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Premier league split widening

'Project Sabotage' a real issue

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OBJECTIONS: Aston Villa CEO Christian Purslow. Photo: Mike Egerton/PA Wire

OBJECTIONS: Aston Villa CEO Christian Purslow. Photo: Mike Egerton/PA Wire

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OBJECTIONS: Aston Villa CEO Christian Purslow. Photo: Mike Egerton/PA Wire

The split in the Premier League has now become so pronounced that some figures have a name they share for the bottom six: 'Project Sabotage'.

It is said in jest, but there are more straight-faced questions about why exactly that bloc have taken the attitude they have. The feeling is they are objecting to absolutely everything, and not offering any alternatives, or pretty much anything else.

This is best indicated by the furore over neutral grounds.

It is seen as pointed that executives like Brighton's Paul Barber and Aston Villa's Christian Purslow have started to go public over this. They are still putting it out that they don't want to give up home advantage, and would prefer to finish the season under the same conditions, even though it has been stridently and repeatedly stressed to them that just isn't an option.

"The government have been clear," one source says. "It's the only way we get approval."

So, if there are no neutral stadiums, there's no football and - very likely - no international broadcasting income.

Those same TV contracts are also why scrapping relegation is "totally off the table", even though the bottom six say they would come right on board if that was the case.

This is one of the major sources of tension in this split, that is over the next few days likely to cause a lot of politicking.

On one side, there's the huge financial cost of dropping out of the Premier League. The bottom six do have some justifiable complaints about the unfairness of potentially losing so much money because they've lost more games on neutral grounds that were supposed to be at home.

On the other side, there's the greater financial cost of not playing the Premier League at all.

The fact much of the issue comes down to money has been one of the more distasteful aspects of this, but many naturally felt that was destined to happen. Just not quite like this.

Schism

A schism in English football was long seen as inevitable, but the current situation has been an inversion of the growing divide, and what was expected.

It is not the big six against the rest. It is, however, a product of that.

It is the bottom six against the rest precisely because of the upward drag created by the financial greed of the game - and the conditions that fostered a big six in the first place - and a competition they're all just desperate to stay in. The financial gap is now too great, especially at such a time as this.

That has led to a few more quips from those in the game. "They're all so desperate to play in the Premier League," one source said, "that they're willing to not play the Premier League at all."

That was again said in jest, but may yet become a genuine consequence of all this, especially if "the six" manage to get another clubs over to their side to prevent the majority of 14 required in any vote.

It should also be acknowledged that many sources stress the will of "all 20 clubs" is to get back playing. This is something figures like Barber and Purslow have similarly re-iterated in public.

That is also why the other 14 are puzzled by so many objections.

It gets to something when even government sources are saying that some of the potential Premier League protocols are so strict that, if they were generally applied to more everyday businesses across the country, "nothing would ever open".

The Premier League itself is in a tricky position. Their role - obviously - is to run a league, but they are also merely a mediating organising body between 20 shareholders. Their role in that is similarly to find a consensus. They'd prefer not to have a vote that has as many as six clubs playing in conditions against their will.

That consensus currently looks some way off.