EFL clubs have swung as a bloc behind Project Big Picture, despite concerns over a potential seismic power shift at the top of the game.
With Championship clubs unanimously agreeing to support the chair Rick Parry’s proposals and League One and Two also overwhelmingly in favour after a day of emergency meetings, club owners and executives have calculated that reform of the game – and a Covid-19 bailout – is worth the cost of an agglomeration of power among the Premier League’s biggest clubs.
The Preston North End adviser Peter Ridsdale seemed to sum up broad feelings when he explained his position over the deal. “Do I trust the top six today? No, I do not,” he said. “I don’t think some of them believe in the football pyramid but there is nothing to stop a change in the voting structure in the Premier League today and what we’ve got is an offer to assist the rest of the pyramid that wasn’t on the table.”
The details of Project Big Picture would see £250m transferred to the Football League to help keep clubs solvent during the coronavirus pandemic. They would also increase revenues, by giving the 72 league clubs a 25% share of future Premier League TV deals. There would also, however, be a “hard” salary cap introduced into the Championship and an end to parachute payments which, the EFL claims, have distorted the game.
Championship clubs are believed to be persuaded by an idea that PBP would help “smooth the cliff edge” between the second tier and the Premier League. There are concerns around the governance of such a plan across the pyramid, with a couple of dissenting voices in League One speaking out at a divisional conference call on Tuesday, but League Two clubs are thought to be largely supportive.
The clubs’ biggest questions revolve around the power the big six clubs would exert under the proposal, particularly down the line in terms of television rights and the redistribution of funds.
Jez Moxey, the chief executive of Burton Albion, argued that safeguards would remain against “armageddon” in the football pyramid. “Don’t forget the FA hold a golden share and they can prevent the Premier League from trying to alter something like promotion and relegation or changing the pyramid in any way,” he said. “They are the ones who ultimately govern the game and there is that built-in protection to prevent armageddon.
“The way I read it, the special voting rights are more a veto on the others trying to do things against them. But this is a Premier League issue, and this won’t happen unless we get 14 clubs to vote for it.”
Rob Couhig, the majority shareholder of Wycombe Wanderers, said there was “little dissension in the troops” but added there was precious little time for such a proposal to play out – “it is certainly a little bit of a tease” – and stressed the need for financial help.
“A lot of EFL clubs need money today and if they don’t get money in the next several weeks, there is going to be blood on the streets in terms of some of the clubs,” he said. “Something needs to be done or institutions that have existed in England for more than 100 years will not exist.”
It is understood the EFL has a short‑term provision in place to fund clubs who are struggling to meet the October pay roll and could also fund further crisis payments through commercial lending.
There is no doubting the need and desire to find a financial solution to the crisis and now all eyes turn to the Premier League meeting on Wednesday.