Premier League's controversial reform plan rejected amid chaos and fierce backlash



The Official Nike Premier League match ball for the 2020/21 season with a protective face mask on October 14, 2020 in Manchester, United Kingdom.

After a fraught few days, the most lucrative football league in the world will maintain the status quo, for now.

Coming under fierce criticism, Premier League's "Project Big Picture," whose reform plans would have drastically changed the landscape of English football, were ditched after all 20 topflight clubs confirmed their rejection to the project in an emergency meeting on Wednesday.

"All 20 Premier League clubs today unanimously agreed that Project Big Picture will not be endorsed or pursued by the Premier League, or the FA," the league said in a statement.

"Further, Premier League Shareholders agreed to work together as a 20-club collective on a strategic plan for the future structures and financing of English football, consulting with all stakeholders to ensure a vibrant, competitive and sustainable football pyramid."

The radical plans, which were drawn up by Liverpool owner John W Henry and the Manchester United chairman Joel Glazer, pledge to reduce the number of Premier League teams from 20 to 18 and redistribute more much-needed broadcast revenues to English Football League (EFL) clubs, which face huge financial trouble due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Project Big Picture provides a new beginning which will revitalize the football pyramid at all levels. This new beginning will reinvigorate clubs in the lower leagues and the communities in which they are based," beamed EFL chairman Ricky Parry earlier this week.

However, the plans would have gifted "special voting rights" to the biggest clubs, which was seen as a power grab from the elite and was immediately criticized by the government and Premier League leadership. 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said "it is exactly this type of backroom dealing that undermines trust in football governance," while the Premier League pointed out that they were "disappointed" to see that Parry has given his "on-the-record support" to the contentious plans.

"Some Premier League club are very much against the proposal," a West Ham source was quoted as saying by the BBC. "The big six are using COVID for a power grab. If this goes through, over time they will just use more and more for themselves."

Despite the growing anger and chaos, both United and Liverpool have refused to come out to explain their role in the radical plans and have only left Parry to advocate for them in public. "This is two of our great clubs showing leadership and exercising responsibility," Parry enthused on Tuesday.

He may have regretted his overzealousness in being United and Liverpool's ad-hoc spokesman. According to Sky Sports, there is agreement among 14 EFL clubs that Parry has exceeded his authority and should tender his resignation.

Amid the increasing backlash, "Project Big Picture" is destined to fail and it did meet its doom on Wednesday. But the indications are that as chiefs of two of the most successful clubs in Premier League history, Henry and Glazer won't give up on their goals too easily.

It might be only a ceasefire and there could be more drama ahead.

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