How Arsenal would be affected by new Premier League proposals.
A Telegraph exclusive yesterday revealed that Manchester United and Liverpool are spearheading plans for a radical revision of English football. The plan, nicknamed “Project Big Picture”, would see the Premier League reduced to eighteen teams, and could take hold as early as the 2022/2023 season. But how would Arsenal be affected by it?
What would the plan entail?
As previously mentioned, “Project Big Picture” would see the Premier League reduced to eighteen sides, two fewer than its current composition. Of these, the two bottom sides would face automatic relegation, replaced by the top two sides in the English Championship, whilst 16th placed would enter a play-off against the sides finishing third to fifth in the Championship, in a bid to try and stay in England’s top division. In addition, the Carabao Cup and the English Community Shield, of which Arsenal are current holders, would be scrapped, reducing fixture congestion.
Most important, however, are the changes in the power structure that would result from this proposal. The top six sides (Arsenal, Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool, and Tottenham Hotspur), along with the three longest-residing Premier League sides (Everton, West Ham, and Southampton), would be granted significantly more power in voting matters. For example, they could veto new ownership, while the current two-thirds majority needed on voting would no longer be necessary.
Why is this being suggested?
In short, this is a plan for financial security. It includes a £250 million bailout for the lower leagues of English football, which will be supplemented by 25% of the Premier Leagues annual revenue every year. This would help prevent situations like that of Macclesfield’s, who were expelled from the Football League after failing to repay debts of £500,000. A further £100 million would be given to the Football Association as a gift. As already outlined, the price for these financial concessions would be power over the running of the Premier League.
This is not the first time that the top six clubs of the Premier League have tried to change the dynamic of football. In 2018, FootballLeaks showed talks had taken place to form a European Super League, which would have seen the top six sides break away from the Premier League in favour of the more lucrative super league.
The financial implications this time around, however, suggest that this could be taken more seriously. In an economic climate in which clubs are struggling financially – none more so than those in the lower divisions of English football, there is a feeling that the Premier League clubs need to do more to support these clubs. This would, of course, require a trade-off: no club is going to volunteer millions of pounds to save other clubs whilst their own is suffering from a significant decrease of revenue without demanding something in return.
How does this affect Arsenal?
There is no doubt that Arsenal are struggling as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, trying to balance job cuts with maintaining team quality. This was perfectly demonstrated on deadline day. The day began with the news that Arsenal’s famous mascot, Gunnasaurus, had been made redundant, and ended with the news that Arsenal had splashed £45 million on Atletico Madrid and Ghana midfielder Thomas Partey. Whilst the news was jubilantly received by Arsenal fans, it just served to highlight the contradictory nature of Arsenal’s finances in an ever-changing economic climate.
The latest proposal would see the Gunners in a minority that would benefit. As part of the top six, they would see their power over how the league is run and who clubs are run by significantly increase, whilst they are unlikely in the foreseeable future to be affected by changes to relegation and promotion avenues. There would also be more time for pre-season friendlies, quickly becoming a valuable cash-cow something which clubs of Arsenal’s stature would undoubtedly disproportionately benefit from.
For the fans too, there would be benefits. Away ticket prices would be capped at £20, whilst subsidised away travel is also on the agenda. For those who have been campaigning against rising ticket prices, this would be a small victory, although home ticket pricings would remain unaffected. However, this would be offset by the potential privatisation of the FA Cup, which would likely move away from terrestrial television.
The Premier League, however, have voiced their concerns for the plans, warning that they could have a “damaging impact on the whole game”, and this is something that is reflected across social media. It certainly gives the appearance of a blatant power grab by the clubs at the top of the tree, and will not go down well with fans just days after the announcement of pay-per-view matches being priced at £14.95. This is the latest act contributing to a growing feeling that the average matchday fan is slowly being priced out of being a part of the sport. As with the pay-per-view games, which would hit fans of smaller, less “box-office” Premier League teams hardest, the new proposals would again place increased power into the hands of the already more-powerful clubs. Whilst it would undoubtedly benefit Arsenal as a football club, the implications of “Project Big Picture” could be disastrous for English football more broadly.