David Gill, CEO Manchester United
Why would Manchester United's CEO, David Gill, want to build bridges with England Football's governing body, the FA?
A British Parliamentary report into the way football is run has stressed the need to address financial stability and levels of debt in the game. Based on influence and financial power, this must mainly involve the Premier League.
Not surprisingly, Gill has defended Manchester United's finances and transfers. Here are five possible reasons for him to defend the FA.
Unlike Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City, United have a board member at the FA. The only other Premier League members are Sir David Richards (Premier League Chair) and Phil Gartside (Bolton Wanderers).
While Gill is in a position to support United's case, he has good reasons to do so:
The Parliamentary report could be as much addressed to United as any Premier League club with their $700 million debt following the Glazer's leveraged takeover. Gill rightly draws attention to the club's strong commercial and financial success. Forbes recently calculated that United were the most valuable football club in the world.
But United need the FA to support the case for their long term viability. And the FA needs support having come under fire from many sides recently, including FIFA and also by MPs.
Gill has also recently gone on record as saying that United have been harshly treated by the FA. He certainly felt Wayne Rooney's suspension for swearing into a camera was disproportionate. And Sir Alex Ferguson was more punished by the FA last season than ever before.
President of UEFA Michel Platini
As an FA Board member, Gill must be seen to be impartial. So his defence of the FA at the same time as he addresses the financial concerns raised by MPs is a canny tactic.
Gill supports Michel Platini's proposed Financial Fair Play rules, requiring clubs playing in Europe to break even, saying "The benefits it will bring are apparent to me and it would be useful if people embraced it." He has also distanced himself from implied criticism of other clubs and for example the structure of City's recent deal with Etihad.
By seeming to be reasonable he—and United—may be seen as the good guys when UEFA runs the rule over such deals and Premiership clubs in 2012.
The UK Parliament and UEFA share a concern over the viability of some Premier League clubs. The FA will be the medium through which financial changes to English football will be driven.
FA Chairman David Bernstein and Fabio Capello
David Gill is arguably the most professional and experienced CEO in British football. When he speaks, people listen. He was invited to give evidence to the Parliamentary Committee that produced the recent report.
While Gill and United are only one voice in 20 on the Board of the Premier League, Gill is one of only two Premiership representatives on the FA Board.
This is not to suggest that he would ever abuse such an influential position. But sounding the voice of reason on behalf of the FA does no harm to whatever future agenda United may have, including if their financial basis comes under fire.
The Glazer Boys
In 2009, Phil Gartside, Chairman of Bolton Wanderers, the only other Premier League club represented on the FA Board, proposed a new structure for the Premiership. It would be divided into two leagues of 18 teams, with Celtic and Rangers being invited to join from Scotland.
While those proposals weren't accepted, the rich clubs in Europe are getting richer, and they want more power over their own fortunes.
David Gill is a man of power and influence. He is the Glazers' appointed figurehead at United, having been a director for 14 years and CEO for 10. He is widely respected in European football. With the growing number of wealthy owners and Chairman directed clubs, he probably has as much power as anyone else in his position.
He was also vice-Chairman of G-14 of European clubs which until 2008 represented European club football. Other members were Barcelona and Real Madrid, with Liverpool the only other British club.
Expanded to 18 clubs before its demise, it seems likely that this group continues to dominate the behind the scenes moves to establish a European Super League at some stage. Milan led the last serious move and UEFA responded by giving more Champions League places to the top leagues.
In 2009, it was assumed that any such league would include: Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal, Internazionale, AC Milan, Juventus,Bayern Munich, Lyons, Porto, Celtic, Rangers, Olympiakos.
The most notable absentee from this list is Manchester City.
Sir Alex Ferguson and David Gill
The latest rumour is that Sir Alex Ferguson will retire in three years time. Having won a record 19th title for United, a fourth European Champions trophy might also be a trigger point.
What would Gill do if Sir Alex retired? The Glazers would almost certainly want him to help bridge the adaptation to a new manager. While he has worked in close partnership with Sir Alex, the owners might like him to curb the worst excesses of a new manager during a bedding in period.
Alternatively, he may wish to move on himself. Two very possible positions if he wanted them, could be Chairman of the Premier League or of the FA. And the latter would be a good reason for him to speak in favour of the FA going forward.
The FA has come under criticism from a number of quarters in recent years—especially recent Chief Executives. While the latter post is well-paid, Gill is well qualified for, and might well prefer, the power of the Chairman's position.
Whatever the reasons for Gill's public support for the FA last week, it will have done neither his nor Manchester United's prospects any harm in both English and European football and their governance.