Dave Seddon’s Preston North End pressview: Project Big Picture was a non-starter

Project Big Picture came into the public domain and then got booted over the bar and out of the ground within a few days.

By Dave Seddon
Saturday, 17th October 2020, 12:30 pm
Updated Saturday, 17th October 2020, 12:59 pm
Preston North End manager Alex Neil  talks to Peter Ridsdale
Preston North End manager Alex Neil talks to Peter Ridsdale

The follow-up rescue package put forward by the Premier League for clubs in League One and League Two, was similarly dismissed.

So just when will English football’s finances get the reboot it desperately needs?

I won’t hold my breath, with self-interest clearly the dominant domain.

Project Big Picture was never going to work was it?

It appealed to a lot of EFL clubs in that a decent wedge of money was dangled their way at a time when cash flow is nonexistent.

However, the chances of getting Premier League clubs outside of the top six to sign up to it, were slim indeed.

The main proposals which came from Liverpool and Manchester United was that the top flight reduced to an 18-team division.

Two teams would be relegated each season and the third bottom side enter into the play-offs with three Championship sides.

That last bit is nothing new, that is how the format of the play-offs was in the first two seasons of their existence in the late 1980s.

What the majority of the Premier League clubs were not going to fall for, was the greater share of power being given over to the ‘big six’ of Liverpool, United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham.

If you have earned the right to reach the top table you deserve an equal say and vote.

What gives Tottenham who have never won the title since the Premier League came into being, the right to have more of a voting clout?

Speak to many United supporters and they haven’t got a good word to say about their owners the Glazers, yet under Project Big Picture they would have so much power.

Had it not been for the money on offer, potentially £23m a season, how many Championship clubs would have been comfortable supporting this idea?

To have a reduced-sized Premier League and one less play-off place, would make the huge task of getting there even tougher for those in the second tier.

The carrot dangled was the money. Not surprisingly that appealed to some.

To go from £7.3m to £23m a season in solidarity payments would be welcome at any point, let alone slap bang in the middle of the pandemic when no money is coming in through the turnstiles.

Peter Ridsdale at Preston North End spoke of ‘broadly’ being in favour of Project Big Picture on the basis of the finance involved.

Where Ridsdale was uncomfortable, was the proposed voting structure in the Premier League.

In the end, dissent from within the Premier League ranks consigned Project Big Picture to history.

What followed was a rescue package put forward by the top flight to provide £50m worth of loans to clubs in Leagues One and Two.

Nothing was on offer for the Championship and the EFL as one voice rejected the scheme – their argument being that all 72 clubs should get financial help.

Maybe the Championship hasn’t helped its cause in respect of trying to get some handouts.

Money and players were changing hands on transfer deadline day, perhaps not at the rate we have seen in previous years, but it hardly gave the impression that the cupboard was bare.

There is little doubt though, that a slightly more even spread of money is needed throughout English football. The Premier League will always take the greater share but the gulf in cash is ridiculous.

Championship clubs are almost having to bankrupt themselves to push for the top flight, knowing if they do succeed there is a wheelbarrow full of cash awaiting them.

When the time does come for them to topple back down, they have millions and millions in parachute money to soften the fall.

Many clubs, North End included, in the Championship have a wage bill which far exceeds their turnover, the price it seems to be even remotely competitive in the division.

We await the next idea for a fairer distribution of football’s money and no doubt it will come with strings attached.

Can football outside the Premier League wait too much longer?

The word from inside the game is that five or six clubs in the Championhip could run out of money by the winter if fans continue to be locked out.

Can clubs in League one and League Two survive until the spring?

The Government don’t want to step in and help football out, insisting instead any bail out comes from within the game.

A short-term idea could be for loans from the Government, to be paid back when supporters start to click through the turnstiles again.

Moving on from all the accountancy, it will be nice to turn the focus on the pitch when North End return to action against Cardiff at Deepdale on Sunday.

Can another dose of Sunday football be a good omen on the back of the 4-2 win at Brentford a fortnight ago? It seems an age ago now and hopefully they can follow it up with another three points.

It has been at Euxton this week where the PNE squad have been put through their paces.

It’s an impressive place to say the least, with plenty of facilities under one roof.

At first glance from the road which runs past, you wouldn’t know a training ground is there.

A long brick wall shields it from the road, the railway track enclosing it at the other side.

It is bordered down one side by a golf driving range and foot-golf facility.

A few years ago that was a nine-hole golf course which I used to hack around on a Sunday morning in the rain.

It was Bolton’s training ground back in my golfing days, Wigan have since had it, now it is in North End’s ownership.