Big Picture Project: Gone but Not Forgotten

Collective Premier League voice hits right notes, but songsheet is incomplete.

Big Picture Project shot through the echelons of English football, leaving a comet trail of burning embers lighting the flames of passion within stakeholders from owners, chairmen, fan groups, journalists, pundits and the head of the key football parties – FA, Premier League and the EFL. They got our attention – they didn’t get our compliance.

“Power grab” was the dominant phrase to appear from George Clarke as head of the FA. “Concentrating power in the hands of six billionaire owners” was how the Supporters’ Groups put it. “A damaging impact on the whole game” within the Premier League statement. These were the feelings leading to an expected tension amongst the 20 Premier League Chairmen meeting yesterday to discuss BPP.

The football world was not been naïve to the actions of the Big 6 in attempting to claim more power, to own future ground-breaking decisions that impact the football world going forwards. They sugar coated the process by offering large chunks of money that clearly swayed the 72 EFL Chairmen who were coming out in droves of support for the deal – you have to feel sorry for those clubs – they are desperate for that money.

The summary details of Project Big Picture appear to go some way to help drive sustainability for the EFL’s member clubs and this can only be a good thing for clubs’ long term growth and the communities in which they are based” Sharon Brittan, Bolton Chairwoman

“This is the most attractive solution for the EFL… It’s better than a loan from the Bank of England repayable over ten years or from an American hedge fund” Paul Scally, Gillingham Chairman

The statement from the Premier League following the meeting yesterday attempted to add clarity, by stating the Big Picture Project “will not be endorsed or pursued by the Premier League, or The FA”. This has not ultimately ruled out BPP occurring, there is not a definitive ‘NO’ from the Premier League – but there’s a statement that it will not be driven by themselves nor the FA. In other words, should Liverpool and Manchester United attempt a second wave, it could be pushed through a vote and succeed. However, there is a little more to digest:

“[All 20] Clubs will work collaboratively, in an open and transparent 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, of course, the EFL.”

This statement is reaction to the underhand shenanigans of the Big 6 in producing this proposal WITHOUT collaborative, open and transparent discussion. The only way – rightly – for the issues within football, EFL financial troubles, and systemic cycle of creating a division between the divisions, is for all the major stakeholders to work together. This is the statement form the Premier League yesterday.

The concerns – and they are very concerning – is… that is exactly what was supposed to be happening in the first place. The statement makes a suggestion that it’s been the Big 6 refusing to work collaboratively, but this isn’t the truth. The truth is the FA, Premier League and EFL have not reformed effectively or efficiently as the business of football has grown exponentially, and the lack of organic progress has resulted in cracks flowing through our foundations. No one individual or board ever took a reform seriously enough to implement the required changes.

It was 2001 when Lord Burns was tasked with an independent review of the FA and how football was run, and he delivered in huge detail the short falls of the games infrastructure from diversity, to representation of grassroots, and independent boards and reviews. In 2015, Greg Dyke left the FA trying to get through required reform to make the FA more effective and diverse – these changes did not occur and the archaic structure of our football system continued. These are not new problems – Covid has just escalated the need to address the imbalance.

The Premier League’s statement doesn’t make any progress to resolving any of the problems staring it in the face – just a push back on one option, and a continued acceptance that “it needs change”.

These are regularly the actions and statements of those in power just buying themselves more time to continue their lack of ingenuity. One decent act from yesterday’s meeting was the confirmed £50m ‘gift’ to the EFL to help cover the losses through Covid-19. This will quieten down the EFL Chairmen for a while, perhaps only a month – and this money doesn’t assist any of the Championship sides who will argue for far more to supplement their inflated wage bills.

We know the football family needs money. Desperately needs money. And needs fans back in the stands. We know the football community HAS money. We know we can afford to implement a new structure that does balance financial reward throughout the pyramid. We know that footballers DO NOT NEED £500k a week. We know home shirts DO NOT COST £70 to manufacture. We know away tickets DO NOT NEED to be £60+. There are solutions out there, and we need an independent body, one that is seeking to look out for the football fan, to be involved.

But the Big 6 are not going away, their power will grow with every passing season, and their power grab will return if we do not take action now.

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