Circus ringmasters Rick Parry and Richard Masters show Project Big Picture 2.0 hand – and reveal HUGE danger to English game and Newcastle United takeover future

English football is a circus.

And while everyone is focused on the clown with the unicycle in the ring, the lions run amok, the canvas burns.

Greg Clarke stole the Digital, Culture, Media and Sports Committee show this week – no doubt a critically-acclaimed performance were it played out in 1950 – but let's not forget the words of the two other protagonists to take the stage in front of MPs – both of whom present a clear and present danger to the future of English football.

The Football Association may well have temporarily doused the racial, sexist and sexuality belittling flames, lit by Clarke, with a squirt flower, but the Premier League and the EFL need a bigger dose of reality. They need the London Fire Brigade on call to hose down and flush out Richard Masters and Rick Parry from their top six talking houses. Gary Hoffman will no doubt get drenched too.

SHANGHAI, CHINA - JULY 19: Richard Masters of Premier League speech during PPTV Press conference on July 19, 2019 in Shanghai, China. (Photo by Fred Lee/Getty Images for Premier League)

Play with fire, get burned.

The buzz, the colour, the vibrancy, the action. The flicker of red canvas in the wind, the towering tent tops, the rolling light action, stretching out into the clear night sky. Those lights dim, chased back to darkness, a lone drum roll starts. "Roll up! Roll up! Ladies and gentleman, children of all ages... the circus is about to start."

EFL chairman Parry is Project Big Picture's ringmaster – the public of face of the top six power grab. He paints a picture of Robin Hood, redistributing down from the rich to aid the begging bowl poor – but he is a compromised representative of those he is meant to champion.

Parry is pushing for power for those at the top – he is a former Liverpool CEO, fan and was the driving force behind the biggest breakaway in English football, the Premier League. Interesting, especially when breakaways and European Super League talk is all the rage.

'English football is a circus', according to our writer Liam Kennedy. (Pictured: Cirque d'Hiver's new show 'Dingue' on October 17, 2020 in Paris, France)

He's been involved in secret talks – by his own admission – to empower his beloved Reds, Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur with the tools to control the ambitions of the other 14 in the Premier League. The trade off – his justification – is clubs, those most in need, will be given their very own 'sugar-coated cyanide pill'. Take this small amount of 'bail out' cash now – money you would be due anyway in time – and make sure the top six can become Premier League power puppet masters.

Masters says he’s not been involved in these smokey backroom talks, Hoffman is yet to declare, while Clarke, who said PL chairman Hoffman was there, very definitely was.

When asked by the DCMS committee whether the 14 other Premier League clubs were aware of the reported ‘secret’ initial talks around Project Big Picture, prior to the leak to the press, Parry confirmed: “Not to my knowledge."

First tick in the definition of 'cartel behaviour' checklist.

ZURICH, SWITZERLAND - FEBRUARY 26: Greg Dyke (R), Chairman of the England Football Association talks to Rick Parry after the results of the first vote during the Extraordinary FIFA Congress at Hallenstadion on February 26, 2016 in Zurich, Switzerland. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

The definition of a cartel is when two or more firms enter into agreements to restrict the supply or fix the price of goods in a particular industry. A cartel is a formal type of collusion. Cartels are considered to be against the public interest.

Join. The. Dots.

When Parry was asked whether he thought the secretive nature of the talks could be deemed ‘sneaky’, he replied: "No. It is sensible to start with a small group (the top six clubs)."

Well, yes it would be Rick, if your overall aim is to ultimately shut out the rest until they absolutely have to agree – you know, when the weight of English football was pressing down on them, when delays to negotiations see clubs steeped in history and heritage dropping off the face of the map while the Premier League withholds the cash that would keep them afloat.

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 04: Richard Masters, Chief Executive of Premier League, addresses journalists during a media briefing on February 04, 2020 in London, England. (Photo by Alex Morton/Getty Images for Premier League)

We are not a million miles away from that point, by the way – it was revealed to the DCMS committee that 10 of the 72 clubs outside the Premier League, under the EFL and Parry’s wing, may not be able to pay their staff in full this month due to the lack of matchday and other revenues brought on by the elite football lockdown.

"Football evolves and is incredibly resilient," a self-assured Parry told the DCMS.

"The Premier League has been a phenomenal success story for English and world football but the time is overdue for a reset but I see no reason why we can't have a game that is sustainable and address the gap between the Premier League and Championship. I believe the Premier League will still exist and I have always been against the idea of a European Super League. I see no need for it. In 10 years time I think we will see an even healthier English game."

Masters says the review of governance in the Premier League has a deadline, but will now be an internal review, conducted with the voices of all 20 stakeholders heard.

"Clearly there are multiple plans in existence," said Masters, cutting a less than comfortable figure, the antithesis of Parry.

"We know change is coming in Europe and there has never been a stronger need for a clear plan for the whole of domestic football post pandemic. If we don't have a strong plan that we are unified around then someone else will write it for us and I don't think that's the right way forward."

The smoking out of Project Big Picture has, for now, pushed things more public, transparent and by the book.

Project Big Picture 2.0, which is undoubtedly coming, must focus on the things that matter most – keeping English football clubs alive and thriving, not harbour yet more hopes of long-term gain by those with a seat at a specially-selected table.

Closer to home, the Saudi-financed takeover bid for Newcastle United's biggest danger – with time and relegation – is a shifting of governance in the English game.

Owners with the power and resource such as PIF, PCP and the Reubens will no longer be allowed to stroll through the Premier League revolving door. They still might, but not without a shift in Premier League stance and powerbroker wishes.

Clarke – ultimately the unwelcome and unwieldy sideshow in all of this – was a dinosaur and must not be replaced by another prehistoric footballing fossil.

"Change is coming," said Masters to the DCMS – I'm not sure he meant within a day, or in this nature, mind. But more MUST follow.

Masters and Parry and Hoffman and more – the men we trust to keep our game fair and true – have set English football on a course that cannot be allowed to progress.

Greed rules the game – nowt new there, I suppose – and Project Big Picture stinks of it.

What gets lost in all of this is, the top clubs cannot exist without the rest. And there's enough food for EVERYONE to eat. While those at the top table gorge, the paupers starve. Everything changes, most things stay the same.

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