By Paul Nicholson
October 14 – With battle lines being drawn around the ‘Project Big Picture’ proposal that would restructure professional football in England, the FA has said that it would use its veto to kill off any English breakaway league and take away Champions League qualification from those clubs.
The threat of a breakaway league for the ‘big six’ English clubs of Arsenal, Chelsea, Spurs, Man City, Man Utd and Liverpool was apparently used in the negotiations to push the proposal forward.
While the bulk of the Premier League clubs look to be against the proposal and a rebalancing of voting power towards the Big Six in a reformatted 18-team rather than 20-team league, English Football League (EFL) clubs across its three divisions look to be broadly in favour of taking what one former Premier League chairman and sports investor described to Insideworldfootball as the “£250 million of lazy money they can release fairly comfortable”.
The EFL clubs need money and need it fast if they are all to survive. The growing opinion amongst them is that the immediate £250 million and the offer of 25% of all TV revenues going forward, is the best offer they are going to get from the Premier League clubs who are using the Covid crisis to negotiate a strengthening of their own power base and longer term financial opportunity.
Unlike the EFL, the Premier League clubs are not in desperate need of immediate cash to survive.
The three EFL leagues met yesterday with The Times reporting that Jed Moxey, chief executive of League One’s Burton Albion saying there was unanimous support for the proposal within their league.
Leyton Orient chairman Nigel Travis said that 23 out 24 clubs in League Two were supportive.
The Championship was also reported as being generally in favour though there was generally a lot more suspicion of the motives of proposal despite their declared focus being on short term survival rather than long term opportunity.
Suggestions that Big Six reserve teams should be allowed into the EFL were also viewed as somewhat disrespectful to the traditions of English football where clubs have been competing and representing their communities in most cases for more than 100 years.
For the Big Six – and the five of them with non-English owners in particular – those arguments are not part of their understanding or commitments. For them the major attraction of restructuring the Premier League is the potential longer term prize of increased revenue from more European competition, and some kind of a European Super League.
With the English big guns creating the calendar space for that to happen, other leading clubs from the Big 5 leagues could be encouraged to speed up their own commitments to the European breakaway conversation. To date they have talked and threatened breakaway, but not acted.
However, they would likely find support and a platform at Gianni Infantino’s FIFA who are desperate for a gateway into the financially lucrative European club game. That would be a big play but FIFA have already moved towards a Club World Cup and stepping up that frequency and bolting on a home for more local competition would not be such a big next step.
That kind of play would be music to the US owners of Liverpool and Manchester United. First they have to get past the first stage of Premier League club consensus and FA approval. That currently looks difficult, but if they did get through, the rest of the proposal and the gateway to a wildly different future looks wide open.
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