Football’s power games
A proposal to overhaul the Premier League has touched off a debate in English football with the British government accusing the big clubs of “power grab” while several small clubs have welcomed the plan.
The overhaul is being driven by Manchester United and Liverpool, who have worked together on a radical set of proposals — called “Project Big Picture” — that they say will reshape the finances of the game. The Premier League, the most lucrative sports league in the world, would see a reduction to 18 teams, and controlling power in the hands of the biggest clubs.
- Premier League to be reduced from 20 to 18 clubs.
- EFL Cup & Community Shield to be scrapped.
- Current one-club one-vote principle to be abolished.
- No need for 14 clubs out of the current 20 to agree on policy.
- Power would be with the nine clubs that have remained in the Premier League longest (Arsenal, Chelsea, Everton, Liverpool, Man Utd, Man City, Southampton, Tottenham, West Ham).
- Only six of the nine longest-serving clubs need to vote for major change.
- A £250m payment upfront to the EFL, plus £100m payment to the Football Association.
- 25% of Premier League (up from 4%) annual revenue would go to the EFL clubs.
The coronavirus pandemic and the knock-on effect of fans not being allowed into grounds has led to EFL clubs feeling the financial pinch.
Project Big Picture is viewed as a solution for a sustainable future for many clubs in League One and League Two.
If adopted, Project Big Picture would place the power in the hands of the established so-called ‘Big Six’ — Liverpool, Man United, Man City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham — along with the three clubs with the longest continual stay in the Premier League — Southampton, West Ham and Everton.
But only the votes of six clubs would be required to make major changes.
This will take the power away from the other top-flight sides who currently enjoy one-club, one-vote status; at present, a majority of 14 is required for any significant decision to be passed. Among those decisions are new ownership of Premier League clubs; so if a team outside of the big nine are approached for a takeover, they would need six of the big nine to vote in favour of it.
Among the most contentious of the proposals is reducing the Premier League to 18 teams, with the club finishing 16th in the Premier League joining a play-off with Championship teams in third, fourth and fifth. The EFL Cup and Community Shield would also be discontinued.
Under the proposal, all Premier League clubs would have the exclusive rights to sell eight live games directly to fans outside the UK on their own digital platforms. With the voting rights with the Big Six, this could increase in the future.
Clubs such as Man United and Liverpool can gain from this. United, for example, claim they have 1.1bn fans worldwide.
These clubs would like to monetise that fan base by charging them directly to watch their games. At the moment, the majority of the income from Premier League international broadcast rights is split equally between the 20 clubs.