WANDERERS want to examine the fine print on Project Big Picture – but their cautious support for the plan has certainly got tongues wagging around club’s the fanbase.

Sharon Brittan yesterday issued a statement via the official website welcoming proposals to address the current distribution of Premier League finances down the EFL pyramid.

Wider aspects of Project Big Picture have proved more controversial, however, and are certain to be hotly debated among top-flight clubs before they are put to a vote.

Critics of the plan say its instigators, Manchester United and Liverpool, are taking advantage of the financial vulnerability among many lower league clubs during the pandemic to seize greater power within the game. The involvement of the EFL’s chairman, Rick Parry, has also been condemned, given there has been little discussion among member clubs thus far.

Though Wanderers’ statement was far from a ringing endorsement, it nevertheless illustrated that EFL clubs may have to play ball and accommodate some of the elite clubs’ demands.

Concerns have been raised by some Bolton fans that the shorter-term financial gains could be superseded, and that the promises are simply a Trojan Horse to take greater control further down the line.

Wanderers’ statement read: “We have seen the press reports regarding the outline proposals of ‘Project Big Picture’.

“Whilst we await details which will allow us to consider the proposed changes further, we are fully in favour of steps which can be taken to address the inequitable distribution of finances between the Premier League and EFL.

“The summary details of Project Big Picture appear to go some way to help drive sustainability for the EFL’s member clubs and this can only be a good thing for clubs’ long term growth and the communities in which they are based.

“Bolton Wanderers’ recent history shows how important a football club is to the local community and that the model of football clubs relying solely on owner funding is broken.

“This town came very close to losing its club and the board believes that radical change has long been required to create a football pyramid which allows clubs at the lower levels to be sustainable yet be competitive on the field.

“We hope that conversations around Project Big Picture are the first step on this path.”

Although there have been a few dissenting voices in the EFL, the most vehement of which has been Tranmere Rovers chairman Mark Palios, general consensus is that with no prospect of government funding, that brokering a deal with the Premier League is the last option available to prevent some clubs from going out of business.

A £250million bail-out has been pledged as part of Project Big Picture, which will off-set the massive losses which have been incurred during the pandemic when no supporters have been allowed through the turnstiles.

Wanderers have been backed to the hilt by their supporters, with more than 8,000 season tickets purchased during the summer. And that cash has gone some way towards softening the financial short-term pain.

But with no promises being made on when fans may be allowed back in the uncertainty among club owners has heaped pressure on the EFL to find a quick solution.

Nigel Travis, owner of League Two club Leyton Orient, believes the government’s stance in the summer that the Premier League should be tasked with ensuring the financial security of the pyramid has opened the door for top clubs to take advantage.

“I hear certain clubs won’t make it beyond another two months,” he said. “What is happening at the moment is people like me just write cheques. So I sent a big cheque last week.

“To the Government we say thank you for the furlough programme, but now we are in a situation where we have been left dangling because they say one thing one week and another thing the other.

“Correct me if I am wrong but I think what he (culture secretary Oliver Dowden) said before was we are not supporting football - they have got the Premier League, the Premier League has to support them.

“So there has to be something coming for the Premier League. This is something coming from the Premier League. The Government have had no alternative.”


Andy Holt, Accrington Stanley chairman: “It’s a deal I might vote for but I’ll never support.

“How long has the EFL been discussing this plan with the Premier League – 2017. The bail-out should have been coming back near June time.

“The bail-out has potentially been held up by it (Project Big Picture) and now it is conditional.”

Mark Palios, Tranmere CEO: “The reality is that the detail in this is a power grab by the Big Six. I think it’s a forerunner to actually crystalising the gap in the pyramid that now exists between the Championship and League One.

“I think it will result in the formation of a Premier League Two.”

EFL chairman Rick Parry: “It is two of our great clubs showing leadership when it is needed, exercising great responsibility, and from the EFL point of view it is making our clubs sustainable and bridging the gap between the top of the Championship and the bottom of the Premier League. The principal part of the story is the biggest reset since the formation of the Premier League which, all being well, will set up the pyramid for the next 25 years. The proposal is designed for the greater good of English football.”

Premier League: “Football has many stakeholders, therefore this work should be carried out through the proper channels enabling all clubs and stakeholders the opportunity to contribute. In the Premier League’s view, a number of the individual proposals in the plan…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.”

Prime Minister’s official spokesman: “It’s clear that this proposal does not command support throughout the Premier League. It is exactly this type of backroom dealing that undermines trust in football governance. In terms of support for EFL clubs, we have been given assurances by both the Premier League and the EFL that they have no intention to let any club go bust due to Covid and we know that they have the means to prevent this from happening within their existing mechanisms. We would strongly urge the Premier League and the EFL to continue to work constructively to come up with a deal that provides a comprehensive package of scores for the whole football family.”

Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport: “We are surprised and disappointed that at a time of crisis, when we have urged the top tiers of professional football to come together and finalise a deal to help lower-league clubs, there appear to be backroom deals being cooked up that would create a closed shop at the very top of the game.”

Football Supporters’ Association: “Once again it appears that big decisions in football are apparently being stitched up behind our backs by billionaire club owners who continue to treat football as their personal fiefdom. Football is far more than a business to be carved up; it is part of our communities and our heritage, and football fans are its lifeblood. As football’s most important stakeholders, it is crucial that fans are consulted and involved in the game’s decision-making.”

Stoke joint chairman John Coates: “We have long believed that the major long-term issue facing English football is the cliff edge between the Premier League and Championship finances and we are in support of developing any discussions where this is firmly on the agenda.”

Forest Green chairman Dale Vince: “This has got some questionable elements – it’s not perfect but they might just be negotiating points. The bit I’m thinking of is the proposal for six big clubs in the Premier League to dominate the voting. If that was done as a simple majority, that would be an improvement on where we are today where it takes 14 out of 20 to pass any rule change. I think that is the part that people are railing against as far as I can see.”

Rochdale chief executive David Bottomley: “We have to be very grateful that there is now a plan on the table (for a financial package), and I would like to praise Rick Parry and the EFL for driving this forward. I just feel it’s probably going to come at a cost that maybe at this time could have been avoided. I’d agree that perhaps the game does need a complete restructure, but I don’t think now is the time to do that. You’re grateful there is something emerging, but tinged with some disappointment that it would appear that there will be a lot of conditions attached, and it has to be voted in – and I’m not quite sure everybody will vote for this.”

Southend chairman Ron Martin: “It appears to me that whilst the principles are agreed between some parties, the detail still needs to be understood and accepted by others. Nevertheless, from what we do know it does appear to represent a fairer and sustainable way forward for the football family.”

FA chairman Greg Clarke: “Change must benefit clubs, fans and players; not just selective balance sheets,” said Clarke.

“With the knowledge of senior board members and our CEO, I participated in the early stages of discussions.

“However, when the principal aim of these discussions became the concentration of power and wealth in the hands of a few clubs with a breakaway league mooted as a threat, I discontinued my involvement and counselled a more consensus-based approach involving all Premier League clubs.

“Our game needs to continually seek to improve, but benefits need to be shared.”