Project Big Picture was a ‘first-class plan’ that ‘ticked every box’ for the EFL insists the league’s chairman Rick Parry, despite it being exposed as a ruinous ‘power grab’ by the Premier League’s wealthiest clubs
- EFL chairman Rick Parry was speaking to MPs on the DCMS Select Committee
- Parry insists the redistribution of wealth would have strengthened EFL clubs
- MP Damian Green said PBP really was a ‘sugar-coated cyanide’ pill for football
- Premier League has launched its own review which will be concluded in March
The EFL chairman Rick Parry has launched an impassioned defence of Project Big Picture describing it as a ‘first-class plan’.
Parry, who was party to the clandestine project to restructure English football, told MPs on the Department of Culture Media and Sport Select Committee that it ‘ticked’ every box’ for the EFL.
The project, which was initiated by Greg Clarke, the chairman of the Football Association, and led by the owners of Manchester United and Liverpool, was widely condemned as a power grab by the country’s most powerful clubs.
Eight clubs are receiving life-support loans from the EFL to enable them to pay wages
The radical restructure of the Premier League would have increased funding for the EFL, reduced the top flight from 20 to 18 clubs, scrapped the Carabao Cup and Community Shield and allowed top-tier teams to sell some of their own games to broadcasters.
It would also have changed Premier League decision-making so that nine ‘long-term shareholder’ clubs would have been in control, and a majority of only six would have been needed to carry decisions.
In an explosive hearing in Parliament, in which MPs also took the EFL and Premier League to task for failing to come up with a rescue plan for clubs financially crippled by the coronavirus pandemic, committee member, Damian Green, challenged Parry on what he expected when PBP was exposed.
The EFL has introduced a £50m emergency loan fund for clubs on the edge of administration
The Premier League has offered a mixture of loans and grants to support Leagues One and Two
‘The Football Supporters Association described Project Big Picture as a ‘sugar coated cyanide pill’, which seems to me would have been a pretty accurate description for the future of football,’ said Green.
But Rick Parry insisted he did not recognise that ‘pejorative description’.
‘What the EFL was looking for – redistribution of revenues to make our clubs more sustainable, narrowing the gap between the Premier League and the Championship, abolishing parachute payments, producing a substantial short-term rescue – Project Big Picture ticked every one of those boxes,’ said Parry.
Kevin Miles of the Football Supporters’ Association called PBP ‘a sugar-coated cyanide pill’
‘In terms of creating a sustainable future for us, it was a first-class plan,’ he added.
‘There were elements of it that were not popular in terms of governance in the Premier League, but this was one version.’
Parry said there would have to have been flexibility around the governance aspects of the project in order for it to be approved by the Premier League.
MP Damian Green quizzed Rick Parry and Richard Masters over Project Big Picture
And he said he believed it had been deliberately leaked and the governance emphasised in order to scupper it.
‘To dismiss a project that had a whole series of good ideas was completely the wrong approach,’ he said.
Ultimately, PBP was sunk by ferocious criticism. Former striker-turned-pundit, Chris Sutton described the poposals when they emerged in October as, ‘dirty opportunism, and dictatorial’.
And he added: ‘This would make the big boys bigger and the little guys smaller. It’s a dream killer.’
Within a week, the Premier League’s 20 clubs dismissed the proposals.
In Parliament, Green suggested that it was wrong to try to link a solution to the short-term financial crisis facing the EFL as a result of the pandemic, with a long-term restructure like PBP.
The Premier League has failed to agree a rescue plan for EFL clubs facing financial crisis
Parry disagreed, but the Premier League chief executive, Richard Masters, who was not part of the PBP working group, concurred with the MP.
‘Trying to reset football during a pandemic is extremely difficult,’ he told the committee.
In the wake of Project Big Picture, the Premier League are carrying out their own strategic review and Masters said ‘change is coming’, not only domestically but also in Europe, where the biggest clubs periodically raise the prospect of a European Super League.
Chairman of the DCMS select committee Julian Knight has called in Parry and Master
‘We know change is probably coming in Europe… and I suspect if we don’t come up with a unifying plan, someone else will write it for us,’ he said.
Returning to the Premier League’s review, which he expects to be completed in March, Masters added: ‘What we have announced in the last two weeks is a revival of our strategic review but with a tighter timeframe and wider focus to deal with all of the issues which have come up during the pandemic.’
Green asked Masters how the Premier League’s strategic review dovetailed with the government’s commitment to a ‘fan-led review’ of the sport.
Rick Parry, chairman of the EFL ( left) and the Premier League’s chief executive Richard Masters (right) appeared before MPs on the DCMS Select Committee tomorrow
Masters seemed unclear on that point and replied: ‘In terms of the fan-led review I am not sure of the exact timetable for that.’
He said he believed the government’s fan-based review, which was a Conservative Party manifesto commitment, related to the governance of football, whereas the Premier League’s new project was ‘more strategic’.
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