As expected given the magnitude and volume of the negative responses and reactions, “Project Big Picture” is dead. The brainchild of EFL chairman Rick Parry to trade £350m in bailout money for consolidating Premier League power in the hands of the “big six” plus the next three has been summarily shot down.
But it’s not been completely shut down. As per the Premier League’s official statement, the powers that be are continuing (or starting in earnest) an “open and transparent” conversation about “competition structure, calendar, governance and financial sustainability”.
That certainly sounds impressive, though it remains to be seen whether the league can truly work together as “20-club collective” when some of those clubs are constantly changing and some of them are clearly more “valuable” in modern football capitalism.
Beyond the platitudes and pies in sky, we do have some concrete action as well however, and that’s certainly welcome, with the Premier League pledging £50m in bailout funds to divisions 3 and 4 (in the form of interest-free loans and grants), with additional talks over further funds for second division clubs ongoing.
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.
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.
Also at today’s meeting it was agreed to make available a rescue package which aims to ensure that League One and League Two clubs 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. 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.
Discussions will also continue with the EFL regarding Championship clubs’ financial needs. This addresses Government concerns about lower-league clubs’ financial fragility.
Football is not the same without attending fans and the football economy is unsustainable without them. The Premier League and all our clubs remain committed to the safe return of fans as soon as possible.