FA walked away from Project Big Picture after breakaway threat - chairman

(Reuters) - England’s Football Association (FA) chairman Greg Clarke said on Tuesday that he was involved in discussions over the proposals to make changes to the English football pyramid but walked away when the big clubs threatened to form a breakaway league.

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - International Friendly - England vs Germany - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - November 10, 2017 FA chairman Greg Clarke before the match Action Images via Reuters/Carl Recine/File Photo

‘Project Big Picture’, a series of proposals put together by the owners of Liverpool and Manchester United along with Football League chairman Rick Parry, has been likened to a power grab which has been met with opposition.

The proposal involves reducing the number of teams in the Premier League to 18 while giving the ‘big six’ clubs more power in how the league is run, to the point where they could even veto any new club owner approved by the Premier League board.

"With the knowledge of senior board members and our CEO, I participated in the early stages of discussions which were disclosed last weekend," Clarke wrote in a letter here to the FA Council.

“However, in late spring, 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 of course, discontinued my involvement.

“(I) 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.”

The Football Supporters’ Association (FSA) said on Tuesday the long-term challenges far outweigh the short-term financial benefits of the plan, describing the 250 million pounds ($324.08 million) COVID-19 bailout a ‘sugar coated cyanide pill’.

Clarke said it was the FA’s responsibility to ensure the football pyramid was not affected and that the governing body had “substantial controls” to ensure the best interests of the game were served.

Clarke also warned that any potential breakaway competition would have to be approved by the country’s governing body as it had the final say.

“In addition, to the Special Share in the Premier League, which prevents certain changes being made to the constitution without the FA’s consent, it is also the FA’s responsibility to sanction competitions in England,” he added.

“Including any proposed new competition – as well as being responsible for licensing clubs, through UEFA, to play in Europe. Additionally, UEFA look to us to nominate the league, and therefore the clubs, that will play in their competitions.”

Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis