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.

Big Picture Project: For The Many, Not The Few

Episode Four: United Kingdom unanimous in rebuking indecent proposal.

Today the Premier League Clubs collectively meet at 11am to “discuss” the Big Picture Project put forward by Liverpool and Man Utd on behalf of the Big 6 [Arsenal, Chelsea, Man City and Spurs the remaining 4]. I say “discuss” because… this is tantamount to civil war.

The exact stance of all Premier League teams is yet to be deciphered, and expect that everyone will keep their cards close to their chest to avoid any public indignation. The fact that the Supporters’ Groups representing the Big 6 have released a joint statement condemning the proposals means every single step now is fragile – except for Joel Glazar, as most Man Utd fans already despise him and the owners. The statement read:

“By floating this latest plan, those behind it are acknowledging football needs to be reformed. It’s something we have been saying for many years. There are some suggestions in this plan that have merit.

But we are totally opposed to concentrating power in the hands of six billionaire owners and departing from the one club, one vote and collective ethos of the Premier League.

This part of the proposal must be dropped immediately if other elements are to be given serious consideration.”

The Supporters’ Groups have correctly recognised the need for reform in their statement, not running away from the issues threatening the foundations of our beautiful game but have addressed the most important proposal from the BPP Team : ONE CLUB, ONE VOTE, COLLECTIVE ETHOS.

That ‘Collective Ethos’ is being threatened by the break-away Big 6, trying to lure the Middle 3 of Everton, West Ham and Southampton, and to dominate the Bottom 100,000 – all the other teams that make up the dozens and dozens of competitive leagues supported by the FA.

West Ham United, named within the announcement of the Big Picture Project, have suitably distanced themselves from the action, placing a metaphorical running track between their name and this absurd claim for power. It’s an impressive move to make a stand by West Ham, given their financial and fan instability. They’re acting like a genuine football institution, to protect and unite all football and not just abandon its roots for a quick buck. Very unlike the reputation of the West Ham owners.

But for all of this “discussion” due to take place at the virtual Premier League Headquarters, the fact remains that the EFL have stated they require a minimum £250m bail out due to Covid. The National League required a minimum £20m bail out in the absence of fans since October’s change of heart. The FA announced 120 redundancies, cancelled all vacancies and declared a £300m loss due to Covid-19. Imperative action is required, at a time we need to invest in change – change in racism, change in sexism, change in protecting vulnerable people, change in promoting diversity, change in progressing children’s football, reform across the whole country, across all playing abilities, across all boundaries.

The money is definitely available within football, the question is where, and how. No-one is forcing the billionaire owners to part with their “hard earned” cash, keep your oil / slave money – we don’t want it. What we want is the game in the hands of the fans.

We are the single highest contributor to the wealth of all football, through television rights, merchandising and gate receipts. The game is for us.

We should make the demands because we know what we want – kind of. We do rely on Premier League Chairmen to make the big decisions, but we trust that those decisions are fair for all. It’s a huge relief to see the response and outrage from fans, particularly the Big 6 Supporters’ Groups to denounce their faith in their own Clubs.

In the FA We Trust! FA Chairman Greg Clarke, not notorious for being a man of the people, said he walked away from BPP discussions in the Spring “when the principal aim of these discussions became the concentration of power and wealth in the hands of a few clubs with a breakaway league mooted as a threat”. The FA are in need of their own reforms certainly, but they’re attempting to complete these in the right manner and not willing to have their legs cut out from underneath them.

At a time when ignorance and naivety dominate our social feeds and national press with anti-vaxxers, anti-maskers, climate change denials, etc etc it’s a huge reassurance to see that us football fans have not been of such an ignorance, to see this as anything short of a power grab and way to manipulate all English football under the control of a select few individuals.

Unfortunately, and we’re yet to see the result of today’s initial discussions, I do not believe this to be the end of the story by some distance. The actions of the Big Picture Project were to cause disharmony and distrust and disturb the waters of the existing Premier League owners. Certain aspects of the proposal will be promoted, some abolished, some – like Special Voting Rights – will be fought for harder than any by the tyrant side. Have you seen the last 4 years of Brexit? This will be negotiation after negotiation after negotiation, with neither side really getting what they want. The lesson to be learned from Brexit is this… we don’t need to force negotiations with Fenway Sports Group and Joel Glazar – nor do we need to resolve these financial issues with the Premier League at all.

The FA and The Government should be doing far more to regulate and govern the sport, particularly at the highest level where billions and billions of pounds are spent effortlessly whilst parts of the country are scrambling around for survival in food banks. We do not need the supposed help of these foreign investors (chlorinated chicken) to be prosperous in a post Covid world. We are the United Kingdom, and we know how to run football without you.

Big Picture Project: Premier Cupset on the Cards

Episode Three: Domestic trophies require reformation not deforestation

You’re at school. You’re chatting to your best friend, almost all friends, about the hottest boy / girl in your year. It’s contagious, infectious, everyone is infatuated with them. They all want to be with them, but not everyone can. They – due to our matriarchy social system – can only be with one person – certainly at a time – but they appeal to everyone – boys and girls. Heck, you’re even competing with kids from other schools for their attention. The odds are just not in your favour, or anyone’s for that matter – and yet, everyone has a chance. She is the FA Cup. Not everyone can win her, but she appeals to everyone, we all want to win her.

She has a friend, she has many friends, of varying appeal, value and difficulty. That’s important for us. Some of us do not have the confidence or the appeal at this stage to compete for the hottest boy / girl in school. We don’t want to sit around forever just watching them date just the few popular kids in school. It’s especially not fair when the same popular kid has been out with all of the hot kids in school.

Let’s leave the school analogy before I am arrested. But the point remains. If you remove all the other children in the school, you have everyone competing over one trophy. In all seriousness, you have about 5% of students competing and the rest just lonely, passing the time, making up the numbers. If you remove the League Cup, what is left to play for? Where is the motivation to develop, improve, to win.

Footballers should start their careers looking to win, to achieve, to finish their career admiring the silverware in their cabinets. Football is not about dollar and pound signs, but it’s about glory. The more we consider the removal of domestic trophies, the less ambition we offer our players, and the more the whole game is fuelled to harvest and crop talent for the few clubs at the top.

There is a huge need to keep all the domestic trophies available, even for the biggest teams. The highlight image of Pep Guardiola and Phil Foden was intentional on three folds:

A: Pep Guardiola’s first English trophy was the League Cup, as it was for Jose Mourinho. This initial trophy helps breed success for Managers.

B: Phil Foden’s first final for Man City was in the League Cup, producing a Man of the Match performance, showing Pep and Gareth Southgate what can be achieved on the biggest stage.

C: There’s only three major domestic trophies available in England for Premier League sides, and yet a minimum of 6 teams that start the season seeking a trophy. Removing a trophy takes that progress and development away from a side seeking to break into the Big 6 – again re-iterating these changes are protecting the few not the many.

The concern for Premier League sides with the League Cup is that there’s far more at stake and far more to gain in each Premier League match than there is in reaching the Quarter-finals or Semi-finals of the League Cup. Recent history shows that since 2004 only once has the final been made up of two sides outside of the Big 6 – Swansea beating Bradford in 2013. In that period, a Big 6 side has reached the final 24 out of 32 times. It’s been won by a Big 6 side 14 out of 16. As much as those sides show their frustration at the fixture congestion, the tournament is still stacked heavily in their favour – especially the byes afforded to the teams that qualify for European football.

Perhaps a resolution to this conundrum, of playing too many meaningless games in football, is to reform the League Cup into two trophies. A Premier League Cup and a Football League Cup. This provides both tournaments with more competitive football rather than the current procession of which Big 6 team completes the annual rigmorale. By placing a Champions League place on the tournament, rather than a Europa League place, the motivation to win games will become more apparent too. The Football League Cup will offer more competitiveness and an opportunity to watch more footballers reach semi-finals and finals and see who stands out amongst the best of the rest. A radical incentive could be placing a Play-off place as the reward, an opportunity to play for Premier League football – and is that not the greatest incentive for a Championship side?

Either way, the removal of the League Cup is not a direct solution to any of the issues currently besieging English football. If anything, it’s another direct method for protecting the bigger teams, reducing the number of fixtures they’re required to feature in, and opening the door for more lucrative matches to be arranged either in friendlies, or within a break-away European tournament.

Project Big Picture: Loss of Shield leaves Community Defenceless

Episode Two: Attack of the Clones – Faceless corporate monsters of US Sport lead the way on revolutionising UK Football – for the better?

When you sit down and watch a good old fashioned story of good versus evil, the bad guys are so clear and obviously bad guys. They make their intentions clear, they discuss the way they’re going to go about their deceit and wicked plans, then they attempt to win over the general public to obtain enough momentum to get their way. In this instance, Project Big Picture have put themselves out there as the good guys, yet… there’s some very obvious tell tale signs that suggest otherwise. Most notably, without any consideration for the obvious losses, the statement provided ‘The Community Shield abolished’.

Are you for real? One innocent football match in a 365 day calendar. The Wembley curtain-raiser of English football, dating back to 1908 – over 100 years of history – ABOLISHED. When you think of good and evil… surely the abolishment of an English institution that opens the domestic season, puts the two best teams against each other, all in the guise of charity… surely only evil motives can make such a demand?

In this instance the proposals from Fenway Sports and Joel Glazer are not even being subtle in their pursuit of personal wealth and two fingers up at the little man. They’re openly closing doors to using their powers for good. Why should they be playing any football that they’re directly benefitting from financially? Do you know what they could be doing instead of one charity match per year (on the off chance you are one of two qualifying sides)? Oh of course…

This is the clear image – sign – message to all UK football fans that says… We don’t actually give a fuck about you, we’re just commercialising every moment of time that belongs to our football clubs. Play games for charity? Go fuck yourselves – there’s millions to make from international television and merchandising you peasants.

Losing the Community Shield is a power play from the BPP Team. No other nation has made such a suggestion, in fact in other leagues the curtain raising ‘Super Cup’ is actually a sought after trophy rather than a meaningless day out for the benefit of vulnerable people and those less privileged. English football fans mocked Jose Mourinho for celebrating the Community Shield as part of a ‘Treble’ because it’s always been viewed as a pre-season friendly to us, a glamourous run around to show off the new signings for the season, and get a little momentum before 3pm next Saturday.

Equally, this is a clever negotiating tactic from Team BPP. They don’t really care enough about a one-off game. Sure it would open the door to planning a more thorough pre-season tour of commercial venues, but it’s just one game. In truth, it’s been added as part of an ironic “Big Picture” negotiation. When the Premier League and FA decide to respond to the proposals, this will be a ‘defeat’ Team BPP are willing to take in return for ‘something else’. That something else will no doubt be of greater value to them.

There are pros and cons to the overall Big Picture Project, but the fact that Fenway Sports, Joel Glazer and the clubs that are supporting this proposal are able to use the Community Shield as such a pawn within the beautiful game, the home of football, is shameful and absurd. Who the hell are these guys anyway? They just happen to own a name, a business, a whole load of shares and millions of pounds. But one thing is for sure, and we need to make sure it stays that way… They don’t own the game.


Project Big Picture: Problematic Big Project Projects Big Problems

Episode One: Confusing to look at, confusing to understand, this headline has more clarity and less deceit than the proposal landing on desks this week.

There are so many issues to discuss within Project Big Picture it’s really difficult to know where to start! The infiltration of US Sport into the UK Economy, the potential European ‘break-away’, the EFL ‘care package’, the ‘cloak and dagger’ methodology, the shadiness of it all being discussed behind scenes to resolve an issue of multi-billionaires whilst the rest of the country – nee WORLD – struggles to build any form of economic growth at all. Say hello to the money hungry cunts in the Premier League.

Oops! I may have let slip some bias within my final statement there… let’s try that again… Let’s investigate Project Big Picture.

For the purpose of this article, I’m only going to focus on three areas: Parachute Payments & Rescue Funds as part one and Special Voting Rights as part two.

Parachute Payments and Rescue Funds
For me, this disinformation has been handled exceptionally. Its Goebbels level stuff. First, you push the economically unhealthy into a position of catastrophe, a situation so dire they are in need of emergency funding. Okay, so the Premier League did not instigate Covid-19 (or did they? No, no they didn’t) but they are now in a position of such extreme authority they will have wished it had been them. The EFL, the National League, Grassroots football – all in so much financial insecurity that it’s part expected each division from here to the end of time will lose at least one club to complete dust. They’re fucked.

It’s now time to dangle a carrot in front of the EFL and lower league clubs… “Hey guys, we have the EXACT money you need to be bailed out…” Coincidence? Pffft. Not likely. “…All you need to do is sign your life away this new agreement”. Oooh… History tells us anyone who declares such an ultimatum ONLY has your welfare to heart… it screams of being dirty. Then couple that up with another request they have. The EFL want to scrap Parachute Payments to relegated Premier League teams as it creates an unfair advantage for those teams within the EFL structure that skews fair competition for teams coming up the table. BINGO! Do you know why bingo? Because by scrapping those payments, the Premier League will save approximately £250m per year – the SAME figure being provided to the EFL as a “rescue package” – the same figure approximately as the 25% being promised to the EFL from future television rights deals.

The Premier League have attempted to come riding in on a white / black / colour-self-identifying horse to the rescue of the EFL, but underhandedly re-routing existing finances so they’re doing little to nothing to rescue them at all. KAPOW! That is some seriously effective military manoeuvring that can only come with the experience of extreme capitalism… oh hi there Fenway Sports Group and Joel Glazer! It’s no coincidence these capitalists are all over this proposal. And here’s why.

Special Voting Rights
The US economy, industry, education, national rifle association… so many of their bodies, positions of power, have been built to cyclically support and maintain power amongst themselves. There is little room to allow progression, growth and diversity. Their whole country (much like we are discovering about ours) is stemmed in an ‘Old Boys’ Club’ where the rich get richer and the poor inevitably die. In Sport particularly, the rich get richer, and the poor expend the majority of their earnings to follow their team just to have something to live for. Witness US Sports and you see a body of people who put their lives on the line AS FANS because it’s their religion.

The basis for being able to do this in US Sports, is franchise sports – no promotions or relegations, no player power due to salary caps, no fish outgunning the other due to shared merchandising revenue. The whole system is skewed to benefit the pockets of the owners and shareholders, and finding more opportunities to increase revenue – NOT improving the game. It’s a level of control that allows them to insist that Colin Kapaernick is banned from all NFL football for making a political stance – a stance that hurt their share value so they had to remove him.

Soccer has had these issues for a long time. G14 – the largest teams in Eurpoe – have been holding UEFA and FIFA to ransom for years, ensuring all “fair” sport is actually skewed in their favour. Group stages guarantee revenue. Two legged knockout rounds offer more reliability to the big teams. Seeded draws are to support the big teams. UEFA cannot move without G14 making demands. For years we have tried to negotiate with those teams to prevent a European break-away – a European Super League.

Project Big Picture is attempting to implement this within – not just the Premier League – but the whole football ladder and Football Association. They have demanded ‘Special Voting Rights’ for the Big 6 (Man Utd, Man City, Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham and Liverpool) plus long-term Premier League teams Everton, Southampton and West Ham. DIRTY FUCKING TACTICS. Why have they done this?!

Current Premier League rules dictate that decisions can only be made with a majority of 14 teams deciding on a matter. This number has not come about by chance – it’s the counter-weight to the Big 6 making decisions for themselves. Those in charge have considered the position of the additional three teams and waged that by including them in Special Voting Rights, they may be able to swing the vote their way. It’s a classic move by the mega elite to the middle man… If you look after the middle man just enough, they will follow the elite to avoid becoming the peasants. Consider this though… The Big 6 are looking after the Middle 3, not to fight off the remaining 11… Oh no… they’re fighting off the remaining 11 Premier League clubs, 72 EFL clubs, 48 National League clubs, and all Grassroots football. The mega rich Big 6 that own all domestic trophies already, are trying to own it all.

Liverpool telling Everton that it’s Newcastle United trying to steal their cookie.

With their improved Special Voting Rights, we may never get to debate these ideas again. We will not even be privy to a discussion having taken place. This week we saw a vote take place on whether to implement Pay-per-view Premier League football. In the future, post Big Picture Project, the Big 9 will be able to implement what they want, whenever they want. Do you know what that could lead to? How about franchise football? Moving Chelsea out of London because they can build a 120,000 seater stadium there – half the money – double the capacity – and the Midlands is missing a major football side.

The idea that the bigger more powerful members of the Premier League could suddenly have more power, and over the whole Football League, is not a situation that bodes well for the future of the beautiful game. The proposal has its benefits, there’s definitely some good in there – but it’s pitched against the ultimate bad – the potential for break-away football – and we need strong discipline and leadership to ensure we do not sign our life away for the sake of the short term money.

Football will find a way once Covid has gone. We will lose some football teams, we will bankrupt some businesses. But football belongs in the hands of the fans, and once the stadia and the bank accounts are gone – football itself will remain, and the passion for kicking a ball about will not disappear from the community. However if we follow blindly into the powerhouse’s ambitions – well fuck, we’ve already starting losing our soul within football – we’ll be signing it all over to the ‘rich, white man’ that has dominated all industry globally.