Mikel Arteta says Premier League clubs must do their best to come up with shared vision for English football that includes protecting those further down the pyramid.
Yesterday, all 20 top flight clubs agreed they would not proceed with ‘Project Big Picture’; a plan cooked up by Manchester United and Liverpool to tackle a number of major issues facing the game.
Leaked to the press last weekend, the details of the plan, which touched on everything from a Covid-19 rescue package and TV money distribution to abandoning the League Cup and restructuring promotion and relegation, quickly sparked a flurry of backdoor briefings that highlighted the cavernous gap between the game’s haves and have nots.
Ultimately, the plan fell down because everyone recognised it for what it was; a cynical land-grab dressed up as a charitable offering at a time when many small clubs are facing financial ruin.
In a positive turn of events, the episode has led to an agreement between Premier League clubs for an emergency financial package for clubs in League One and League Two and an agreement 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.”
Asked about the situation, Arteta said: “I think it was a very clear statement from the Premier League about what is going to happen. We all have to review the actual context and how we can help each other to make football more sustainable. But I think it has to be agreed by everybody and yesterday’s statement was very clear regarding that.”
Arteta also reiterated the value of working collectively to protect the Premier League’s global brand. The league has gone from strength to strength since launching in 1992, in part because participating clubs have always shared an equal slice of the revenue generated from the sale of broadcast rights.
“I think it’s very special the way that the Premier League has conducted itself over the years,” said Arteta.
“I think that’s a massive strength so as much as we can, we can maintain that unity and sustain our way of doing things. I think that’s very valuable and the image that we project to the outside world is really, really strong. I hope that we can maintain that.”
Project Big Picture’s suggestion that the Premier League abandon its current ‘one club, one vote’ structure would have consolidated power in the hands of the nine longest serving clubs with the voting rights ultimately weighed in favour of the six biggest. It was never going to fly.
Asked about the importance of the one-vote principle, Arteta said: “I don’t know [how important it is]. If you ask all the clubs individually, they probably have different opinions. We have to find a way that works for everybody, that can make this game sustainable and allows us to still evolve in the context we’re in at the moment, which is important as well.
“It’s completely different to what it was 20 years ago, so we have to move, we have to share a vision in order to achieve that because at the end of the day, it’s for the benefit of every club.
He added: “I think we have to protect the lower leagues as well, this is our obligation. We want to produce grassroots and opportunities for everybody in this industry. I think it’s fair to assess the situation and find the best possible way to achieve that. This is our responsibility as well.”