Culture secretary Oliver Dowden SLAMS 'Project Power Grab'

‘Project Power Grab!’ Culture secretary Oliver Dowden SLAMS Liverpool and Manchester United’s ‘Big Picture’ plan and warns it shows football is unable to govern itself

  • Oliver Dowden has once again expressed his concern over ‘Project Big Picture’
  • He labelled it ‘Project Power Grab’ and warns it shows football can’t govern itself
  • He also promised that no EFL club will go out of business due to the coronavirus
  • But Dowden described Project Big Picture as ‘a distraction at best from that’

The culture secretary Oliver Dowden has expressed a dim view about Project Big Picture talks involving Liverpool, Manchester United and EFL chairman Rick Parry, describing it as ‘Project Power Grab’.

The plans to change the face of English football have received plenty of attention this week, with the Government weighing in against the proposals. 

Speaking at an appearance in front of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee, Dowden said: ‘I’ve made clear my scepticism and concern about this.’

Culture secretary Oliver Dowden has once again laid out his objections to Project Big Picture

He went on to add that the provisions within Project Big Picture ‘tended towards a closed shop’ in favour of the big six.

He promised that no EFL club would be allowed to go bust, but described Project Big Picture as ‘a distraction at best from that’.

‘I hope the EFL will stop being distracted by this latest wheeze,’ he said.

Dowden added: ‘More importantly for Government right now, there is a problem in football which football is perfectly capable of resolving itself whereby the Premier League and the EFL just need to get together and do this deal.

‘We know from the conversations we have had that the EFL clubs will not be allowed to go bust, there are the resources there, but we need a comprehensive deal and this is a distraction from that.

‘What it demonstrates is that we were wise to put in our manifesto provisions for a fan-led review because it genuinely brings into question the ability of football to govern itself properly.’

 There are plans by Liverpool, Manchester United and Rick Parry to shake up English football

Pressed by DCMS committee chair Julian Knight on the guarantee that no EFL club would be allowed to go bust, Dowden said: ‘Those are the conversations I have had with the EFL and the Premier League, I have received assurances that they would not allow that to happen.

‘They have the resources to stop that happening. That is one question about a club right on the edge that could just go bust and stopping that from happening, that is a piecemeal solution.

‘What we want is a proper deal where we have the funding available to the EFL to ensure that they can give clubs the certainty during this period where there are no fans in stadiums.’

Dowden was asked by Clive Efford MP who he had consulted before rejecting PBP plans.

 EFL chief Parry is one of the leading figures behind the controversial Project Big Picture

‘I received advice from my officials on the impact of that, I received lots of immediate representation from fans and members of Parliament who expressed serious concerns about that,’ he said.

‘The concern around this is twofold – one, now is not the time to be doing this. Now is the time, rather than to divide football, to bring it together to solve this problem. But secondly there are bigger concerns, which I share, about it appearing to entrench the position of a small number of clubs as a closed shop situation.

‘I do think it makes the case, if they are going to go down this line, that there is a real problem around the governance of football, around whether this is working properly, which is why we need to return to a fan-led review.’ 

Aston Villa chief executive Christian Purslow has indicated his opposition to PBP, saying: ‘I don’t think we should give too much credence to this particular plan.’

Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Dowden arrives at Downing Street

While Purslow, the former Liverpool managing director, is sympathetic to the plight of teams lower down the footballing pyramid, he hopes the Premier League will offer some ‘concrete’ alternatives at Wednesday’s meeting.

‘I expect there to be a very honest, transparent, open dialogue amongst the 20 Premier League clubs,’ Purslow told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

‘I also expect there to be concrete proposals brought forward by the Premier League executive on funding for lower levels of football, that’s what I hope to see happen.

‘I don’t think we should give too much credence to this particular plan. I think a much broader, long-term plan for football is what I would expect to come from the Premier League.’

Representatives of the 20 Premier League clubs will have the chance to debate the issue in the open for the first time during a virtual get-together which comes against the backdrop of an eye-catching intervention from Football Association chairman Greg Clarke.

Liverpool, run by John W Henry (left), are looking to reduce the league from 20 teams to 18

In a letter to the FA Council, which convenes on Thursday, he said he had taken part in initial discussions before walking away when he felt the aim had become ‘the concentration of power and wealth in the hands of a few clubs, with a breakaway league mooted as a threat’.

He added: ‘I, of course, discontinued my involvement and counselled a more consensus-based approach involving all Premier League clubs and its chair and CEO. Our game needs to continually seek to improve but benefits need to be shared.’

Clarke warned that the FA could use its so-called ‘golden share’ as a trump card if it felt the wider interests of the game were being compromised and suggested any breakaway competition would not receive the necessary sanctions from the governing body.

‘We, the FA Board and Council, have to ensure that any changes would be to the long-term benefit of the whole of football and we have substantial controls to help ensure that the best interests of the game are served by any new proposals,’ he said.

Greg Clarke warned that the FA could use its so-called ‘golden share’ as trump card if needs be

‘Change must benefit clubs, fans and players, not just selective balance sheets. In these difficult times unity, transparency and common purpose must override the interests of the few.’

The Project Big Picture plans have been championed by EFL chairman Parry, with teams in the Championship, League One and League Two in line to receive £250million up front alongside a promise of a handsomely increased 25 per cent share of future Premier League broadcast revenue.

Support among the 72 EFL clubs appeared to be soaring after separate divisional meetings helmed by Parry on Tuesday, though his moves have reportedly been considerably less well received by a majority of Premier League clubs outside the elite names.

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