Since the conception of the Premier League in 1992, it has become the most watched and lucrative football league in the world. With the influx of money and foreign talent, the gulf between the top tier of English football and the rest of the football pyramid became became wider, yeast after year and this has now be exacerbated by the Coronavirus pandemic.
Lower league teams rely on fans to attend games in order to maintain finances as they do not get as big a payout as the premier league and they championship teams do. With Covid hitting lower league football hard, a lot of teams are now in danger of not existing and this is a problem that has been continuously ignored for along time and even pre-COVID, Bury were the latest team to disappear and Bolton Wanderers who were a premiership team not long ago were also on the verge.
In comes Project Big Picture. The details have been recently leaked but it doesn’t take a genius to see that these leaks were intentional to gauge the reaction of the footballing world.
Lead by Liverpool owners, the Fenway Sports Group, Project Big Picture is a reform proposal for the whole English football pyramid. This has been backed by Manchester United. The aim for the reform was to finally solve the financial issues plaguing the lower league teams but this now seems to come at a cost as the big 6 clubs are asking for a majority vote over the rest of the Premier League teams which can also include blocking any potential takeovers which is incredibly problematic.
WHAT ARE THE MAIN CHANGES?
Here are the key points:
- The Premier League would be reduced from 20 to 18 clubs.
- The EFL Cup and the Community Shield would be scrapped.
- Current one-club one-vote principle would be abolished, as would rule that 14 clubs out of the current 20 need to agree on policy.
- Power would be in the nine clubs that have remained in the Premier League longest (Arsenal, Chelsea, Everton, Liverpool, Man Utd, Man City, Southampton, Tottenham, West Ham).
- Only six of the nine longest-serving clubs need to vote for major change.
- A £250m payment up front to the EFL, plus £100m payment to the Football Association.
- 25 per cent of Premier League annual revenue (up from four per cent) would go to the EFL clubs.
WHOS IN SUPPORT?
So Liverpool and Manchester United are obviously at the forefront but former PL chief and current EFL chief Rick Parry has already signed off on it and given his endorsement. The Premier League have been disappointed by his backing but his support is not surprising considering he is looking out for the EFL clubs and with this reform, the EFL clubs get an instant £250 million and 25% of future premier league annual revenue.
There’s not doubt that this will help the EFL teams in the short term but question marks are still rife for what this will mean for EFL finances in the long term. There’s not much confidence that this can stop another Bury from happening.
WHAT ARE THE OTHER CHANGES?
There are a lot more deeper changes than the above. Subsidised Premier League away travel, away sections of at least 3,000 (or eight per cent of capacity) and a £20 cap on away tickets will delight some fans, as will the idea of safe-standing sections (subject to government permission).
There’s also the plan to put a greater emphasis on merit for position finishes in the Premier League, with more prize money than usual awarded for finishing higher up the table. The footballing calendar would also be organised with the focus of avoiding fixture pile-ups and to help the England national team.
The women’s professional league would also go independent, away from the Premier League and FA.
Among the most contentious are reducing the Premier League to 18 teams, with the club finishing 16th in the Premier League joining a play-off with Championship teams in third, fourth and fifth. The EFL Cup and Community Shield would also be discontinued.
In terms of media, all Premier League clubs could sell eight live matches a season directly to fans from their own channels.
There’s also the issue of given only 6 teams the power over the rest of the premier league. As is it stands, the PL operates a 1 vote per club policy so it is a lot more democratic. With the new changes, just 6 teams will have the power to stop take overs, transfers and more. You can see how this power can be abused to keep the big 6 teams at the top.
WHOS SPOKEN OUT AGAINST?
Boris Johnsons spokesman has already come out to essentially confirm the PM is against the proposals and the Premier League have also issued a statement against this.
The next step will most likely be a PR offensive from those in support to convince fans that this is the best move to safeguard the future of EFL clubs and English footballs stature as world leader in the sport.
A Premier League shareholders’ meeting is scheduled for this week and while a bailout for the EFL clubs was due to be one of the key subjects on the agenda, the issue is now likely to dominate along with reaction to the Big Picture proposal.
Only time will tell but fans should definitely keep an eye on this going forward