Rick Parry claims cutting out Newcastle United & 13 other Premier League clubs from Project Big Picture football governance reform talks was 'sensible' plan

English Football League chairman Rick Parry has claimed cutting out 14 Premier League clubs – including Newcastle United – from ‘secret’ Project Big Picture talks was the ‘sensible’ plan.

Tuesday, 10th November 2020, 1:28 pm

Parry along with Premier League chief executive Richard Masters and FA chairman Greg Clarke were this morning grilled by MPs sitting on parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sports Committee this, with the bail out of clubs in the lower reaches of English football, and a lack of progress on firm plans and action, the main topic.

Questions did, however, stray onto Project Big Picture, the seemingly aborted plan – seen by many as a top six ‘power grab’ disguised as charity to the EFL – and Parry doubled down on his stance that the plan was not only right, but also the manner in which early talks took place, described by one MP as ‘sneaky’, were also totally just.

When asked by the DCMS committee whether the 14 other Premier League clubs were aware of the reported ‘secret’ initial talks around Project Big Picture, prior to the leak to the press, Parry confirmed: “Not to my knowledge."

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

ZURICH, SWITZERLAND - FEBRUARY 26: Greg Dyke (R), Chairman of the England Football Association talks to Rick Parry after the results of the first vote during the Extraordinary FIFA Congress at Hallenstadion on February 26, 2016 in Zurich, Switzerland. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

When asked whether he thought the secretive nature of the talks could be deemed ‘sneaky’, he replied: "No.

"It is sensible to start with a small group (the top six clubs) then work outwards."

Parry was then asked whether he thought the other 14 could not have helped come up with a sensible plan, working with the top six, not cut out of talks, Parry said: "Well they haven't for the last 25 years."

The questioning continued. Did Parry think the decision to cut the ‘other 14’ out of the talks would make them angry?

He defiantly responded: “Of course, there is a danger of that – but if you do nothing, nothing happens. You have to start somewhere."

Project Big Picture has proven a very divisive plan since it was leaked a few weeks back.

The plan – which could not be passed without the Premier League voting in favour of it (14 votes) – was said to contain a £250million payment up front to the EFL to keep clubs in the lower reaches of English football afloat, which was an advance of future TV revenue, of which the body would get 25%.

But, the plan went much further, tying in a governance review at the top of the game, with the short-term sticking plasters for those clubs most in need.

The 20-team top flight would become 18, the EFL Cup and the Community Shield would be no more, the current one club, one vote principle would be scrapped pushing power to the nine longest serving Premier League clubs – Arsenal, Chelsea, Everton, Liverpool, Man Utd, Man City, Southampton, Tottenham, West Ham. That diluting of power would also see just six of those nine needing to vote in favour of future actions for change to be enacted – this includes on the ownership of football clubs and takeovers.

Any shift to this form of football governance would see the end to any prospect of the Saudi-led Newcastle United being pushed through, even potentially via legal challenges.

The Gazette understands the still alive Project Big Picture hopes of those at the top of the game, in whatever form they may resurface, are seen as a real and present danger to the PCP Capital Partners, Reuben Brothers and Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia deal which, as things stand, remains very much on the table, but currently tied into legal avenues.

Parry, talking of the leaks of the project – described by the Football Supporters Association as a ‘sugar-coated cyanide pill’ – said to the committee: “I don't agree. We responded to a leak from people trying to kill the project. It (PBP) ticked all the boxes in creating a sustainable future for the game. It was a first class plan. Elements were unpopular. But it is a project with a whole host of extremely good ideas."

When asked about the possibility of a future European Super League, Parry said: “The Premier League will exist (in ten years) – I'm not a fan of European Super League. Don't see it as necessary.

"Football will have evolved. Time is overdue for a reset."

When asked about the tying up of a governance review with short-term needs to rescue clubs, he said: “No (there is a) need to tackle both simultaneously.

“The model of EFL was broken pre-COVID and will be post-COVID. By resetting the future you do two things, you give EFL owners hope, a future because if they stop putting cash in we are dead. And when you look at future redistribution revenues, the two dovetail perfectly.”

Premier League chief Masters confirmed the “change is coming” to the Premier League – but all 20 clubs must be involved in it.

We were also contemplating our own strategic review, then the pandemic came and changed everything,” Masters said.

“What we have announced in the last two weeks is a revival of our strategic review but with a tighter timeframe and wider focus to deal with all of the issues which have come up during the pandemic,” he told the committee.

“I think the status quo is very unlikely to be unifying or the right way forward so I think change is coming. But change needs to be delivered with the development of all clubs. All stakeholders need to be involved.

“While Project Big Picture came up during the middle of this, all of our 20 clubs support strategic review. There are multiple plans in existence.

“I think change is coming but it needs to be agreed. We hope to complete by the end of March.”

In the committee closing statement the chair declared the will write to Masters and Parry every seven days to see evidence of talks to resolve EFL and EPL differences on the above subjects. They will then publish responses on social media.