Premier League clubs unanimously rejected the initial ‘Project Big Picture’ proposal on Wednesday 14th October 2020. The idea was devised by two clubs, Manchester United and Liverpool, which aimed at restructuring English football by bringing in the most transformative changes since the inception of the Premier League in 1992. The changes promise to bridge the gap between the top tier and the rest, but not the way everyone would like.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought much lower league clubs into financial difficulties. The plan was to provide a rescue package to these clubs in exchange of more power being handed over to the biggest clubs in top-flight. The plan proposed following major changes:
- Reduction in the number of clubs playing in the Premier League from 20 to 18 and scrapping of league cup & community shield.
- A change in the way broadcasting revenue is distributed by providing a greater share to the English Football League (EFL).
- One-time £250 million rescue package for EFL, and a one-off £100 million gift to the Football Association(FA) to be used for National leagues, Grassroots and Women’s game.
- 25% of Premier League annual revenue to go to EFL clubs with the scrapping of Parachute payments(money given to clubs when they are relegated).
- Funding for setting up a women’s league independent of the FA and Premier League.
- A cap of £20 on tickets to away games in the Premier League & subsidized travel for the supporters.
- Nine Premier League clubs (Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City, Everton, Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham United, Southampton) to be given special power over rule changes, broadcasting rights, and club takeovers.
The ‘Project Big Picture’ would provide an immediate injection of money to the clubs in EFL to recover from the damage caused to them by the COVID-19 pandemic. But for the Premier League, this means that the smaller clubs have no say in what happens, with the nine clubs holding all the power (especially the big six). Currently, Every club (Member) in the Premier League has One vote each and any change in the Premier League regulation or rules requires 14 votes out of 20 under the ‘One Member One Vote’ system. This would have changed dramatically under the new proposal.
“All 20 Premier League clubs today unanimously agreed the Premier League, or The FA. will not endorse or pursue that Project Big Picture” The Premier League said in a statement on Wednesday. “Further, Premier League Shareholders agreed to work together as a 20-club collective on a strategic plan for the future structures and financing of English football, consulting with all stakeholders to ensure a vibrant, competitive, and sustainable football pyramid. Clubs will work collaboratively, in an open process, focusing on competition structure, calendar, governance, and financial sustainability. This project has the full support of The FA and will include engagement with all relevant stakeholders including fans, Government, and the EFL.” said the statement.
The plans have been strongly condemned by the UK Government’s Department of Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS). A DCMS statement read “We are surprised and disappointed that at a time of crisis when we have urged the top tiers of professional football to come together and complete a deal to help lower league clubs there appear to be backroom deals being cooked up that would create a closed shop at the very top of the game.” The key thing is this is just the first proposal led by the two clubs and not the final proposal presented to the Premier League. So this proposal will act as a basis for negotiating terms like Financial package to EFL, Voting rights and share of Broadcasting revenues, etc. As things stand, the proposal requires drastic changes in the documents to be where it will be accepted, and the Premier League Clubs won’t accept it if it results in a concentration of powers in few hands. However, Football clubs in the lower leagues are desperate for a bailout policy and all parties may agree on a new proposal.