I spent nearly a decade attending the monthly meetings of Premier League Chairmen and CEOs and based on that experience I had not a single doubt that the meeting called last week to discuss the so-called Big Picture proposals would immediately despatch them to the nearest bin.
To get any change approved by the Premier League, you need to secure 14 of the 20 votes available and the simple truth is that a reduction in the number of clubs from 20 to 18 is never going to achieve the requisite number of votes. It is tantamount to turkeys voting for Christmas.
Most clubs outside of the top six have survival in the Premier League as their number one goal and so extending the number of relegation places from three to five is not going to happen. It is no surprise the issue of abolishing the parachute payment system has come up again as to do so would lead to promoted clubs being in a much weaker position which favours those clubs already in the Premier League.
The Government has made it clear that it will not be bailing out football because they believe there is sufficient money in the professional game for football to sort out the problems it faces. When you consider this is our national sport not offering any type of assistance to clubs is majorly inconsistent with their support for the arts and other sectors. The Arts is receiving in excess of £1 billion for example. It is fair to say that Premier League clubs (as well as EFL clubs) will have prepared their budgets on the basis of anticipated revenues and so it is not as simple as just quoting the income they get from being in the Premier League as a reason for them handing over £12.5m per club (£250m in total) to EFL clubs.
I don’t think it has helped the situation that the EFL opened a dialogue with Liverpool and Manchester United first rather than the two leagues having direct dialogue. That in itself could yet lead to other ramifications. Mind you it is no surprise that the biggest clubs were enticed into the discussion with the objective of a power grab which is nothing new and was a regular occurrence when I was involved with the Premier League.
The usual way to diffuse any difficult situation in this country is to call for a review and to set a date for it to report. In this case it has been suggested the review will be completed by Christmas, but you can be sure that deadline will be extended due to the complexity of the issues involved. Of course, if Premier League clubs are pressurised to act by Government and others, they can now point to the fact a comprehensive review is in progress. The Government will also have their own review of course.
There is no doubt in my mind that if there is no bail out for League one and two clubs this month then there will be a number of casualties. Any bail out to Championship clubs is made more complex by a number of factors. Some clubs like Brentford have received significant transfer fees from the sale of players in recent weeks. Others are owned by very wealthy owners who in some cases are on a par with their Premier League counterparts. Some Championship clubs on the other hand are facing real financial difficulty and need financial support.
What I do know is that football cannot wait until the end of the year at best for the Premier League review findings. Action is needed now either from Government or football itself. Doing nothing will lead to the biggest crisis in lower league football for a generation as well as the demise of many community trusts who do so much to support some of the most vulnerable people in society today. The time for action is now.
Peter Varney – Chairman, Integral Sports Management
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