Premier League meeting to test unity of ‘Big Six’ over crucial Project Big Picture vote

Support among the top flight is low despite Liverpool and Manchester United getting the bulk of the EFL on board with the plans, with Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City unconvinced on the new proposals

Miguel Delaney
Chief Football Writer
,Tony Evans
Tuesday 13 October 2020 17:26
What is Project Big Picture?

Wednesday's Premier League meeting could see a gap within the big six for the first time, with the future of Project Big Picture set to stand on the unity of the two sides.

The Independent has been told that key figures at Chelsea., Arsenal and Manchester City still have significant reservations about the plan - which has been led by Manchester United and Liverpool.

The rest of the Premier League clubs currently have major concerns, which are set to be aired at Wednesday's meeting.

'Project Big Picture' would need a majority of 14 to be pushed through, something that is still some way off. It is possible they may only have three votes as it stands, but there is a feeling that can be worked on.

Against that, there is much greater unity about the plan among the EFL. A vast majority of clubs ultimately see this as both saving them and safeguarding their future.

An argument that has been put forward against the project is that £250m - the value of any bail-out - is worth far more than the political power that would be handed away to the elite Premier League clubs for decades, as is set out in the current plans for voting. The feeling among the EFL, however, is that "the other choice is going under".

The EFL also feels emboldened by the support of Liverpool and United, since they are the two most popular English clubs in the world, and bring in huge money.

The "nuclear option" remains the big six resigning from the Premier League, and forming a new division with 12 EFL clubs, leaving "the greatest league in the world" as a rump.

Many sources see this is "the real test of how far United and Liverpool are willing to go".

EFL clubs will start to go bust in a matter of weeks without financial help

There is currently no indication they would take that option, but the very threat could yet influence votes.

The belief is that, if that situation is broached, it could well see other Premier League clubs waver in their position. They are well aware that the international broadcast money they bring in is dependent on the big clubs, and particularly the two most successful in history.

One source involved in discussions says the current assessment is that of a "strong and confident EFL" against a "split Premier League in disarray".

The problem for Project Big Picture is the strength of the bloc behind the Premier League.

Totally against the plans are: the Premier League executive, the supporters' organisations including the FSA, the government and the Football Association. The FA's current stance is that it will not sanction a new division or competition, which would complicate any potential resignation.

The fact prime minister Boris Johnson got involved is also seen as influential.

The belief on that side is that if the anti-group stand firm, Project Big Picture has no chance.

Hanging over all of this is Whitehall's plans for a football governance review, that could well be the decisive factor in the future of the game. "All roads lead there," one source said.

Many involved are waiting to see what positions clubs like Chelsea, Arsenal and City air. If they come out against Project Big Picture, it will be the first time that there is a public schism between the Big Six. Previous Premier League meetings have often seen that group go away and consult with each other.

Wednesday's Premier League meeting is meanwhile set to also see discussion on the controversial new Pay-Per-View plans. The Independent has been told some figures will push to bring the price down from £14.95 to £9.95.

"They could do with some good publicity," one source quipped.

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