamie Carragher: Steve, these top six ‘mafia’, as we called them earlier in the show are getting criticised for being selfish, for looking after themselves. But the other 14 clubs in the Premier League a lot of them were asking for null and void last season, you’ve also not helped the EFL clubs, is that hypocritical when you criticise these top six clubs?
Steve Parish: Well I don’t think that’s true Jamie, we have helped the EFL clubs. In terms of ongoing support I think you’ll find the Premier League filter more money down into the lower leagues than any of the other major leagues in Europe. We certainly give far more money down to the lower leagues in solidarity (payments).
When I’m in the Premier League meetings I vote as if I wasn’t. I vote as one of the 72 clubs that aren’t in there because I know I might be back there in no time. I vote on the basis that I have a duty of care to the game, and that it could be Nottingham Forest, or Leeds when they weren’t in the league, or Aston Villa, who have won the Champions League, who are voting on these issues.
I encourage everybody in the league to do that and take their responsibilities seriously and not be bullied constantly by these guys. We represent the rest of the football pyramid because we’re not stupid enough to not understand that we might be back there.
We represent the fans and every single thing that we do in the Premier League is open to public scrutiny and that’s the way that it should be. We have enormous fan pressure because as you guys have quite rightly pointed out, this is all about the fans.
I’m a fan. This is my club I have supported since I was four years old. I’m involved in football because I think that there’s a dream, as naive as I might be, that one day we might play in Europe.
What is the point for all of us if that dream is taken away?
So looking back on some of the single issues. Yes, you know when the Co-Op are taking business rate relief and making £128 million in profit and we (Premier League) were uniquely being asked to bail out, totally, clubs in the Championship that had often been profligate in the way that they were running their business, notwithstanding that we did come up with help and we should come up with help, if you just look at that issue, which was debated, and we got to the right answer. Generally, we do get to the right answer.
Every single club, you’ve got to make sure they, firstly, don’t go out of business. You know if you guys don’t think that in some ways this is borne of the pressures of a pandemic, these big clubs have lost a lot of money, and the other side of this, we’ve got to look at a way of trying to connect the dots to bring us all back together. These clubs have lost a lot of money, and somebody’s turning up and saying that you can have a £350m pound cheque each, and that’s going to cure a lot of problems in these clubs who are hurting financially. In the end, we have to balance the books, somehow, and at some point.
We did help the lower leagues and we should continue to help the lower leagues because I might be back there in no time. So, of course, we need to support the football pyramid and I would never vote against a change to relegation. We understand the duty of care we have to the game in that league.
This is beyond the pale; this is incredible what’s going on. For these clubs to want to invent a tournament, based on an arbitrary period of history, to leapfrog clubs in Europe that have a much stronger history over a longer period of time, and just say ‘we’re the gilded elite and it will never change’ is abhorrent to every single football fan in this country and every single football fan around Europe.
Gary Neville: Steve, you’ve got a meeting with the 14 clubs tomorrow. What is on the agenda? What are you looking to achieve out of the meeting? Are you looking to punish these six clubs or put out an olive branch to them?
Steve Parish: Of course we want them back to the table. These are massive brands, they are very successful, some of them forever, most of them over recent periods. We need them in our league, the Champions League needs them as part of the Champions League. We have to find a way of understanding the issues that drove them to this.
But equally you have to be strong and the outpouring we’ve had against this does give us some strength now to talk to them and say ‘look, we are 14 clubs, we aren’t currently as big as you, we understand that, historically, some of the clubs here have been as big as you and there are clubs that aren’t even in the league right now that are even bigger than some of us, and you have to take us into account, and you have to take the whole of footballs views into account’.
Hopefully, UEFA are already working on it and hopefully we can find a resolution.
Gary Neville: The president of UEFA has described (Andrea) Agnelli and (Ed) Woodward as “snakes”, how would you describe them?
Parish: There are a lot of personal relationships that have been fractured by this, and that’s another thing that sometimes it’s difficult. There’s many meetings I’ve sat in and I’ve just said; ‘go on, just say what you want.’ You want us to keep going, keep doing research until it says what it is that you want; you want to sell your own games, that you want to do X, Y, Z’.
There is something that’s a little bit disingenuous about it, but we understand that people want to do the best for their business. We understand that people want to try and change things and we should be open to new ideas.
Gary, you’ve got a lot of new ideas and a lot of things that you want to suggest and you want to change. We can’t just shut everything down and not listen and within this there might be things that we can help these guys with, so we need to go back and we need to look at it.
Certainly, Nasser (bin Ghanim Al-Khelaifi) at PSG, and Bayern really do have to be applauded for the position that they’ve taken. It’s an incredibly strong position and I understand it’s a case at PSG through loyalty to his relationship with Mr Ceferin (UEFA president). So all power to those people that didn’t do it.
Sky: If the six are intent on going ahead with this as it as it seems like as we stand right now they are, would you as the other 14 have the power to expel them from the Premier League?
Parish: Well, we would need to talk about that and I would need to take the advice of the Premier League. I didn’t swallow the rulebook of the Premier League and I don’t know the powers.
Certainly, in the end, if they’ve got the authority to run off and start their own league and can cancel the agreement they’ve got with us then I’m sure the rest of us have got the authority to start our own one as well. But none of us want that. We’ve got to get round the table and we’ve got to try and find solutions.
Firstly, UEFA have got to find a solution, because in the end, right now, it’s not our league they’re walking away from. They don’t actually want to walk away from our league, they want to walk away from the Champions League. There’s a lot of things that can happen before we get to a point where we have to take those kind of sanctions.
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