Explainer: What is 'Project Big Picture' being proposed by Liverpool and Manchester United?

The Premier League clubs and the FA Council are both due to meet this week

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Premier League - Chelsea v Liverpool - Stamford Bridge, London, Britain - September 20, 2020 General view of the Premier League trophy before the match Pool via REUTERS/Michael Regan EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications.  Please contact your account representative for further details./File Photo
Powered by automated translation

Plans for major changes to the structure of English football, known as 'Project Big Picture', have caused a furious backlash by clubs, fans and even the British government. Ahead of a series of meetings this week, here is a look at the main issues.

What is 'Project Big Picture'?

The owners of Liverpool and Manchester United along with Rick Parry, the chair of the Football League (EFL), have put forward a series of proposals to restructure the governance and finances of English football.

The document has been worked on for about three years but came to light on Sunday when published by The Telegraph newspaper.

How would it affect the Premier League?

Perhaps the most contentious issue is the proposal to shrink the league from 20 to 18 teams. The bottom two teams would be relegated to the second tier Championship and be replaced annually by the top two teams in that division.

In addition, there would be an annual four team playoff for a place in the top flight involving the third, fourth and fifth placed teams in the Championship and the 16th-placed Premier League team.

All changes would take place for the 2022/23 season. In order to get to 18 teams, the prior season would probably see four teams relegated and only two promoted.

This is not without precedent. The Premier League had 22 teams when it began in 1992, but this was reduced to the present 20-team format in 1995.

The League Cup and pre-season Community Shield would be scrapped and the season would start later in August, allowing a longer window for lucrative pre-season tours.

How will clubs in the EFL be affected?

The plan proposes a £250 million ($326.28m) 'rescue fund' earmarked as an immediate one-off payment to the 72 EFL clubs and another £100 million for the English Football Association.

It also envisages a rise in the annual 'solidarity payments' from the Premier League to the EFL from four per cent of media net revenues to 25 per cent.

The coronavirus pandemic has had a huge impact on many clubs' finances with fans unable to attend games.

The idea is also for the Premier League to sell the EFL's broadcast rights as part of a package.

Leagues One and Two, the third and fourth tiers of the English game, would have 24 teams, meaning two clubs of the 92 currently in the Premier League and EFL structure would drop out.

Will relegated clubs still receive 'parachute payments'?

The proposal also calls for an end to 'parachute payments' to clubs relegated from the Premier League.

They are calculated as a share of the broadcasting rights and though they vary, in the last two years the payment has averaged around £250 million.

Having two fewer Premier League clubs would also reduce the amount shared out from the collective pot.


The 30 most expensive squads in Europe


So the big six clubs get a bigger share of TV revenue?

Though the document does not say so explicitly, it almost certainly means that the traditional Big Six – Liverpool, United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham – almost certainly getting a bigger slice of the TV cash.

There are several options being floated but the principle behind them is an increase in the share based on 'merit' – a weighting based on league position, clearly a good idea for those teams who frequently finish in the top six.

Given that the Premier League earns more than any other domestic league from the sale of broadcast rights across the world, opponents of Project Big Picture calculate that a concentrated few could end up with four times as much money from broadcast rights per season as others.

Why are some critics calling it a 'power grab'?

Because the project also calls for 'Special Voting Rights' for the nine clubs that have the longest continuous membership of the Premier League.

This marks a break with the system of 'one club, one vote' in place since the league's founding in 1992.

As well as the aforementioned big six, Southampton, West Ham United and Everton – the three other longest-serving top-flight clubs – would also have a bigger say.

The nine would have the power to elect or remove a new chief executive, approve broadcast and media rights deals, handle cost control rules, block changes to television revenue distribution and even veto any new club owner approved by the Premier League board.

With only six of the nine clubs needing to agree to any measures, many have argued that too much power is being handed to the Big Six. The proposal has been criticised by the UK government as “backroom deals being cooked up that would create a closed shop at the very top of the game”.

The Football Supporters' Association was even more damning, saying on Tuesday that the so-called 'rescue fund' to cover lost revenues "might actually be a sugar coated cyanide pill".

Any fans of the proposal, other than the Big Six?

Nigel Travis, chairman of League Two Leyton Orient, has called 'Project Big Picture' a "great proposal" and said that without urgent financial support some EFL clubs will "disappear within five to six weeks".

The UK government has agreed a funding package with clubs in the National League, which allowed their season to begin last week behind closed doors, but there has been no support for EFL clubs, with Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden suggesting the Premier League could support lower-league sides.

"The reality is you need to save football and this is the only and best proposal I've seen," Travis told the BBC. "The government did a great job with the furlough programme but they've given the EFL no chance other than to negotiate with the Premier League."

Championship side Derby County's chief executive Stephen Pearce and chairman of League Two club Forest Green Rovers, Dale Vince, have voiced their support for the plan, while Preston North End representative Peter Ridsdale said that his club "broadly welcomes" the proposals while "recognising that there are some elements that still need further talk and debate".

What incentive is there for other Premier League clubs to vote for it then?

Under current rules 14 of the 20 Premier League clubs must agree to pass any proposal or policy.

While it is hard to imagine that the other clubs would vote for less power and a smaller share of the revenue it is likely that the proposals will be negotiated and changes made to help bring more clubs on board.

The FA also has a 'golden share' in the Premier League which would allow it to block the changes, should it feel they damage the game.

And if 'Project Big Picture' is rejected?

If the Premier League clubs vote against the plan it remains to be seen whether the Big Six will simply accept the smaller clubs thwarting their project.

Some media reports have stated that Parry has suggested to the big clubs that they simply walk out of the Premier League, paving the way for involvement in a future European Super League, reducing their domestic fixture list to accommodate more games against major clubs from Germany, Spain and Italy.

The Premier League clubs and the FA Council are both due to meet this week.