Arsene Wenger warned a £250m bailout will not save EFL clubs and says problems run “much deeper” than the quick-fix outlined in Project Big Picture.
The proposals – drawn up by Liverpool’s owners and backed by Manchester United – reveal a plan to overhaul the English game and place the majority of power into the hands of the biggest clubs, ending the Premier League’s current one-club, one-vote system.
A spokesperson for Boris Johnson condemned the plan as “backroom dealing” which “undermines the trust in football’s governance”, while the Premier League said a number of the proposals would have a “damaging impact on the whole game”.
But EFL chairman Rick Parry backs the changes, which include lower-league sides receiving a £250m package, as well as 25 per cent of television deals negotiated by the Premier League.
He is expected to meet with clubs from the Championship, League One and League Two on Tuesday to explain in detail how he believes Project Big Picture will affect them.
Former Arsenal manager Wenger – who is FIFA’s chief of global football development – has questioned Parry’s claims they provide “long-term sustainability” for the clubs under his jurisdiction.
“If nothing happens, the smaller clubs will die. I don’t think that one payment will sort out the problem. The problem is much deeper than that,” Wenger said – speaking to Geoff Shreeves at a special event for Sky VIP customers on Monday.
“The money certainly has to be shared, the income of the top clubs has to be shared a fraction more with the smaller clubs.”
Headlines from Project Big Picture
- Premier League reduced from 18 to 20 clubs
- Two Premier League sides automatically relegated each season and replaced by top two Championship sides
- 16th-placed Premier League club enters play-off with third, fourth and fifth-placed Championship clubs
- EFL Cup and Community Shield abolished
- Special status for nine longest-serving Premier League clubs (big six, plus Everton, West Ham and Southampton)
- £250m immediate compensation to EFL
- 8.5 per cent of annual Premier League revenue to go on operating costs
- 25 per cent of the remaining revenue to go to the EFL
- Parachute payments scrapped
- £100m immediate payment to FA to cover lost revenue and to develop non-league, women’s and grassroots football
The majority of top-flight clubs have serious concerns about Project Big Picture while the FA, which has the power to veto any fundamental changes to the Premier League thanks to the ‘golden share’, is unlikely to back the proposals in their current form.
Wenger insists “you cannot ignore completely the tradition inside the country” and said the origins of the plans will “create a reluctance and a negative approach”.
“Overall the solution has to come from the federation, from the government, from the Premier League – to find a compromise to sort out the problems that already existed before coronavirus,” he said.
Allardyce: Project Big Picture ‘extremely dangerous’
Former England manager Sam Allardyce, who played and managed in all four divisions, warned the proposals could prove to be “extremely dangerous” and provide even more authority to an already powerful big six.
He urged EFL clubs to resist the attractive prospect of an immediate £250m bailout.
“It’s looking like the vote goes to nine of the longest-serving clubs and I think that just nine of the longest-serving clubs doing the vote on the future of football can be extremely dangerous,” Allardyce told Sky Sports News.
“While this package may look attractive now because we are in the pandemic, and it may look pretty good for the EFL, but certainly it won’t look good for some of the Premier League clubs that are already there – one coping with going from 20 to 18 (clubs) to start with and two giving more power to the big six in voting rights.
“A number of owners I have worked for have told me they have had those problems over many years when they have gone to the executive meetings at the end of the season that the big six really want more money, and more money for themselves sadly.
“I think we have the richest league in the world already, we have the most competitive league in the world already, and I think we may end up diluting that and not being as big of an attraction across the world because if the big six draw away even further then there is no competitive edge against them.
“It is the repetitive ‘who is going to finish in the top six?’. It may be even going that way a little bit now so we have got to try and keep the edge and keep the Premier League very, very competitive.”
While parts of the plan have been backed by Forest Green Rovers owner Dale Vince and advisor to Preston’s owner Peter Ridsdale, the contents of the plan have been widely denounced by others in the game.
Allardyce, while refusing to be drawn on whether it constitutes a cynical ploy by the big-hitters, did say any change has to be right for football as a whole and he has concerns – especially about the lower divisions.
“I think it is extremely clever timing, the timing is extremely good,” Allardyce added.
“But is this for the future of football, or does it just help the big six? That is the question everybody has to ask themselves.
“Of course money gives you power and the power lies in the Premier League because they have the most money. They have already dictated across the board on football changes up to now. Is this the right football change for football as a whole?
“I am a football person. It runs in my veins; it runs in my blood. I have managed in all four divisions, including the Premier League, and I have played in all four divisions. I worry greatly about this pandemic by having no government support, how many of these league clubs will survive?
“While at the early stages you look at the £250m bailout, it’s going to be very attractive in the short-term for those football clubs to agree to it but you have got to look at the long-term future.”
Project Big Picture Q&A: A non-starter or football’s future?
Project Big Picture has drawn a mixed response across the game. Why do the EFL want it? Why are the Premier League worried? Who is driving the plan? What are the radical reforms? What has the reaction been?