Manchester United and Liverpool leaders proposed Project Big Picture which is untenable and a threat. What does it all mean for Chelsea and the league?
Fans will argue over almost anything. At the end of the day, however, they generally agree that the sport should be made as fair as possible for all involved. They may quibble about who has how much money to spend, but they ultimately want systems and institutions that make achievement on the field the be all end all.
That is one reason why Project Big Picture, suggested by the leaders of Manchester United and Liverpool, is untenable. While it does have good ideas to move the very structure of English football forward, it is also built in a way that would consolidate power in the Premier League to such a degree that it would be nearly impossible for an upstart club to gain power themselves. This is done with the very survival of the Football League dangling on a hook.
It doesn’t stop there, however. Behind the proposal is the veiled threat as to what will happen if demands are not met. The FA, who apparently was as in the dark about this as anyone, has claimed that the “elite” clubs have threatened to leave the league should their demands not be met. Make no mistake; this is a ransom as well as a coup led by the fading star or Manchester United and the recently resurgent star of Liverpool. What exactly the thoughts of the Chelsea hierarchy are is unknown, though they have been grouped with those elite clubs regardless. The proposal is untenable and threatening.
The current procedure for changes in the Premier League requires the approval of 14 clubs. This nicely prevents the top six from enacting changes that may harm clubs more reflective of the entire football pyramid. Of course, the argument the top six would make would be about how they bring in the vast majority of the revenue and that should result in more power.
But the mechanisms proposed in Project Big Picture would further increase the gap between the haves and the have nots. The proposal would have the nine longest serving clubs in the Premier League given voting rights alone. Given how they want to cut the league down to 18 teams (itself not a terrible idea), half the league would have control over the entire league’s decisions instead of the current super majority.
If it stopped there, it still may be a pill that could be swallowed. It didn’t. Those nine teams could even reject new ownership for a Premier League club. For example, if Newcastle had a big owner finally come in for them that could theoretically allow them to crack that top nine, the nine could vote against the new ownership. Over time this would increase the gap between the nine and the rest to a degree greater than the current top six hold over the rest. There would be virtually no chance of a Wolverhampton or Leicester City gate crashing because it is not built on league position but longevity in the league. The additional three would be Everton, Southampton, and West Ham as it stands.
All of this is not to mention that the revenue split in the proposal would favor the top more than it does now. Sure, it is framed in a way that shows the EFL clubs getting a bigger piece of the pie, but so will the top nine. That would just further increase the gap to the rest and nearly guarantee those nine retain their voting rights and power bar a true catastrophe.
All of this is painted up in just enough of a way to get the EFL on board as their very existence is threatened by Covid. They would get more revenue than before, including a signing on payment that would surely save every club on the brink. The Community Shield and EFL Cup may be scrapped or at least reworked to exclude clubs in Europe. That would make them more appealing to clubs that previously thought they had no real chance at winning. Also, cutting the Premier League down to 18 clubs in addition to changing how the EFL Cup functions would allow for a true winter break which clubs up and down they pyramid have called for. But is that truly worth the cost of an unbreakable monopoly above them?
Finally, there is the notion raised by the FA that should the plan not be implemented, the top six will break away. This has been threatened more and more in recent years with the notion of a European Super League becoming more and more likely. Simply put, the top clubs are looking to hold the entire English system hostage while they start their coup. If their demands are not met, they’ll simply leave the league to starve and die.
Where exactly Chelsea fits into all this is not clear. As always, the club keeps its cards close to its chest. It is believed they are one of the clubs in the top six concerned about the power grab. That might be genuine or it may simply be an effort to avoid being the bad guy in a plan that is surely set to fail. It doesn’t really matter so long as they fall on the side of a hard no to the proposals of Manchester United and Liverpool.
Every single top six supporters club has spoken out against the proposal. It is, pure and simple, a power grab from the fading star of United and the recently revived star of Liverpool. It would save the EFL and it would guarantee their rivals power, but at the cost of the very integrity of the game. The threat of a breakaway isn’t new (indeed, it is how the Premier League formed in the first place) but Chelsea has to come down on the right side of history here.