Project Big Picture: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

The news that English football may be in for the biggest shake-up since the launch of the Premier League has caused an inevitable meltdown across various platforms.

‘Project Big Picture’ proposes numerous changes to the sport in England, including a reduction from 20 to 18 teams in the Premier League. Other key points include:

  • Scrapping the Carabao Cup and Community Shield.
  • Current one-club one-vote principle would be abolished, as would the rule that 14 clubs out of the current 20 need to agree on policy.
  • Power would be with nine ‘long-term shareholders’ – Arsenal, Chelsea, Everton, Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City, Southampton, Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United.
  • Only six of the nine longest-serving clubs need to vote for significant change.
  • A £250 million payment to the EFL and a £100m handout to the Football Association.
  • A quarter of Premier League annual revenue (up from four percent) would go to the EFL clubs.

We take a look at the proposal and assess the good, the bad and the downright ugly points contained within Project Big Picture.

The Good

While the proposal has sparked widespread anger across English football, it would be wrong to say that it doesn’t contain a handful of positive points.

The sharing of income with the lower leagues can only be viewed as a good thing, particularly with many clubs on the brink of bankruptcy.

The tweak to the promotion and relegation system that would see only two teams automatically relegated from the Premier League is also a reasonable idea.

A third team would join the teams finishing third, fourth and fifth in the Championship in a revised play-off system that mirrors other leagues in Europe.

The removal of the parachute payment system is also long overdue, as this has undoubtedly had a detrimental effect on the Championship since its introduction.

Changes to media rights regulations, provision of funds to improve infrastructure and payments towards grassroots and good causes also appear to have some merit.

Capping Premier League away tickets at £20 and subsidising travel is another element of the proposal that can only be viewed in a positive light.

The Bad

Starting from the 2022/23 season, the pyramid would comprise of an 18-team Premier League, with 24 clubs each in the Championship, League 1 and League 2.

While the big clubs will be happy that gives them more space to play expanded European tournaments or embark on lucrative tours, it leaves the majority of the top flight with fewer games.

The scrapping of the Carabao Cup creates a similar problem, while also denying EFL clubs the chance to play teams from the Premier League.

The introduction of hard salary caps in the EFL is also fraught with problems, particularly for clubs who have the backing of ambitious owners.

One of the major criticisms of the current financial fair play rules is that they prevent clubs lower down the scale emerging as genuine challengers to the established big guns.

Proposed changes to the loan system also look messy, potentially increasing the possibility that wealthy clubs will mop up even more young talent.

Critics have argued it is another step on the road to the feeder-club system that devalues many other lower leagues around Europe.

The Ugly

Having established that there are some interesting ideas contained in the proposal, they are merely a smokescreen to its real aim – a power grab by the ‘Big Six’.

Led by Liverpool with support from Manchester United, ‘Project Big Picture’ is nothing more than a sheep dressed in wolf’s clothing.

It is designed to reduce competition to their stranglehold on wealth and put an end to the likes of Leicester City, Wolverhampton Wanderers and others trying to break the glass ceiling.

All the critical decisions will be made by the nine ‘long-term shareholders’ using ‘special voting rights’ that, unsurprisingly, would only need six votes to be passed.

Quite what possesses Liverpool, a moral vacuum of a club that has won one league title in 30 years, to position itself as the self-appointed ‘saviours of English football’ is anyone’s guess.

The plan undoubtedly has its roots in the desire of their principal owner, John W Henry, to shift the Premier League closer to a North American sporting model.

However, that ethos won’t fly in English football, and ‘Project Big Picture’ must be consigned to the dustbin as a matter of urgency.