The English football pyramid could be set for a drastic overhaul as Manchester United and Liverpool lead ‘Project Big Picture’.
Proposals revealed by The Telegraph have shown the drastic changes being planned in an ‘extraordinary overhaul’.
Much has been made of what has been described as a ‘power grab’ by top clubs and met with widespread condemnation from across the football world.
EFL chairman Rick Parry insists the drastic overhaul would be for the “greater good of the game” and includes several financial packages to support those lower down the pyramid as football grapples with the costs of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But several elements of the detailed proposal are cause for concern – here’s a look at five points which are most worrying for football fans.
1) Long-term shareholders
The obvious concerns over the proposals come surrounding the shareholder system it plans to introduce.
The nine clubs who have been members of the Premier League continuously for more seasons than the other clubs will, under the proposals, be considered ‘Long-Term Shareholders’.
At present, the nine clubs would comprise of Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham, Everton and Southampton.
Two-thirds of those ‘long-term shareholders’, just six of the nine teams, would be given power to make decisions without approval from other clubs.
That would include election or removal of board members, amendments to cost control rules and regulations and sale of league broadcasting and media rights.
They could also prevent changes to rights distribution and change distribution packages, as well as being able to block approval of proposed new owners for other clubs.
Ultimately, the proposals would give the nine ‘long-term shareholders’ power to make decisions without approval of the rest of the league and simply add to their monopoly over the top flight and decisions impacting all clubs.
2) Loan system
Top clubs have become increasingly willing to splash the cash on young prospects, often spending millions to take young talent from clubs far before first-team level.
For example, Manchester City signed Jadon Sancho from Watford before selling him to Borussia Dortmund for a significant profit without ever playing a senior game.
Ethan Ampadu headed to Chelsea after just a handful of appearances as a 16-year-old for Exeter City and has so far spent his Blues career out on loan, one of a number of youngsters in a similar position at Stamford Bridge.
The pair are far from alone – and top clubs having a growing monopoly over teenage talent looks set to increase under the new proposals.
Clubs in League One and below would no longer be required to have an academy, something which could help them save costs but also discourages investment in young talent.
That is offset by clubs being permitted to loan out up to 15 players domestically, giving those able to invest in buying young players the freedom to store more youngsters in their squads.
In the short term, EFL clubs may benefit from loan signings, with up to four permitted to head from a single English club to another.
Yet it is the top clubs able to harvest the most talent and stock their academies with top young players, most of whom will never play for the club, who will benefit the most.
As with all the proposals, there are incentives for lower clubs – such as loanee clubs receiving payments based on future performance or sale of loaned players.
Ultimately, however, those proposals will simply extend the monopoly that top clubs have on talent at a younger and younger age, which allows them to profit as they progress into senior football.
3) Pre-season tournaments
Amongst the most eye-catching proposals are plans to reduce the Premier League to 18 teams and scrap both the League Cup and Community Shield.
The plans for a less congested calendar for Premier League clubs are designed to allow time for a longer pre-season period extended to late August.
Pre-season tours have become lucrative business in recent years, particularly for top clubs with global commercial reach.
Clubs will be forced to participate in the Premier League summer tournament at least once every five years, seemingly enabling the competition to be built as a concept.
After plans for a 39th game were scrapped, plans for a longer pre-season seemingly serve as a new way to cash-in on global interest in the Premier League.
However, it will be the clubs with greatest international support such as Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United in line for the most lucrative benefits to strengthen their financial dominance.
4) TV rights
The new proposals would also see Premier League and English Football League TV rights on both a domestic and international level sold collectively by the Premier League.
It would seem inevitable that the motives of the Premier League would be to garner the greatest deal for themselves rather than the EFL.
Furthermore, the long-term shareholder situation highlighted above would give the select nine clubs the power to dominate the deal put together.
TV rights are big business for the Premier League and EFL, but the current deal could lead to increasingly unequal deals being struck which are not necessarily beneficial to all parties.
5) Media rights
Aside from the sale of TV rights, the new proposals would also give Premier League clubs more power over their own media rights.
All clubs would be permitted to show limited in-match highlights on their own digital platforms.
Premier League clubs would also have exclusive rights to sell eight live matches per season directly via their own platforms in all international territories.
Inevitably, this would benefit the clubs with the larger global fanbases.
Manchester United, for instance, would generate far superior demand for their games compared to, say, Burnley.
Giving clubs the power to cash-in on their own media rights would only serve as another tool to increase the barriers to break into the ‘big six’.