The appearance of Manchester United and Liverpool’s Project Big Picture has shocked the football world this week.
Plans threatening to completely change the entire landscape of English football have met with numerous doubts – EFL clubs are divided over whether to support the plans – and anger.
But who are the men trying to implement change at the top of the game? Here, we look at who the key players in Sportsmail are, what their role is, and what they will leave out …
Controversial Project Big Picture has sent shock waves across English football this week
John W. Henry – Liverpool owner
Let’s start with the man who is said to have come up with this idea in the first place. John W. Henry, chairman of Fenway Sports Group, which has owned Liverpool since October 2010.
He also owns the Boston Red Sox and has led Liverpool to all of their recent Champions League and Premier League victories. Needless to say he and his co-owners are eager to get more wealth at the top of the game.
Henry set up the meeting in Boston, which set up the ball rolling, and an idea he had relied on for years paid off. With Joel Glaser and Rick Barry – and more about them later – plans have been drawn up and now they are at the point where they want to move forward with their project.
Liverpool, so Henry, will be the biggest beneficiaries of the plans. This will give them more opportunities to play in the expanded Champions League, which will ultimately – and most importantly – significantly increase the club’s wealth.
John W. Henry was a key player who first brought this idea back to the table in 2017
Joel Glaser – Manchester United owner
Like Henry, Joel Glaser’s reasons for getting involved in this project are purely financial. Unlike Henry, United’s recent appearances on the pitch are desirable, and the chance to strengthen United’s place among the big players in the Premier League is a big draw.
The Glaser family acquired part-ownership of Manchester United in March 2003, with Joel and Brian on the board of directors by June 2005 and the acquisition was complete. They have overseen incredible success since then, but it is fair to say that in the last few years – after Sir Alex Ferguson – there has been a steady decline.
Glaser was in talks with Henry and Barry from the beginning, and was one of those who really pushed the project to get the big picture. Like Liverpool, United will benefit financially and will have the opportunity to play more games in the extended Champions League.
Joel Glaser (left) presented big plans with his rival in Liverpool
Rick Barry – EFL President
The current EFL chairman has been in talks since the beginning, first meeting with Glaser and Henry in the United States to discuss initial plans. Over the past few days he has become the face of the project, speaking in several high-profile interviews.
Although he currently has no affiliation with the Premier League, he was heavily involved in its formation in 1992 and was its first CEO. During his tenure he was awarded the biggest television contract in the history of English sports, and later he was the CEO of his childhood club Liverpool.
Now in the EFL, Barry has a preferred interest in projects because it affects his membership clubs. He is keen to find a way out of the corona virus infection and many EFL pages are close to oblivion and none of the fans can return to their level.
Rick Barry is currently the EFL President, but has played well in the Premier League and Liverpool.
Greg Clark – FA President
Although Greg Clark has played only a very small role in the operations so far, what he says will become even more important. As chairman of the FA, he was reportedly intimate with discussions of the project on a small scale.
It has now emerged that the FA – therefore, Clark – holds all the cards through their ‘Golden Share’ so they can block any project if they feel the need. They were given that power during negotiations at the start of the Premier League in 1991.
The FA has not yet exercised its right in the 29-season history of the Premier League … but it would be nice now if they were worried about plans to turn the landscape of English football in a negative way.
Greg Clark and FA ‘Golden Share’ may thwart Glaser, Henry and Barry’s plan
Oliver Dowden – Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sports
One of the most talked about men against the project is Oliver Dow, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sports, so basically a government spokesman on the issue.
He has come out strongly against the plans, which he calls a ‘backroom deal’, and warns that the government could begin fan-led review activities.
There are also questions about the impact of the corona virus epidemic on the game, and Dodan has warned that he will only step in if he fails to reach an agreement on how the Premier League and EFL can proceed.
For now, he will not engage with Dow, but he will be very careful about where the negotiations go to see if he should step down.
Oliver Down has already spoken out against Project Big Pixar, and much more
Richard Masters – Chief Executive of the Premier League
Leave a thought about Premier League chief executive Richard Masters, who has a flat road ahead of him. Since taking charge in November, he has had to operate the ship via the Corona virus epidemic and the failed Newcastle United acquisition … now it is.
He has not yet been in talks, but this week is set to be the most gruesome meeting between the 20 clubs.
He works to prevent a brutal civil war between his 20-member clubs, while at the same time trying to get rid of the remaining epidemics and return fans to the stadium while government rules allow.
Richard has made an incredibly difficult start to his career as CEO of the Masters Premier League