Connor Southwell: Premier League power grab threatens to turn the beautiful game ugly
- Credit: PA
An 18-team Premier League, increased EFL funding and axing of League Cup among raft of proposals in ‘Revitalisation’ project as Connor Southwell analyses the ideas that could revolutionise English football
It wasn’t long ago that football was presented as the game for the masses.
You could take a football from your garden shed, go to your local park and replicate the game that is played in the grand stadiums around the country.
Since the inception of the Premier League in the 90s, many football fans have felt their experience of football has been diluted. Footballers have become untouchable public personas, morals have slowly been washing away and supporters have become an afterthought.
The latest proposals, as presented by the Telegraph, don’t help bridge this disconnect but smash it beyond repair.
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It is presented as a package of omnibenevolence - but it is actually about becoming omnipotent.
When many football clubs are staring extinction in the face - two of the biggest in Manchester United and Liverpool have seen an opportunity to turn ruthless ambition into reality.
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Ever since the Premier League was constructed, those at the top have been discontent with their contribution in regard to driving the popularity of the product and the money they receive.
For years, they’ve been flirting with the creation of a European Super League - now they want to act as dictators of English football.
In the proposals reported by the Telegraph, the ‘top six’ would become ‘long-term shareholders’ in a reduced 18-team Premier League. They can make ‘major changes, including amending rules and regulations, agreeing contracts, removal of the chief executive, and a wide-ranging veto including on club ownership’. Under the proposals just two teams would be automatically promoted each season from the Championship to the Premier League whilst the sides that finished third, fourth and fifth would compete in a play-off with the 16th placed top flight club.
This is nothing less than an insane power grab at a time of national distress. Opportunism of the greatest kind - in essence, the big fish are turning to those in the pyramid and saying ‘join us or we’ll kill your football club’.
Let’s give the proposals some credit, some ideas contained within are positive.
The idea around sorting parachute payments is a positive, the Championship would benefit massively from the idea that would see 25pc of revenue created by the Premier League and the EFL returned to those at the lowest ebb of the system.
For supporters, the proposals would see lower ticket prices, subsidised travel and the return of safe-standing. All that is thrown in for the destruction of English football.
A financial package worth an initial £250million would be split between 72 clubs - a £3.5m figure that would help keep clubs afloat.
All of this acts as the butter to get sides on board. As many struggle to connect with their sides behind closed doors - Liverpool and Manchester United want to drive a wedge between it entirely.
English football is on its knees praying for revival. Those ‘at the top are teasing rescue cash in exchange for unimpeachable primacy at the top of the game’ as journalist Seb Stafford-Bloor wrote on Twitter.
This is a privatisation of the Premier League. Capitalism that would see the Big Six finally scratch that persistent itch and receive the money they feel they deserve. And to hell with the rest of you.
In a week where the idea of incorporating ‘B Teams’ into the EFL were proposed by Manchester City chief executive Ferran Soriano - this feels like another kick in the teeth for those who love the game.
The attentions of those at the top are increasing becoming self-serving. Norwich City playing Chelsea B Team at Carrow Road? Do me a favour.
This is not football. It is not why the game was constructed. It is a insane power grab by those at the top.
Premier League clubs would be voting for less power, less say and less money. EFL clubs would be voting for the destruction of the English pyramid.
The Premier League itself also appear unimpressed by the reports, even more so with EFL chairman Rick Parry who has given them his endorsement. The Premier League statement said: “A number of the individual proposals in the plan published today could have a damaging impact on the whole game and we are disappointed to see that Rick Parry, Chair of the EFL, has given his on-the-record support. The Premier League has been working in good faith with its clubs and the EFL to seek a resolution to the requirement for COVID-19 rescue funding. This work will continue.”
This cannot be allowed be happen. Football isn’t a commodity that can be bought by the wealthiest. It is inclusive, it should be for everyone.
The League Cup creates income for lower league clubs - those replays provide significant funds to help sustainability.
Now, they want to abolish it. They want a game that allows them to benefit from all areas. They want their players to go on loan to the EFL, but they don’t want to pay for it.
They want the increased competition and benefits of the other 14 clubs, but they don’t want them to be paid fairly for it.
This isn’t ‘Project Big Picture’, this is ‘Project Keep the Big Clubs Big’ and for supporters it would be trading in the soul of the game they cherish.
Fans must unite to block it. This cannot be allowed to happen. Does the football pyramids unsustainability need addressing? Yes. But not like this.
Once upon a time, the sport was christened as the ‘Beautiful Game’, but it is becoming increasingly ugly.