Premier League clubs have “unanimously agreed” that ‘Project Big Picture’ will not be “endorsed or pursued”.
The controversial plans, proposed by Liverpool and Manchester United, were rejected at a meeting of the 20 clubs in England’s top flight on Wednesday.
Instead, the clubs agreed to “work together” on a new “strategic plan” for the “financing of English football”.
They also decided on a £50m rescue package for League One and Two clubs at the meeting.
A Premier League statement said “discussions will also continue with the EFL” over financial support for the Championship.
‘Project Big Picture’ involved reducing the Premier League from 20 to 18 clubs and scrapping the EFL Cup and Community Shield.
In addition, the English Football League would have got 25% of all future TV deals, which would have been negotiated jointly, plus a £250m bail-out.
However, it would also have seen more power transferred to the so-called ‘big six’ Premier League clubs.
In its statement, the Premier League said its members had “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”.
It added: “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.”
The ‘Project Big Picture’ proposals
- The Premier League cut from 20 to 18 clubs, with the Championship, League One and League Two each retaining 24 teams.
- The bottom two teams in the Premier League relegated automatically with the 16th-placed team joining the Championship play-offs.
- The League Cup and Community Shield abolished.
- Parachute payments scrapped.
- A £250m rescue fund made immediately available to the EFL & 25% of all future TV deals.
- £100m paid to the FA to make up for lost revenue.
- Nine clubs given ‘special voting rights’ on certain issues, based on their long time in the Premier League.
“Clearly there’s some frustration that a proposal that hadn’t had the input from the clubs has been pushed so hard in public,” said Premier League chief executive Richard Masters.
“We don’t have any beef with the EFL. We have a historic relationship – we want that to be constructive.
“It was a candid, positive and – in the end – a unanimous meeting.
“We decided to move on from ‘Big Picture’ and move on to a new review process.
“Solidarity is incredibly strong so while there’s been a lot said, I don’t think it’s irreparably damaged the Premier League.”
FA chairman Greg Clarke had said a breakaway league was suggested “as a threat” by the organisers of ‘Project Big Picture’.
Masters added: “I don’t think anyone has been talking about breaking away.
“We acknowledge the English model is a huge success but it hasn’t been reviewed for a long time, so maybe there are some systemic issues that haven’t been dealt with.”
The League One and Two rescue package
The Premier League said the financial package for League One and Two clubs was intended to make sure they “will not go out of business as a result of the financial impact of Covid-19 and be able to complete the 2020-21 season”.
It conceded they were at more risk than Premier League and Championship clubs as they “rely more heavily on matchday revenue and have fewer resources at their disposal”.
“This offer will consist of grants and interest-free loans totalling a further £50m on top of the £27.2m solidarity payments already advanced to League One and League Two this year, making a total of £77.2m,” added the Premier League statement.
The EFL will meet all its clubs on Thursday to discuss the Premier League’s proposal and said it was “encouraging that there is an acknowledgment that a review of the current status quo is required”.
Its statement went on: “The EFL welcomes the opportunity to contribute to any wider debate with colleagues across the game as we seek to finally address impossible economic pressures and deliver on the objective of having a sustainable EFL in the long term.”
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, who described ‘Project Big Picture’ as ‘Project Power Grab’, has previously called on the Premier League to look after those lower down the football pyramid.
“This morning I reiterated calls of many in the football family for bigger clubs to look after smaller clubs,” he said.
“An offer has been made by the Premier League to EFL League One and Two which is a good start.
“I urge them to work together and stay focused on helping clubs through this crisis.”
The wording of the Premier League statement is interesting.
On the one hand, Project Big Picture is not being endorsed; on the other, all 20 clubs have agreed to work on a strategic plan “in an open and transparent process, focusing on competition structure, calendar, governance and financial sustainability”.
So, depending on how you look at it, the work of Liverpool owner John Henry and Manchester United counterpart Joel Glazer is either dead in the water or has opened discussion on something the EFL in particular has been calling for desperately.
I was told the reaction to Liverpool and Manchester United in today’s meeting was tame compared to what it might have been.
However, there has been no apology and some clubs believe there is now a lack of trust between the ‘big six’ and the rest, which probably underlines why “all 20 clubs” and “open and transparent” were so high up in the Premier League’s statement.
We can never know whether there would have been this new commitment to reform had Project Big Picture not made its way into the public domain. Its authors are sceptical that there would have been and hence feel justified – nor do they view their ideas as being over.
Evidently though, the suggestion that the voting mechanism within the Premier League could be changed so six clubs out of a ‘special’ nine would have to power to create, change or block any issue has no support and will have to be changed.
The other interesting aspect of the past 72 hours surrounds EFL chairman Rick Parry.
There were some EFL clubs who were not entirely happy with Parry before this news came out. Now they are solidly behind him. It is fair to say this enthusiasm is not shared by his Premier League counterparts. The relationship between the two leagues now will be fascinating.