“Project Big Picture” landed like a bomb on the landscape of English football this weekend. The proposal, spearheaded by Liverpool and Manchester United, promised a huge bailout of tiers 2-4 of the English football pyramid and a raft of reforms that were supposed to rejuvenate the game, but at the cost of a cynical and transparent power grab by the six biggest and wealthiest football clubs in the UK.
However, despite gaining the support of the EFL clubs and its chairman Rick Parry, the proposal was rejected by the 20 Premier League clubs in an emergency meeting on Wednesday. The proposal needed support from 14 of the league’s 20 clubs in order to pass.
It’s not an unexpected outcome. While there was a lot to consider — and even like! — in Project Big Picture, including a greater percentage of TV money going to the lower leagues a £250m bailout to keep insolvent EFL clubs afloat, and the cutting of the League Cup and Community Shield, in the end the other Premier League clubs couldn’t countenance handing over power and oversight to a committee mostly comprised of the Big Six.
In a statement posted on the league’s website, the Premier League stated that while PBP is dead, all 20 clubs are in agreement that reforms are necessary, and they will work together to develop a more equitable plan with that as the main goal.
All 20 Premier League clubs today unanimously agreed that “Project Big Picture” will not be endorsed or pursued by the Premier League, or The FA.
Further, Premier League Shareholders agreed to work together as a 20-club collective on a strategic plan for the future structures and financing of English football, consulting with all stakeholders to ensure a vibrant, competitive and sustainable football pyramid.
The statement also expressed support for a “rescue package” for the EFL that is intended to prevent, as much as possible, clubs from folding due to financial hardship stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.
League One and League Two clubs rely more heavily on matchday revenue and have fewer resources at their disposal than Championship or Premier League clubs and are therefore more at risk, especially at a time when fans are excluded from attending matches.
This offer will consist of grants and interest-free loans totalling a further £50million on top of the £27.2million solidarity payments already advanced to League One and League Two this year, making a total of £77.2million.
Project Big Picture had been in development for years before the pandemic hit, which made its release look particularly timely to some, but extremely suspicious to others. Now it’s dead, but that doesn’t mean that something better and more equitable might emerge from its ashes. The only thing that seems to be universally acknowledged is that the consequences of doing nothing would be catastrophic.