Project Big Picture: The Devil is in the Detail

The news that ‘Project Big Picture’ has been scrapped is undoubtedly music to the ears of anyone with the best interests of English football at heart.

This shameful Premier League power-grab led by Liverpool and Manchester United highlighted the underhanded nature of the owners of those clubs.

Aided and abetted by EFL chairman Rick Parry, whose position is now untenable, ‘Project Big Picture’ was a disgraceful attempt to hijack the sport in this country.

The fact that many EFL clubs believe that they were misled into supporting the proposals proves the unscrupulous nature of the individuals who formulated the plan.

The primary deception in the plan was a suggestion that the 72 EFL clubs would receive a quarter of all future Premier League revenues, or £750 million per year from 2022 onwards.

That figure is nearly double the amount that they currently split, but is based on an overstated estimate of Premier League revenues from overseas broadcast deals from 2022.

Andy Holt, chairman of League One club Accrington Stanley, believes that the people driving ‘Project Big Picture’ have behaved dishonestly.

“When you’re letting the Premier League clubs sell a load of games themselves in foreign markets, it’s clear the value of the rest of the games in the overseas deal will be diminished,” he said.

“This whole PBP stinks. The people who designed it claim they’re doing it for the good of the game, so why skulk around and plan in secret?

“If the intentions are honourable and they want to help, then why not be open and transparent from the start, tell people they’re going to make proposals – some of which will go down well and others won’t – and have an open conversation. The fact they didn’t speaks volumes.”

It is difficult to disagree with Holt’s views, particularly with the revelation that most EFL club owners hadn’t seen details of the proposal prior to its release.

Liverpool principal owner, John W Henry, and Man Utd executive vice-chairman, Ed Woodward, certainly don’t come out this current situation with much credit.

It’s a similar story with Parry, although in light of his previous connections with Liverpool, it is no surprise to see him in cahoots with the devil.

While ‘Project Big Picture’ has rightly been consigned to the dustbin, English football remains in need of reform.

A counter-proposal put forward by a group involving ex-United star Gary Neville and former FA chairman David Bernstein appears to have plenty of merit.

Their manifesto says that the ‘national game operates within a model that is fundamentally flawed’, a point demonstrated by the growing number of clubs who are struggling in the lower leagues.

Entitled ‘Saving the Beautiful Game – Manifesto for Change’, the group’s main proposals include:

  • Create a new regulatory body for football that is independent of the current structure of the game.
  • Decide on new ways of distributing funds to the wider game based on a funding formula and a fair levy payable by the Premier League.
  • Set up a new and comprehensive licensing system for the professional game.
  • Review causes of financial stress in the EFL, including parachute payments and salary caps.
  • Implement governance reforms at the FA which are essential to ensure it is truly independent, diverse and representative of English football today.
  • Liaise with supporters’ organisations.
  • Learn lessons from abroad and champion supporter involvement in the running of clubs.

In an interview with Sky Sports, Neville said that the group was created because its members don’t trust football to govern itself and agree the fairest deal for all.

“It has been proven over this past six months that football has struggled to bring everyone together and proven to be incapable over a 25-30-year period of transforming the money in the game into something that works for everybody,” he said.

“I want the best Premier League in the world, but I want sustainable football clubs. There is enough money in the game to be able to have an elite Premier League, a sustainable and competitive EFL, money passed down to non-league and grassroots and where fans can get a fair deal.

“That’s where an independent regulator, with that spirit at the heart of it, can come in and say ‘that’s not fair’.”

While Henry, Woodward, Parry and their cronies have proved that they cannot be trusted, Neville’s comments provide hope that a fairer financial structure in English football can be implemented.

However, it remains to be seen whether the usual self-interest from the biggest Premier League clubs prevents this from ever coming to fruition.