Tuesday’s soccer news starts with the plan to reset how professional soccer works in England. Project Big Picture might not be the catchiest title, but it’s pushed Premier League politics to the forefront in an international week.
Manchester United and Liverpool’s ownership is now the face of a plan to reduce the size of the Premier League, create a playoff for one promotion and relegation spot, and do away with the League Cup, Community Shield, and parachute payments for relegated clubs. More importantly to the lower divisions, the plan also calls for a £250m “rescue fund” and sharing 25% of broadcast money with the lower divisions.
As expected, the response to the public reveal of this plan focuses on changing the weight of the voting in the Premier League. Stay in the league long enough, and a club gets “special voting rights.” Historically, English soccer hasn’t felt strongly about some league clubs getting special consideration over others at any of its levels. Project Big Picture also calls for a two-club reduction in the professional ranks in a structure where tradition turns any club falling out of the professional ranks into a tragedy worthy of at least a book or three.
Meanwhile, freeing up space in the calendar has been a long-term issue for governing bodies and stakeholders. FIFA tried it in the 1990s with a multi-stage plan to reduce the size of domestic leagues. That stalled at 20 in the Premier League and 18in other places. World soccer’s governing body intended to reduce to 16, perhaps not realizing how quickly clubs would turn to lucrative summer touring.
In this age of the abnormal, it might be the time to give serious consideration to resets. Fixture congestion is nothing new, but the pressures of getting the games in over the summer compounded the problem. English soccer insisting on pushing ahead with a League Cup this season is one of those decisions that will probably look ridiculous in retrospect. Insisting on the full group stages for the Champions League and Europa League played in home stadiums could very easily end up in that same category.
Whether or not this is the plan for English soccer, what’s almost impossible to argue against is that European club soccer across the board needs fundamental change. The money pouring into the sport turned half measures and inaction into business strategy. That needs to finally come to an end, replace with actual planning that accounts for all of the game’s stakeholders.
Writing for The Telegraph, Fleetwood Town chairman Andy Pilley explains why Project Big Picture makes sense for his League One club. The Football Supporters Association comes out strongly against Project Big Picture. The Atheltic’s Matt Slater works through the plan. The Guardian’s David Conn on what the plan going public means for the Premier League right now.
Also in the soccer news, USMNT and Barcelona defender Sergino Dest spoke to American media members with SI.com’s Brian Straus focusing on how signing with the club is step one. KSL Sports’ Tom Hackett reports on the bizarre situation with now suspended Real Salt Lake player Sam Johnson with a shooting at a party at his house.
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