Swansea City Supporters’ Trust notes the recent leaking of the ‘Project Big Picture’ proposals made by the owners of Liverpool and Manchester United, and endorsed by Rick Parry, the Chair of the EFL. We also note the recent announcement from Premier League clubs that these proposals have been rejected but they will be working together on alternative proposals on the structuring and financing of the domestic game.
The Trust has repeatedly warned of the financial impacts of the current crisis, which have exacerbated the long-known financial management issues across the football industry. EFL clubs are in desperate need of significant financial support just to survive, and for League 1 and 2 clubs that need is urgent. It is no exaggeration to say we are weeks away from some football clubs, the lifeblood of their communities, being put into administration or bankruptcy. This is a matter of survival for those clubs, so we can understand why many lower league clubs would support any measure that provides them short-term security, whatever the long-term price.
It is that long-term price that concerns us. The main issue with the leaked proposals related to the plans to hand over control of the league structure to nine of the current Premier League clubs in perpetuity, including the self-titled “Big 6”. Once a small group of clubs have the authority to make decisions as they wish, that is what they will do. While proposals such as giving 25% of broadcasting deal revenue to EFL clubs sounds positive on paper, and they are in the short-term, what happens after these deals expire? We are already seeing clubs move to individual pay-per-view packages while games are played behind closed doors. What is to stop these clubs pulling up the drawbridge even further? It is not so long ago that some of those clubs were in a lower division to us. In short, without independent governance and appropriate checks and balances in place, we can have no confidence in clubs acting in good faith.
As a club that has proven it is possible for a well-run club to progress through from League 2 to the Premier League and beyond, we will always argue against anything that would impact similarly well-run clubs achieving the same dream. The ability to progress through the pyramid structure is the lifeblood of this league and it must be protected.
We know that the current crisis has only exacerbated the financial issues that already affected many clubs, some of whom were already living beyond their means. We have repeatedly called for improved, independent, governance to ensure clubs comply with the rules and are run in a self-sustainable manner. That is more important than ever. This is why the Swans Trust fully supports the FSA’s call to the Premier League and Government to step up and deliver an alternative financial package urgently but also, critically, the pressing need for the fan-led review of football governance that the UK Government previously promised.
The Trust has an open mind when it comes to changes to the current model and we will always review proposals on that basis. However, the original proposals were clearly unacceptable. As discussions are ongoing, we hope the relevant parties have taken note of the views of the fans across all clubs and work together to come to a solution that is in the interests of all parties, not just a few.
Swansea City Supporters’ Trust
15th October 2020