Project Big Picture rejected by Premier League clubs

English Premier League football clubs have unanimously agreed that ‘Project Big Picture’ will not be endorsed or pursued by the league or the English Football Association (FA), with alternative plans for the structure of the game set to be explored.

Details of Project Big Picture were first reported by The Telegraph on Sunday, with the proposal centering on reducing the Premier League to an 18-team competition and including a £250m (€276m/$324m) bailout of the English Football League (EFL), whose clubs have been significantly hit by COVID-19.

Project Big Picture, which was being driven by Manchester United and Liverpool, also proposed axing the Community Shield and EFL Cup competitions. Nine current clubs – United, Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal, Everton, West Ham United and Southampton – would also have been afforded special voting rights.

The proposal has been short-lived, though, with the Premier League confirming yesterday (Wednesday) that all 20 clubs have agreed to not pursue the plans. Shareholders instead agreed to work together as a 20-club collective on a “strategic plan” for the future structures and financing of the English game.

The plan will focus on competition structure, calendar, governance and financial sustainability, and has received the full support of the FA. Input from all stakeholders, including fans, the government and the EFL, will be sought.

Yesterday’s meeting also saw Premier League clubs agree to a rescue package to secure the future of League One and League Two clubs, whose revenues have been harder hit by COVID-19.

The Premier League said in a statement: “This offer will consist of grants and interest-free loans totalling a further £50m on top of the £27.2m solidarity payments already advanced to League One and League Two this year, making a total of £77.2m.”

Further discussions will be held with the EFL regarding the financial needs of Championship clubs.

The EFL said it would meet with all of its clubs today to discuss the proposals put forward by the Premier League. EFL chairman Rick Parry had been supportive of Project Big Picture but the Premier League had been strongly against the proposal.

The EFL said in a statement: “As we have maintained across the past 72 hours, there is a significant issue facing the English footballing pyramid and therefore it is encouraging that there is an acknowledgment that a review of the current status quo is required, with a strategic plan to be developed to consider the future of the football.

“While by no means a finished product, Project Big Picture was developed to consider these same issues and address the challenges facing football from top to bottom. The EFL welcomes the opportunity to contribute to any wider debate with colleagues across the game as we seek to finally address impossible economic pressures and deliver on the objective of having a sustainable EFL in the long-term.”

Project Big Picture would have also allowed Premier League clubs to claim back significant sums for the costs of their stadium projects. The Telegraph reported earlier this week that Tottenham could claim back around £125m for the costs of its new stadium, while Liverpool could be entitled around £30m from the renovation of Anfield’s Main Stand in 2016.

Other potential beneficiaries from this clause would have included Manchester City, which in 2015 expanded the capacity of its Etihad Stadium, Brighton & Hove Albion, which moved into the Amex Stadium in 2011, and Everton, which is planning a new £500m, 52,000-seat stadium on Bramley Moore Dock.