MARTIN SAMUEL: Project Big Picture' is a disgusting Big Six power grab

MARTIN SAMUEL: Manchester United and Liverpool’s Project Big Picture is nothing but a disgusting Big Six power grab… Rick Parry is Faust in a Mickey Mouse tie and he thinks we’re STUPID

  • Liverpool and Manchester United are trying to push through ‘Project Big Picture’ 
  • It would see changes such as the reduction from 20 top-flight teams to 18 clubs
  • The League Cup and Community Shield would also be scrapped in the scheme
  • £250million would be given to the EFL while £100m would go to the FA 
  • EFL chairman Rick Parry has given his support to the new proposals in England

Rick Parry helped destroy the fabric of English football once, and now he’s going for it again.

His alliance with Manchester United, Liverpool and any fellow travellers within the Big Six is the most flagrant, abusive and ruinous power grab the domestic game has seen since the formation of the Premier League with Parry as its chief executive close to 30 years ago. That put the power in the hands of 20 clubs.

Now Parry and the elite want this narrowed down to a cabal of six. They are promising all kinds of bungs and sweeteners to get their way, painting themselves as the saviours of the game, the friends of the little folk, but do not believe a single word of it.

Rick Parry has given his support to a game-changing proposition to reform England’s top-flight

Liverpool and Man United are working together to force through the ‘Project Big Picture’

This is about six clubs controlling the wealth and seizing the power, right down to deciding who gets into their competition. This is about closed shop protectionism that will end the Premier League as a vibrant competition. This is about getting your round in with another man’s money.

This is, in essence, every rotten, contemptuous, self-serving, destructive idea the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool have come up with across the last two decades, repurposed as a rescue package.

Project Big Picture? Far from saving our game, all it would do is reduce. Reduce what makes football fun. Reduce its unpredictability, reduce the excitement, reduce the chances for Wolves or Leicester or Aston Villa. Reduce the hope of a change of ownership at Newcastle. Reduce your chances of promotion. Reduce your hopes of success if you get there. Reduce, reduce, reduce.

Of course Parry supports it. He has no idea how to address the financial crisis in the EFL, so will cling to any lifebelt tossed his way. If it means selling out the League Cup, the Community Shield, 14 current Premier League clubs and any in the Championship with ambition, he’ll do it. 

One of significant changes in the project is the scrapping of the League Cup (above)

The Community Shield (above), English football’s curtainraiser, would make way as well

That is how desperate he is. He’s Faust, in a Mickey Mouse tie. And he thinks we’re stupid. They all do.

Take the proposed new superpowers, the nine longest-serving clubs in the Premier League, whose votes would count for more than the rest. That’s the big six, plus Everton, Southampton and West Ham.

Those nine clubs are to be afforded ‘long-term shareholder status’, would have unprecedented power, even able to veto new owners at other Premier League clubs, decide on the chief executive and amend rules and regulations. And maybe the six think the three will be flattered to be included.

Depends whether they can handle basic arithmetic. For what would be needed for vetoes and changes to processes is a two-thirds majority of long-term shareholders.

Ooh, what’s two-thirds of nine? Wouldn’t be six by any chance, would it? Everton, Southampton and West Ham wouldn’t be privileged members. They would be ridiculous patsies, carved up and cynically outvoted at every turn.

That is what Project Big Picture is. One big carve-up. Take wealth distribution, 50 per cent of which would now be divided on merit, rather than equally. But not real merit. 

The plans call for the top-flight to cut the number of sides in the league from 20 down to 18

Some of the cut would be calculated over the last three years so if Manchester United or Liverpool had a bad season, it wouldn’t matter as much because other, more successful years would be taken into account.

At the moment central income ratio is capped at 1.7 to 1 between big and small; this might see it reach 4:1. And what’s fairer than a league in which the wealthiest get four times as much basic income as their rivals lower down?

The same with television revenue with clubs permitted to sell eight games on their own platforms. This would greatly harm the broadcast deal, with the loss of exclusivity, and that money could only be recouped if the PPV packages were hugely successful. And who is likelier to benefit there: Manchester United and Liverpool again, or Burnley and West Brom? 

So, again, the elite clubs lose nothing, the smallest clubs get squeezed. The only time they are all treated the same is when handing out bungs to the EFL and FA to make it happen. 

Paying £250million to the EFL and £100m to the FA, the clubs are equal. When voting, sharing television revenue, creaming off the profits of PPV, they are not.

The project would also give £250million to the EFL, while £100m would go to the FA

The donations, the good causes, the infrastructure, they are all the sheep’s clothing, disguising the wolf. Everything here benefits the elite. Small clubs would lose two games’ revenue in an 18-team competition, plus the odd bonus League Cup fixture. 

The elite? Nothing. Those gaps in revenue would quickly be filled by expanded European competitions and the revamped Club World Cup, the gulf growing ever wider.

This plan is not to be trusted — even the charitable aspects.

When Parry helped set up the Premier League, it was ostensibly to aid the England team. Soon, everyone knew the truth. Do not be fooled by this, either. Do not be fooled by the grassroots talk, the money for the women’s game, the £20 tickets for away fans — this is a power grab dressed up as reform, the closed shop reworked as opened-armed generosity.

And they want to tie the Premier League to UEFA’s financial fair play rules, too. Of course they do. They are stricter and unyielding. 

Parry (above) has held chief executive roles at both the Premier League and Liverpool 

If Manchester United and Liverpool can usher in UEFA’s FFP — attached to revenue streams only available to the biggest and richest clubs — then that truly is the end for the likes of Leicester or Wolves challenging the status quo. And that is what terrifies them.

Not that another club like lovely Macclesfield might go bust. Aston Villa 7 Liverpool 2. Manchester United 1 Tottenham 6. That’s the waking nightmare, and it always has been. That they won’t be good enough to sustain their status.

That, like AC Milan in Italy, they will slip from relevance. So they want it all: the money and the control. They want to make the rules, shape the game, decide who gets what, who gets in. And Parry, once again, is their willing accomplice. 

The new proposals could benefit the so-called ‘Big Six’ leaving the other 14 teams in trouble

Just as he was in 1992 when, as chief executive of the fledgling Premier League, he helped alter a system that awarded 50 per cent of broadcast revenue to clubs outside the top tier — the second tier got 25 per cent, those below 12.5 per cent each — to one that benefited a small group and placed football on its road to ruin.

Only fools could not see through this, but in many ways, it is almost a positive. Project Big Picture is so transparent in its aims, so repulsively skewed towards the richest, so disgustedly naked in its protectionism that the howl of rejection and outrage should be deafening.

Under the guise of improving the economic outlook for all, it delivers the bulk of its money into the greasy mitts of an over-privileged, over-entitled elite. It fixes the game in favour of six clubs, while shifting the financial burden to the 14 straining every sinew to remain competitive. 

It is a disgrace, the opposite of a solution, and deserves a pauper’s grave.

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