Radz in The Times:
The Leeds United chairman Andrea Radrizzani has become the first Premier League owner to speak out about the attempts to revolutionise English football, branding the machinations behind Project Big Picture “a disgrace”.
Radrizzani, the Italian businessman who made his fortune from sports marketing before buying Leeds, pointed out that the owners of Liverpool and Manchester United who were behind the plan had already profited hugely from the Premier League.
He has also criticised the EFL chairman Rick Parry personally for becoming a key figure in the Project behind the clubs’ backs, for a plan that would have handed all the voting power and a huge increase in income to a handful of elite teams.
In his first media interview since Leeds opened their Premier League campaign after a 16-year absence, Radrizzani told The Times: “I believe what happened is really a disgrace, and for many reasons.
“I would like to remind the clubs that tried to do this via the back door and in a non-transparent way that the value of their clubs has grown significantly, perhaps four or five times their investment, since they bought thanks to the fantastic job of the Premier League executive and also thanks to the union of the clubs working together.
“The success of the Premier League is driven by this unity and the success of the clubs in working together, so if this is attacked and someone is trying to dismantle it we need to strongly defend it.
“If some clubs are not happy we should all discuss it and try to find why in a legitimate and transparent way.
“If the issue is the money we can sit down and see if we can get better value, there are opportunities to create better value in the international markets where the demand for football and the digitalisation of the market is giving more opportunity and more value. So why not find a solution where the top clubs can benefit from their brands in an international distribution of content?
“It doesn’t need to destabilise the league and the balance.
“The league is fantastic and very unpredictable and that’s what makes it different from many other leagues in Europe. It is the result of many years of togetherness and we need to defend these.”
Radrizzani questioned why Parry became involved with Project Big Picture when, as revealed by The Times, a £375 million offer from US investment company TPG for a 20 per cent stake in the EFL was on the table which would solve all its financial problems.
“More responsibility for this is with the chairman of the EFL who should not be engaging with the top clubs of another league, especially when it seems the [EFL] had the opportunity to engage with a commercial opportunity last week,” he added.
“Serie A recently received 11 offers from private equity firms. There are different models, an equity deal, a loan, a commercial partnership.
“There is definitely a change in the industry. Private equity and management support can help football past this difficult period.”
The Leeds owner said he was in favour of some reforms — he has previously advocated a two-tier Premier League, wants parachute payments to be reformed and accepts the fixture calendar is too congested — but that, as has been agreed by the Premier League, the review should be done transparently and with all the clubs involved.
“I’m in favour of the rich leagues helping the minor leagues, and I think there is also a need to change parachute payments, even if I go back into the Championship tomorrow,” said Radrizzani.
“If we look at the list of the owners in the Championship, probably 70 per cent are wealthy and in some cases even more wealthy than the owners of Premier League clubs. The Championship is closer to the Premier League than League One and Two and it makes sense to commercialise their rights along with the Premier League.”
He also spoke of his joy to have taken Leeds back to the top tier adding: “I miss my fans, but it’s great to be playing against big clubs and it’s a moment of pride for myself and the club.”
Radrizzani confirmed he is looking at investing in other clubs in southern Europe to form a group with Leeds at the pinnacle, but denied speculation emanating from Spain that this included La Liga side Valencia.
“I am exploring other opportunities at other clubs in the south of Europe but at the moment I am not close to any deal,” he said. “I haven’t discussed anything with Valencia, I know them well and have a very good friendship with them but I have not discussed this.”