The announcement of “Project Big Picture” this week has created a lot of controversy throughout the football world as the “Big Six” clubs (Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester City) shared their proposal for restructuring football finance – but with major conditions attached. It is clear that many clubs are in desperate financial need and the Covid crisis is bringing the very existence of some clubs under threat. Organisations such as the Football Supporters’ Association (FSA) along with supporter groups and stakeholders up and down the country have long been calling for reform.
Blackpool fans are only too aware of how impotent the football authorities were to deal with our own difficulties with our previous owners and how unwilling they were to engage in meaningful dialogue with supporters as to how the game could be reformed. It is interesting how the recent problems at clubs such as Bury, Wigan and Macclesfield, coupled with the Covid effect, has turned the attention very sharply towards the state of football’s precarious financial situation. For years, BST has added its voice to the call for better governance and a reform of the whole football pyramid and famously tried to garner sufficient support for its Parliamentary petition for an independent football regulator. Only now are the world of football and our Parliamentary representatives realising just how important that is.
This plan of the Big Six, a cynical and transparent power grab, has thankfully been voted down by the rest of the Premier League. It was never likely to get past the first hurdle, which required 14 PL clubs to vote for it. If it had, the next hurdle was the FA who own a Golden Share in the PL and had already distanced themselves from this plot. Press reports of a meeting between Rick Parry and the 72 EFL clubs resulted in overwhelming support for this project from the majority of EFL clubs. If true, it is quite extraordinary that so many club owners either couldn’t or wouldn’t see this “project” for what it was. It is to be to be hoped that the support they pledged was for the financial review and not for the giving away of football’s heritage.
Whilst it is understandable that EFL club owners are keen to listen to any plan that offers an immediate rescue package and financial sustainability for the future, the conditions attached to this “offer” meant it should not even have seen the light of day.
This was not the only deal in town; the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) have long since promised a Government backed, fan led review of football and this is urgently required. Proposals have already been drafted by various interested parties, including the FSA and Damian Collins MP. David Bernstein and David Davies, ex FA chiefs, are due to present their proposal this week. It is a huge relief that a rescue package for League 1 and 2 clubs has been agreed by the PL and needs to be implemented urgently . We now need some real leadership and a willingness from all parties to work out how to reform football to ensure that such a situation will not arise again.
Meanwhile, it is good to see that Blackpool FC have once again decided to support the Royal British Legion by commissioning Blackpool FC poppy badges. The time for our annual remembrance is upon us and it seems appropriate to remind readers that we are fortunate to have a Memorial Arboretum at Moor Park, Bispham. It is “to provide the service associations and the people of Blackpool and the Fylde with a place of peace and beauty in which to remember their fallen comrades and loved ones” and is the only memorial Arboretum outside of the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. Blackpool FC has a dedicated area to commemorate five former players who lost their lives during the First World War. The Blackpool FC Community Trust and the BST volunteer group meet on Thursday mornings to help restore and maintain this area. The lockdown earlier this year meant that no one was able to attend for some months and there is now much work to be done. If you can spare an hour or two on a Thursday morning, please consider joining this small but dedicated group of people to help. You can contact Tony Wilkinson by email at firstname.lastname@example.org to offer your services and to find out more.