Greg Clarke has called for ‘unity’ following the controversial ‘Project Big Picture’ proposals and revealed he left talks concerning the plans amid the ‘threat’ of a breakaway league.
The ‘Project Big Picture’ plans have been fronted by Liverpool and backed by Manchester United in a bid to radically change the face of English football, their proposals including abolishing the League Cup and Community Shield, reducing the number of teams in the Premier League to 18 as well as providing the EFL with a one-off payment of £250m and 25% of future television revenue.
Despite the backing of EFL chairman, Rick Parry, the proposals have caused widespread outrage as they include the prospect of handing unprecedented power to a select few elite clubs, removing the current one-club, one-vote system and handing the nine longest-serving Premier League clubs power to make major changes.
The Premier League and Government have stated their opposition to the proposals, and without significant changes, it looks unlikely to win favour amongst the majority of top-flight sides, with Clarke – the chairman of the Football Association – revealing he held talks over the plans before withdrawing amid the threat of a breakaway league.
Writing in a letter to the FA council, Clarke said: “With the knowledge of senior Board members and our CEO, I participated in the early stages of discussions which were disclosed last weekend. It is very important stakeholders discuss resolving some of the strategic issues facing our game such as, for example, fixture congestion.
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“However, in late spring, when the principal aim of these discussions became the concentration of power and wealth in the hands of a few clubs with a breakaway league mooted as a threat, I of course, discontinued my involvement and counselled a more consensus-based approach involving all Premier League clubs and its Chair and CEO. Our game needs to continually seek to improve but benefits need to be shared.
“We, the FA Board and Council, have to ensure that any changes would be to the long-term benefit of the whole of football and we have substantial controls to help ensure that the best interests of the game are served by any new proposals.”
As a special shareholder in the Premier League, the FA has the right to exercise a veto vote on certain issues, in addition to its role in sanctioning competitions and licensing clubs to play in European competition.
Clarke has now called on all key stakeholders to ‘work together’ to improve English football, saying any potential changes must benefit the wider game and not just the ‘interests of a few’.
“In addition, to the Special Share in the Premier League, which prevents certain changes being made to the constitution without the FA’s consent, it is also the FA’s responsibility to sanction competitions in England – including any proposed new competition – as well as being responsible for licensing clubs, through UEFA, to play in Europe. Additionally, UEFA look to us to nominate the league, and therefore the clubs, that will play in their competitions.
“Let’s continue to work together to determine what is best for English football, with full dialogue between all key stakeholders. However, there is more to our game than economics. Change must benefit clubs, fans and players; not just selective balance sheets. In these difficult times unity, transparency and common purpose must override the interests of the few.”