Project Big Picture ‘will destroy the game in this country’, says Nicola Palios

By Jamie Gardner, PA Chief Sports Reporter
·5-min read

The Project Big Picture proposals have been likened to “someone offering you a million pounds but shooting you soon after” by Tranmere co-owner Nicola Palios.

EFL chairman Rick Parry is working on the revolutionary proposals with the support of Liverpool and Manchester United.

They include an immediate £250million rescue package for EFL clubs starved of matchday income by the coronavirus pandemic and the promise of a 25 per cent cut of future Premier League media revenues.

But it also conveys a greater say over the game’s governance to the Premier League’s big six, something Palios is deeply concerned about.

“There are some clear good elements to Project Big Picture but they are hugely outweighed by the downsides that will destroy the game in this country,” she wrote on Twitter.

“Once you’ve given all the power to a small group they can do what they want.

“B teams would be with us in a heartbeat. The EFL would get 25 per cent of the TV money but only after the best of all the games are taken away from TV to be streamed by the big clubs. And what’s to stop them changing the distribution methodology in future, to say 10 per cent?

“We must not be blinded by the short-term offer of a cash lifeline. It’s like someone offering you a million pounds but shooting you soon after.”

Her husband and Tranmere chairman Mark Palios called on the Government to intervene.

“The inability of the game to fix itself has never been more evident than in its inability to find a collective response to Covid,” he said in a statement released to the PA news agency.

“The vacuum of leadership results in football’s complex stakeholder map disintegrating into naked self-interest at the expense of football.

“The Government can’t stand by and allow the game in this country, built ‘on the shoulders of giants’ and such a major part of the lives of millions, sacrificed on the altar of short-term expediency.”

Parry said on BBC Radio Four’s Today programme on Monday morning that the 25 per cent share of revenues would be “in perpetuity” but it is understood those behind PBP accept there are no such guarantees.

It is understood Parry will hold meetings with the 72 EFL clubs on Tuesday to discuss PBP.

Rotherham chairman Tony Stewart is predicting “dire disaster” as early as this month with at least six EFL clubs going bust if financial help is not forthcoming.

He told Sky Sports News: “For a long time now the wealth of money that comes into football is not distributed in the way it should be. The good news is it’s been highlighted.

“I think Rick Parry has more or less said things have got to happen. There were talks before the Covid disaster and now it’s coming to a head.

“I welcome the change. If things don’t happen soon I know for a fact more than half a dozen EFL clubs will go by the wayside, and I’m not exaggerating.

“If nothing does happen – and I’m talking in the month of October – dire disaster will happen to clubs all around the UK.”

Bolton chairman Sharon Brittan spoke more positively about the plans in a statement on her club’s website, describing them as a useful “first step”.

“We are fully in favour of steps which can be taken to address the inequitable distribution of finances between the Premier League and EFL,” Brittan wrote.

“The summary details of Project Big Picture appear to go some way to help drive sustainability for the EFL’s member clubs and this can only be a good thing for clubs’ long-term growth and the communities in which they are based.

“Bolton Wanderers’ recent history shows how important a football club is to the local community and that the model of football clubs relying solely on owner funding is broken.

“This town came very close to losing its club and the board believes that radical change has long been required to create a football pyramid which allows clubs at the lower levels to be sustainable yet be competitive on the field.

“We hope that conversations around Project Big Picture are the first step on this path.”

Arsene Wenger says long-term solutions are needed to ensure the sustainability of the national game
Arsene Wenger says long-term solutions are needed to ensure the sustainability of the national game (Mike Egerton/PA)

Former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger believes there is a need for a long-term solution.

“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 at a Sky event 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.”

Downing Street has condemned the “backroom dealing” behind PBP, while the Premier League says it will have a “damaging impact” on the game, and affect the strength of the competition.

It has been reported that the Football Association would use its ‘golden share’ in the Premier League to veto the proposed plan if it came forward.

A meeting of the FA Council is being held on Thursday, the PA news agency understands.